Boys Will Be Boys

When I arrived at OBU, I was a fairly terrible man when it came to my interactions with women. I fell headlong into jokes that were saturated in a sexist view of life and the roles of men and women. My interactions with girls were full of flirtatiousness and selfishness as I saw the affection of a young woman as a way to feel better about myself. I approached almost every relationship or friendship with girls with this jaded and honestly vile mindset, whether intentionally and consciously or not.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, God drew me out of this sinful view of women. The abhorrent ‘stay in the kitchen’ jokes and the like dissipated and my interactions with women slowly became one of mutual respect. That being said, I am way too honest with myself to pretend like I still don’t have room to grow.

What has saddened me deeply is the way that the church has seemingly added to (at times) the epidemic of disrespecting and dehumanizing women. The statements made by Paige Patterson (albeit many years ago) regarding the physicality of a teenager and the responsibility of a woman being abused made me sick. The kicker though is when in his sermon he states that two teenage boys speaking lustfully about that teenage woman were simply being Biblical. This is abhorrent and needs action. It would be one thing if Patterson repented and apologized. However, there has been no such statement from him. Rather he has claimed he did nothing wrong.

Let me be clear, this post is not anti-Paige Patterson per se. Rather, I am wanting to correct a tendency in our churches to unintentionally (trying to give the benefit of the doubt) allow the ‘boys will be boys’ mantra (which is unBiblical) to seep into what we teach men and women.

I have been in way too many men’s Bible study settings where ‘ball and chain’ type of jokes are rampant. I have been in way too many settings where apathy, cynicism, sarcasm, and vulgarity are allowed to run rampant in the midst of men in our church communities, a practice that is disdainful. We teach men that they can be lone wolves with Christ devoid of accountability and repentance. They can be vulgar, obscene, complacent. They can be workaholics obsessed with their favorite sports teams, as long as they pray before meals and before bed. Now this is at times hyperbole, but it does unsettle my spirit to realize just how much of this behavior has crept into the church.

When I was met by young women in my college community who began to speak out in search of fair treatment of women in the church, unfortunately my immediate response was to view them as liberal psychos who probably didn’t shower or shave their armpits (again, hyperbole). Yet I slowly began to wrestle with the fact that we have silenced the voices of many who have had so many good and necessary things to say to the church. We give women a women’s ministry full of scrapbooking and surface-level theology, instead of equipping them to be deep-rooted disciples of Christ.

The worst part of this whole thing to me is the fact that men have departed from the church in droves. Rather than leading in the church, they have stopped showing up. Or when they do they are complacent fence-sitters at best. Yet in this immense absence of male leadership, we failed to equip women. We were content with clinging to the dregs of Christian masculine presence rather than equipping the hundreds of thousands of women in our midst who loved God.

Now I personally believe that men are the head of the household. I believe also that men are to be the pastors in our churches. However, I believe that women are able and willing to speak, teach, and lead in our churches and it’s about time that we equipped them to do just that.

I have found myself impacted by women when it comes to my faith in great ways. Auburn Powell, another former fellow OBU Bison, has encouraged me in my appreciation for God’s Word and the study of it. Jen Wilkin has blown me away with much of her writing, namely None Like Him. I’ve even found myself encouraged in my faith by Tish Harrison Warren and her book Liturgy of the Ordinary (she’s an Anglican priest, proof that you can learn from people who you don’t agree with on all accounts). All around us, women are full of love for God and His Word. We should be equipping them. Throughout recent generations a plethora of gifted and godly women have gone out to international mission work in some ways because they haven’t found places here in the United States to use their gifting.

It is time that we take sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual jokes, and sexism seriously in the church in America. It is time that we repent of our sins and seek reconciliation with our Christian sisters.

Sisters in Christ, I apologize for the way that I have viewed you in the past. I apologize for taking so long to start listening. While we may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, that is no excuse for me to not have a listening ear. I apologize that you haven’t been treated as an equal in our churches. Although I believe we have different roles, I believe that they are designed to complement each other. Walk with us brothers towards mutual leadership as we all seek to pursue Christ and the glory of God together.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Scary Close To Leaving The Church

Donald Miller exploded onto the landscape of my life when I was in late high school. His book Blue Like Jazz came with a considerable amount of buzz and hype. Each book since then has generated even more excitement in the lives of peers. While I love his heart for storytelling and his fight against a mundane approach to life, I think that his view on one certain aspect of the Christian walk is eye-opening (yet wrong in my opinion).

Donald Miller wrote (albeit it several years ago, but there hasn’t been a retraction) that he did not find regular church attendance necessary, going so far as to allude to the church as a university that he had graduated from. He wrote that he looked upon the traditional church with fondness, but that he no longer needed it. His avenue to the Lord was personal and intimate and he was able to find community outside of the local church.

While few people have the reach in our current day and age as Donald Miller, I have heard this line of thinking hundreds of times from peers and other voices in the Christian community (i.e. – John Eldredge and the wild, rough around the edges view of manhood and faith).

I originally set out to write this blog as a critique against Miller. Instead I have felt God moving in my heart recently to consider why so many people are leaving the local church behind (while still respectfully disagreeing with those who choose to do just that).

To the Donald Millers of the world I believe that an apology is needed. Those who have left the church behind have been wounded by the church, or they have seen it as empty religiosity and unnecessary for their personal walk with the Lord. To me, looking at the Pastoral Epistles is the route necessary to see where we have gone wrong.

In his commentary, Thomas D. Lea has described the Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus) as “helpful, insightful, and pulsing with spiritual warmth.” The book of Acts no doubt walks narratively through the practices of the early church, but these letters to Timothy and Titus shed light on what the church and church leaders should be like.

1. The church should be a family of faith full of mutual respect and love.I 

I could rant about the need for intergenerational discipleship all day. But for the sake of time, let me just point us to 1 Timothy 5:1-2. When it comes to our interactions, conversations, and relationships, how are we doing as far as respect and purity is concerned? The church should be a family. Not a program. Not a machine. Not a business. It should be a family where everyone is treated with respect, regardless of age or honestly regardless of behavior. Someone in our churches deserves respect and pure love not because of their actions but because they are purchased by the blood of Christ just like us.

2. Church leaders should be full of humility due to grace. 

That leads to this understanding. We see this in 1 Timothy 1:16, as Paul even late in his ministry continued to recognize his own personal need for grace, how grace was not something that he left behind. Our elders and deacons and Sunday school leaders and volunteers are most effective and most God-honoring when they understand that they are desperately reliant upon the grace of God each and every day of their lives. I am afraid many leave the church due to pastors and overseers who walk not in gratefulness for grace but rather as professionals, know-it-alls, dictators, or manipulators.

3. The church should prepare its people for the reality of life as a Christian.

2 Timothy 2:3 reminds us that the Christian walk is a battle. It is not easy to follow Christ. When our churches do not allow church to be a place where people can open up about the difficulties that they have been experiencing for living for Jesus, our when our churches preach a false gospel that is the American Dream dressed in a choir robe, people who are experiencing the realities of suffering feel out of place in the masquerade of the church. Let us be communities of faith where suffering is a reality we prepare for and walk through together.

4. Church leaders are to preach the Word with patience and instruction. 

Believe it or not, many in my generation abandon the church for a similar reason as number three. They go to church and see pie-in-the-sky optimism combined with gimmicks, facades, programs and the like. What they don’t see unfortunately in many local churches is the preaching of the Word. Solid, Biblical, sound teaching of God’s Word. 2 Timothy 4:2 encourages the pastor to do just that. Many are leaving the church because they are getting carnival games and parlor tricks instead of the theological preaching that is necessary for the health of their souls.

So to Donald Miller and company, I apologize that our churches in the United States have failed in some ways to look like the church painted for us in the Pastoral Epistles. If you’re scary close to leaving the organized local church yourself, I urge you to not. With a right understanding of what it means to be part of a local church, you can find yourself being built up in your faith. I promise. No church is perfect because it is full of imperfect people. But it’s full of imperfect people that Christ died for.

We profoundly need each other. We are immersed in the Christian life together. There is no merely private faith – everything we are and do as individuals affects the church community. – Tish Harrison Warren

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Warped And Sinful Words

When it comes to sin in the minds of modern Christians, sins of aggression (hate, malice, murder) and sex (lust, adultery, sexual assault) are the ones that we tend to see with the biggest amount of physical and earthly consequences, especially in the church.

We all have heard and read the stories of pastors who have fallen into egregious sexual sin and have been removed from their flock as a result. We have heard stories of men in pastoral roles who led with hatred and malice in their hearts, becoming dictators who trampled on their staff and congregations.

I am not inclined to disagree with this sentiment.

That being said, I want to put another sin in the ring.

There are few sins that are as detrimental to the life of a church than the sin of divisiveness.

There are few sins that are as prevalent in the life of our churches than divisiveness.

Gossip, slander, drama. They are too often saturating the life of the local church. Phone calls, texts, private conversations. All full of disagreements that instead of being addressed in a healthy way are spread through the grapevine. All of these conversations destroy the health of a church.

Look with me at a couple verses out of Titus 3.

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. – Titus 3:10-11

Earlier this week I came across this passage in my devotional time with the Lord and it has stuck with me since. That is heavy stuff, a heavy indictment against this specific sin. These verses come on the heels of a passage in Titus 3 that is all about how as followers of Christ we have been saved by God to do good works and to live lives that are worthy of God.

In verse 8 we read, I want you to stress these things (the gospel message), so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. 

As those who have been bought with the precious blood of Christ, we are saved to do good. What’s the antithesis of that in this passage? Foolish controversies and quarrels (v. 9), and divisiveness.

The book of Titus is such a good book to study as it speaks into the life of a church, and how it is supposed to function. Titus chapter one is mainly about the qualifications of a pastor or elder. Titus chapter two has a lot to say about intergenerational discipleship. Then it concludes with this chapter about good deeds and the dangers of divisiveness. My prayer is that we as followers of Christ would take the format of this book to heart. There is much more to it than this, but here’s a simplistic takeaway:

Titus 1 – If you have appointed or hired pastors or elders in your church. Trust them. Pray for them. Support them. They have not been placed in your church to be used, abused, or be treated like puppets. God has placed them in your midst to shepherd the church.

Titus 2 – Disciple, disciple, disciple. Some churches do this well, others not so much. But the call is clear. The older men are to disciple the younger men in the church, while being willing to learn from the younger men. The older women are to disciple the younger women in the church, while also being willing to learn from the younger women.

Titus 3 – Don’t be divisive. You have been saved for good works. You have been saved to evangelize, disciple, and support the leadership of your local church. This does not mean you have to agree with everything that your pastoral staff does. This does mean that you should talk to them about it rather than engage in gossip or slander.

It pains me to acknowledge that this sin of divisiveness has been present in my life to an extreme degree in my past. Instead of seeking counsel, speaking to my pastoral leaders, or supporting them in their actions, I instead gossiped, slandered, and honestly caused division.

Please do not make the same mistake. Look with me again at how Paul responds to this type of behavior in followers of Christ. We are to warn those who are being divisive. We are to call them out privately for living in a way that is not in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Scripture then goes on to use some severe terminology about them. They are warped, sinful, and self-condemned.

That’s harsh but true. It was in my life. I was warped in my beliefs. Church was about me. Pastors were a commodity for me to use, not a shepherd to trust. I was sinful. The fact of the matter is that Christians are called to be unified in the church. Shame on us when we’re not. Lastly, divisive people and gossips are ultimately just condemning themselves each time they talk. Scripture makes clear that every word we speak we will have to give an account for (Matthew 12:36).

I pray that I would avoid the sin of divisiveness.

I pray that you would too.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach