A Better Story

And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thrityfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

Have you ever had a passage from Scripture take on new life? You’ve heard it. You’ve read it. You’ve studied it. But all of a sudden, it becomes the heartbeat of your walk with Jesus. It’s as if the words on the pages of your Bible have floated upward, saturating your mind and heart. It becomes all that you can think about. You read, you pray, you move on. But it continues to tug. 

That has been my experience with the parable of the sower from Mark 4. I’ve been slowly but surely meditating on the Gospel of Mark over the last couple of months. A couple weeks ago, the parable of the sower was up next. I read it. Then read it again. Soon, my colored pens were flying over the text, scribbling and writing, highlighting and circling.  

This passage lodged itself in my heart.

Particularly that last line from Jesus.

The seed that produced fruit. 

Thirtyfold.

Sixtyfold.

A hundredfold. 

Oh how I long to be that seed. Oh how I long to see the church I serve as a pastor become that seed. I long to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God. 

Yet, Jesus obviously hit the nail on the head. Spiritual warfare, persecution, worldly cares, wealth, and fleshly desires can destroy any fruitfulness in our lives. Nothing has changed in humanity. It’s still the same obstacles. 

Spiritual warfare is far more real than our little Western minds think it is. I’m not the “there’s a demon behind every tree” guy. But I am the “we have an enemy who doesn’t want us to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God” guy. A couple weeks ago I had five days straight of oppression. No, it wasn’t a demonic presence in the form of some beast on fire in the corner of my bedroom. But it was a weight, a spiritual weight, that I couldn’t shake. I would wake up at 3:45 every morning and not be able to fall back asleep. Instead I just laid there and laid there and laid there. I felt off for days. I neglected to go to God in prayer and instead tried to shoulder it myself. That didn’t work. 

We can fail to be fruitful for the Kingdom because we’ve allowed the enemy of our souls to deceive and demoralize. 

We can also fail to be fruitful for the Kingdom because we’re way too impressed with earth. 

And that’s what I want us to think about. 

What story are we telling in our churches?

Are we telling a better, more fruitful story?

Or are we telling an earthly story? 

You see, what we communicate in our churches matters. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that Jesus makes your life better, we are setting people up to no longer bear fruit once they face persecution of any kind. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is about success, accolades, accomplishments, wealth, brands, and followings, then we set people up to fall for the deceitfulness of riches. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is unbearably hard, and that all that we see is just death and destruction, then we set people up to get distracted by the anxieties and worries of this broken world. 

When we communicate, whether explicitly or implicitly, that this life is about vacations, sports, fun, food, drinks, and entertainment, then we set people up to pursue the desires of their flesh the 166 hours a week they aren’t sitting in the pews of our churches. 

I want to pastor my church in a way that tells a better story. 

A story about a King and His Kingdom.

A story about the repitition and affection-led aspects of discipleship.

A story about a King who creates a better world through His people. 

I don’t want to be the reason that those in my church don’t bear fruit. 

So I want to tell a better story. 

In the coming weeks and blog posts, I want to combat the false stories we tell in our churches by asking questions that help us to dig into Scripture, be honest about the modern church, and then look to and meditate on the hope of the King and His Kingdom. I hope to share anecdotes of how I’ve fallen short, narratives of where others haven’t, and Biblical principles to form our churches around. 

Here’s the next few to look forward to:

Do we delight to draw near to God?

Are we counter-culturally winsome?

Do we sit in church gatherings with greedy, lustful hearts?

Come, take a journey through the Scriptures. 

Let’s tell a better story together. 

– Nate Roach 

Making The Bed

Throughout Christian history, the people of God have been formed, built up in, and strengthened by creeds and confessions of the faith. These were recited in families, church fellowships, and communities as a way to be catechized (taught) in the historic Christian faith.

We are also catechized by our world. Our culture is telling us all of the time how we are to behave, what we are to live for. There are daily habits that we all feel drawn towards and pulled into that are the result of subconscious daily formation via the world we live in. The biggest right now is easily the most obvious (I feel like a broken record saying this). We are taught to put everything on social media, to fight the silence by staring at our phones, and to put up a front whether that is our intention or not.

The most eye-opening event when it came to this was when I first got back from Phoenix. My fiancée Jamie and I went to dinner with one of my closest childhood friends and his wife. He asked me how my year in Phoenix was and when I opened up about the difficulties that I had at the church he was genuinely surprised saying that ‘everything you’ve put on Facebook made it seem like a great experience’. This wasn’t done intentionally by me at all, in fact via this blog I made a lot of my struggles at the church public. Yet my friends back home saw a picturesque experience where it was quite the opposite in many ways.

My generation does a poor job of handling this obsession with social media. However, the former generation doesn’t seem to fair too much better. I remember being at a men’s Bible study in Phoenix where every person around the table was on their phone at some point during the forty minute experience (except for me and my roommate Matt). The call of their individual business or family responsibilities was in that moment greater than the call of God’s Word. This is not a millennial problem. This is an everyone problem. We have all been formed, discipled, and catechized into thinking that to put our phones up for even a short period of time is to make ourselves unavailable to the world and thus perhaps less important.

I feel the weight of this at any family event. Is it enough to enjoy the treasured moments with siblings and parents, or am I obliged to post some picture of it so that everyone else can know just how much fun I had? I have been discipled into believing that without making my moment with family public I am not enjoying life to its fullest. When boiled down, that’s exactly what we are being taught. The fullness of life is found in making every private or intimate family or relationship moment public for other people to like, comment on, etc. This has caused people I know to literally Facebook Live their kitchen meal prep. I know others who make public their children’s tantrums, fits, problems. I know others who make their kids’ successes just as public. Previous generations had bumper stickers, we have Facebook posts. I myself struggle with making private moments of hilarity or doofusness public on social media. We have been discipled into believing that making a public spectacle of private moments is normal, necessary, and fulfilling.

In her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren talks about how the start of our days are incredibly important when it comes to how we live and view our days.

Push as hard as the age that pushes against you. – Flannery O’Connor

Warren offers the making of one’s bed as a way to start our days, as opposed to incessant phone use. But it can be any number of liturgical and rhythmic routines that can orient our minds and hearts toward godliness rather than the lies of our age.

Evaluate what you do with your day, especially in the stillness and quiet moments. More often than not, where you go in the quiet is what you’re living for. You are being formed in ways that are beneficial to your spiritual growth, as well as ways that are not. Think through your routines and habits.

I know that when I conclude my day in prayer with Jamie, I am prone to wake up more spiritually aware, more focused on eternal matters in the day ahead. I know that when I spend two hours watching TV or playing Playstation, I am prone to head into the next day needing to be entertained, focused on the here and now. Our practices throughout our days establish us. It is thus incredibly important that we don’t drift through our days unaware of what we’re living for.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2 

My mind isn’t renewed if I give myself no time to sit with God and do just that.

Be aware of what you live for.

In His Name,

Nate Roach