The Weeds Of Life

A few weeks ago, my dad had shoulder surgery. Since then, what he has been able to do has been pretty limited. That means all of his yard work projects have been put on hold.

You’re probably thinking “sweet, I wish I had an excuse not to do yard work,” right?

Well, he is probably thinking the same thing.

Me, on the other hand, not so much. You see, dad not being able to do yard work means his tasks and projects get delegated. To me. Not so fun now, huh?

If you know me, you probably know that yard work is absolutely not my thing and pulling weeds is one of my least favorite activities. But, pulling weeds is my delegated task. The first time my dad asked me to pull the weeds, I did it. I thought it would be a one time thing.

Funny thing about weeds: they never go away.

The next time, he asked me to pull weeds in the back corner of our property, behind the barn. After I begrudgingly put it off for almost two weeks, I finally went out to pull the weeds. And if I’m being honest, my heart was a little bitter at this point. Why did I need to pull weeds BEHIND the barn, where no one could see?

But, I started to realize that this sounds a lot like our walk with the Lord.

Holiness has been on my mind a lot recently.

We should all be pursuing holiness, but, in reality, most of us are not.

Most of us just want to look holy without actually doing the work of pursuing holiness.

I didn’t want to pull the weeds behind the barn, in the shadows, lurking in the back corners, because I thought they didn’t matter. But what about the weeds of life? Our deep-rooted sin that we don’t want to uncover? Those sinful habits we have that we are hoping no one will notice because we try to hide them in the dark corners of ourselves? Do those matter?

They should.

We cannot pursue only partial holiness.

As Christians, the Lord is our firm foundation, providing us good soil in which we can grow beautiful, healthy, and holy relationships, ministries, practices, habits, etc.

Imagine how many more godly relationships we could plant if our soil wasn’t filled with weeds. Imagine how we could serve His kingdom more fully if we would actively work to pull the weeds. I am just as guilty as the next person, putting off repentance and confession of my sins even more than I put off my task of pulling weeds.

If you know anything about weeds, you know that despite the hours you put into pulling them, trying to make your yard or garden look and be healthy, the weeds always come back. Pulling them is not a one time task. Pursuing holiness is not a one time effort. It is not a one time confession. It is not a one time act of repentance.

It is a continuous work, a continuous pursuit, a continuous fight against our deep rooted sin. It’s easy to convince ourselves that the sins no one sees don’t matter, that the weeds in the back corner don’t matter, that the things we do behind closed doors don’t matter. But holiness cannot exist only partially.

Holiness doesn’t stand in front of the barn so that it won’t see the weeds hiding in the back. Holiness does not wait outside the door so that we can hide our sinfulness on the other side. It is all or nothing. We must diligently pursue it, carefully examining our lives and what the Lord is teaching us, actively working to confess and repent of the weeds of our lives.

When I went out to pull the weeds, I didn’t understand why I had to pull the ones hiding in the back, but now I know that weeds corrupt good soil and that holiness cannot live where the weeds of our lives are rooted. 

– Mackenzie Knox

The Beauty of Conviction

The Bible is convicting.

I think we start to believe a falsehood over time that we are always to leave our time in God’s Word feeling encouraged, equipped, overjoyed. While these experiences and moments in God’s Word do take place, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Throughout the last couple years, I keep turning to the same well-known verse to remind me of this fact.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, – 2 Timothy 3:16

Paul is describing to his mentee, Timothy, the role of God’s Word in the life of a follower of Jesus.

Notice how it includes rebuking and correcting! Now, when I’ve been corrected and rebuked throughout my life, it doesn’t normally come with a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. So, there will be times where we go to God’s Word and get smacked in the face with conviction, with the need for repentance and turning from our sins.

This has been happening to me today.

There’s an aspect of conviction, of repentance, that I forget sometimes still. It’s what blew me away during my time in God’s Word this afternoon.

It’s the following truth.

God is with me in the midst of conviction.

Do you feel like God is distant in the midst of you recognizing your sin? When the Bible confronts your anger, lust, pride, gossip habits, fear, worry, hate, do you feel abandoned, condemned, less-than?

That is the enemy’s way of stealing what is truly a gift, the process of repentance, and replacing it with self-loathing.

Don’t give into his tricks.

God is with you in the midst of conviction.

This came out of a very unfamiliar passage for me, Haggai chapter one.

In the first chapter of Haggai, the Lord speaks through the prophet Haggai to call the people to repentance (which is really what all prophets in the Bible were called to do).

The reason for this prophetic word of repentance is because the people of God were building houses for themselves while the Lord’s house laid in ruins.

Side Note: I’m sure churches have used this passage to tell people to contribute financially to building plans. No. That’s not what this is about at all. According to Acts 17:24-25, God doesn’t dwell in our modern churches anyway. So, don’t fall for that baloney. 

After this convicting word from the Lord, one that likely didn’t bring much happy feelings for the people, there is a powerful verse. Let’s look together at what happens when Haggai is done bringing this word.

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. – Haggai 1:12-13

Bam.

Boom.

That’s some good stuff right there.

Side Note: I will likely end up naming my firstborn son Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel Roach has a nice ring to it. I’ll see if I can convince Jamie. 

God hasn’t permanently abandoned the people to their sin.

God hasn’t abandoned you to your sin forever.

Now, Scripture does make it pretty clear that there are times in our lives where God lets us pursue the sins we keep choosing over Him until we see that they are empty.

But when conviction comes to you, that’s a wonderful thing!

It means that the Spirit of God is moving in your heart!

When the conviction comes, remember that God is near. That God is drawing you out of your sin and into a renewed relationship with Him. If conviction never comes into your walk with Christ, beware. You likely have strayed. I’m not saying that you need to be convicted every day you read God’s Word. By no means. But a lifestyle devoid of conviction is likely a lifestyle that is hardened to God’s Word.

Let’s go back to Haggai.

After this profound statement from Haggai, we see that God truly is with them, truly is moving after this word of conviction. In verse 14, we see this:

So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, – Haggai 1:14

God is moving in the hearts of the leaders of God’s people, as well as each individual follower of God as well!

What we see here then in this:

God brings conviction, is present in conviction, and gives them the ability to respond to this conviction.

Have you ever felt convicted over your sin and then set out on your own to change?

How did that work for you?

If you’re like me, you probably were repenting over and confessing the same sins not too long after this.

God is present in our conviction, but He also provides for us the grace and strength necessary to respond to that conviction.

Instead of trying to modify your behavior, lay your heart bare before the Lord. Let Him slowly but assuredly cleanse your heart of that which leads to the sin in your life.

Also, rely on your brothers and sisters in Christ! None of us are strong enough to resist sin on our own!

Man, this one really put the rambling in Roach Ramblings.

I hope you see the truth of God’s Word!

You haven’t been abandoned or forsaken in your conviction!

He is with you and will give you the strength to move forward!

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

The Commandment of Reconciliation

In every church I attended up until the last two years, we held Communion* quarterly. (*I will use Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and/or the Eucharist interchangeably.)

When it eventually came around, I was always scared, or perhaps, worried. Why? Essentially I was told to reflect on the last three months of my life and confess every sin that came to mind–if any did. I was given 15 seconds to “get right with God.”

By the time the plate with juice and little crackers came by, I’d better be spiritually clean enough or I’d be…punished? (I’m really not sure what the consequences were, but they were portrayed as severe and harsh. Maybe even “lose your salvation” harsh.)

Now, I’m sure I misunderstood someone or something someone said at some point. A lot of my early theological understandings were half-baked–and my ingredients were one part Scripture, two parts whatever I was taught explicitly, and four parts who-knows-what. For example, it took me until 4th grade to finally ask who the Jews were. I seriously had no idea.

But back to my understanding of coming to the Lord’s Table in a “worthy manner” as based in what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11. I used to think it was all about confessing my sins so I could clean myself up for Jesus. I was more concerned with getting things right with me and Jesus so Jesus could say, “Take and eat, you deserve me.”

I have never and will never deserve Jesus.

I’m a sinful, selfish, greedy man. My heart without Jesus is wicked and cruel and dead. My flesh is weak and desires money, comfort, sex, and happiness above Jesus.

But Jesus saved me.

So I don’t come to the Table by any means of my own. I come to the Table because of the love of the Father, the death and life of the Son, and the power of the Spirit.

Now, if you’ve ever eaten a meal with your family, you might notice something peculiar: You’re eating with other people. The same goes for when you eat the bread and drink the wine of the Eucharist. You’re communing with other people. And that it actually way more terrifying a reality than missing one sin and forgetting to confess it before coming to the table. Why? Because the Bible has some serious commands about coming to God without making things right with other people.

Let’s consider what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 about Communion. (It’s slightly long, so take your time and read it slowly and attentively.)

Now in giving this instruction I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For to begin with, I hear that when you come together as a church there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. Indeed, it is necessary that there be factions among you, so that those who are approved may be recognized among you. When you come together, then, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For at the meal, each one eats his own supper. So one person is hungry while another gets drunk! Don’t you have homes in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I praise you? I do not praise you in this matter!

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself; in this way let him eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. If we were properly judging ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined, so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, welcome one another. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you gather together you will not come under judgment. I will give instructions about the other matters whenever I come.  – 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (CSB)


There’s a lot in there to unpack. But I want you to notice one big idea. In verses 20-22, we see people are eating and drinking separately from one another. Division runs so deep, Paul calls it out and rebukes them. He even says they act like they, “despise the church of God!” And later, in verses 27-30, we see the divisive way they are eating and drinking “together” is a sin (!) and they are actually eating and drinking judgment (!) on themselves.

So what should they do instead?

Paul tells them in verses 33-34, and Jesus also gives a similar answer in Matthew 5:23-24. Paul simply tells them to “welcome one another.” How exactly?

Jesus says this:

So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. – Matthew 5:23-24

I know the language is a little different. But both are acts of worship–and that’s what I want to focus on. Both Paul and Jesus are condemning something interesting: Failing to love others. Paul says this is a sin that caused the Corinthian church to have people fall sick and even die! Jesus says this is a sin that he would rather you take care of by reconciliation before coming to worship God!

In case you missed it:

Jesus most deserves our worship, but he most desires our reconciliation with others.

God desires mercy, not sacrifice.

If you know someone has something against you, or you have something against someone, pray–and act. Give someone a call. Meet up with them. Make wrongs right.

Roll up your sleeves, our rest in Jesus means we have work to do.

– Matthew Welborn

 

Ticked Off Jonah

I enjoy studying the Bible. If you know me, you know that. Let me clarify however. I enjoy observing and interpreting the Bible, I do not enjoy the application part of the Bible. It is much more fun to see what the Bible meant back then than it is to see what the Bible is confronting in me and is calling me to do.

The book of Jonah confronted the mess out of me. As horrible of a man as Jonah was prone to be, I see myself in him. Unfortunately it is unavoidable, there is no way of getting around it.

Many know the story of Jonah. He runs from God’s call and finds himself in the belly of a big ol’ fish. After prayerfully turning from his rebellion, the Lord has the fish spit him up on dry land and then recommissions Jonah to Nineveh.

However, most of us, including myself, have never really dug into the second half of the story after the fish blew chunks.

Jonah chapter 3 recounts what happens in Nineveh. Jonah walks in and proclaims that destruction is coming. The people of Nineveh believe in God, repent in sackcloth and ashes, and the king of Nineveh decrees a city-wide fast in hopes of God relenting from the impending doom that Jonah said was coming. The final verse of chapter three tells of how God saw them turn from their wicked ways and how He chose thus to save the city at that time. Wow. Miraculous repentance. City-wide repentance. City-saving repentance. Brought about by God’s mercy and grace through the proclamation of His servant Jonah.

You would think such an awe-inspiring act of repentance and subsequent mercy would lead Jonah into a grateful and thankful proclamation of praise.

Nope.

Instead, we read:

But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was in still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. – Jonah 4:1-2

Wait, what?

Jonah witnesses the salvation of a city and gets ticked off. He cries out to the Lord and says that God’s kindness and mercy and compassion is the very reason he didn’t want to come to Nineveh in the first place. He’s so angry that he tells God to just kill him already (verse 3).

Later on in the chapter, Jonah will leave the city and wait to see what would end up happening. God brings a plant to give him shade and comfort, but the following day God removes the plant via a small worm and Jonah is wrecked by a scorching eastern wind. In verse eight he hilariously (or sadly) gets so mad that he tells God to just kill him yet again.

The book of Jonah concludes with the following:

Then God said to Jonah, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” – Jonah 4:9-11

The book of Jonah runs all up on me and doesn’t take it easy.

At first, it didn’t. At first, I was ready to put the Bible study I had finished on Jonah back on my shelf and move on to whatever was next. But I lingered. I read the narrative again and got a face full of conviction.

I am like Jonah.

At first, I didn’t think so. I would never, I mean surely would never, be unwilling to share the goodness of Jesus and be angry at God when He saved.

My mind however goes back to Phoenix, AZ (I know that I write a lot about this chapter of my life, so forgive me for going back there again. I will say however that it’s simply a fact that it is in the deserts of life [this time a literal desert] that God teaches us the most).

Leading up to my departure, I regularly listened to and belted out “Thy Will Be Done” by Hillary Scott. It was my anthem. I shouted it out and I meant it. Thy will be done Lord. No matter what. Thy will be done, no matter the cost.

Yet then I caved into fear and let the trials of my life break down my faith. I was in a place that was foreign to me, loud, busy, full of people and most of them were not like me.

A couple weeks into my Phoenix season that song came on the radio. I distinctly remember turning it off. I did this each time it played the whole time I was there. I didn’t want God’s will to be done. Because I knew it would cost me. I knew it would cost me my comfort, my security, my ideal life. I wanted my will to be done instead.

It really is no wonder that that was the worst year of my life because of that fact.

God had commissioned me to a people that needed to hear about His Son, and although I did share and serve, my life was never wholly surrendered to God.

I really am like Jonah.

Maybe you’re like Jonah too. Maybe you are more concerned with your comfort than the salvation of those around you.

Don’t wallow in this. Pray for the ability and strength to change.

Cry out to God.

And remember,

. . . Salvation is from the Lord. – Jonah 2:9b

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Don’t Go There

As I continue to write for Misfits Theology, my desire is not to seemingly unceasingly criticize and condemn the Southern Baptist church, for this is the tribe that I find myself deeply rooted in and supremely thankful for. That being said, I don’t want to stray to the other side of the pendulum and pretend that everything is all fine and dandy in my tribe, refusing to acknowledge the needs for reform. Maybe I’m a misfit because I don’t air on the side of tradition or the side of upheaval but somewhere in-between.

With all that said, I want to address the power of public confession, or public proclamation of the gospel truths that we find in Scripture. This is something I’ve desired to see come about in my tribe in a deeper way.

Let’s start from the beginning.

My grandparents have been loyal to their God while giving themselves the freedom to explore what denomination’s style of worship they find to be the most honoring and glorifying to God. I have been to an Anglican, Episcopalian, Messianic Jew, and I believe a Presbyterian church with them.

I at a young age found the liturgy at these bodies of Christ to be boring, mundane, monotonous. The constant sitting and standing, calls to worship, and pre-planned Scriptural reading was so annoying to me. At a young age I had a supreme passion for and desire for the preaching of God’s Word and at some of these experiences the sermon was an afterthought. I did however look forward to the way that the Lord’s Supper was done, with all of us dipping our bread in the same cup. Germaphobes beware, this is an intimate family of believers.

As a young man in ministry today, I do miss one part of these other denominations’ style of worship: confession.

There was something about all of us reading a prayer of confession together that was beautiful to me. While any liturgical process can become rote and no longer useful for spiritual growth, these prayers of confession when done rightly stirred the soul to remember our need for daily grace, to rest in the finished work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am grateful for those prayers of confession.

I have aspirations of being an Education or Family Discipleship Pastor one day. I love youth ministry, but my deepest desire is to see entire churches full of gospel-centered solid teaching that saturates everything that the church does, from the opening of the doors to the conclusion of the service.

That being said, I don’t believe that it is possible to have a correct understanding of our need for grace without some sort of weekly reminder that permeates our time together as a community of faith.

One word my generation is somewhat obsessed with (to the point of me gagging anytime I hear it) is the word authenticity. To reach the next generation for Christ, we need to be authentic believers. We need to be men and women who hopefully understand that THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE TO SHARE OUR MUTUAL NEED FOR JESUS, NOT HIDE FROM THAT. Oops. Got a little hyped again. But seriously, the church should be a place where we recognize our individual needs for grace (not to the point of parading our sin in a sinful way, or condoning sinful behavior) rather than hiding from others our need.

Confession in general is something that my tribe (or all tribes to an extent) are not good at. I have been in many situations where a young man or friend confessed sin to me and I didn’t follow up, I didn’t walk through that sin with them. Instead I dropped off. I still cared, often prayed, but I did not walk them through their sin (so maybe it’s not my tribe to blame, but rather just me).

There are seemingly unwritten rules to not go there. You’re not supposed to confess sin. Sure, we all confess our Savior but we must never confess our sins to another. Maybe that’s just my perception, but I don’t think I’m alone.

For instance, there is Celebrate Recovery. One of my best friends here in Vernon helps lead the local Celebrate Recovery at our church. It is an amazing program. The level of discipleship that takes place at Celebrate Recovery is second to none. They truly care for each other, and those who are in confessional relationships follow-up, exhorting and encouraging each other. My friend has fought hard to remove the ridiculous stigma associated with that type of program. My heart is for that program, and I pray for that program.

Yet, if the church was repentant and confessional, that program might not need to exist (this can probably be said about any parachurch organization, they are filling roles that the church itself should be filling, and they are a tremendous blessing as a result). If we were honest with those in the pews next to us, I believe that we would find the freedom to grow in holiness. It is in the shadows that Satan can continue to trip up God’s people. It is in isolation that his plans thrive. If we as the church become more willing to acknowledge fault, then we will see men and women freed up to pursue the Lord with more vigor and more community.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. – Proverbs 28:13

I pray that my tribe would be open to having prayers of confession as more of regular occurrence. Not because these prayers of confession are our means of grace, but rather they are reminders of the gift of grace.

Thank you for reading my ramblings.

Help us not to be unduly discouraged by the heavy load of guilt that so easily clings to our hearts. Instead, whenever we see clearly the sins of our hearts, enable us to fly to the Scriptural truth that in Christ the penalty of those sins have been paid for, once for all. Remind us that we are now clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness and that therefore there can be no condemnation left for us. In Christ’s name we pray, amen. – Barbara Duguid 

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

Me, Myself, and I

“If we can just get through May.”

I’ve heard this refrain from many friends and peers recently, and I’ve even thought it and said it myself. May is a busy season. A time of endless graduation related responsibilities and end of the year awards banquets. It is full of solidifying family vacations for the summer. Many who were faithfully following resolutions for 2018 have seen themselves depart from their grandiose plans as they move from Hello Fresh planned meals to driving through Braums or Taco Casa. For the college student, finals weigh heavily on the mind. The pace of the end of the school year is relentless and hard to keep up with.

Friendships and relationships that were strong and tight but three months ago are now more distant as a result of the busyness of life, whether that is co-workers, friends, or family.

While there are definitely seasons of life that are busier than others and thus will naturally effect our relationships, I don’t believe that as followers of Christ we are to nonchalantly go along with this flow and not strive for community all the same.

While reading this evening, I came across Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, once can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This is a beautiful reminder of the necessity of community. As followers of Christ, we cannot do this alone. We need people to help us up (confession and repentance), keep us warm (encouragement and support), and prevent us from being broken (spiritual warfare). If we are not encouraging, praying for, and confessing to a select group of men or women in our church community, then we are missing out on so much of what it means to follow Christ. We were designed for community. Adam was in a perfect state and yet it was not good for him to be alone. In the midst of Genesis 3′ horrible turn of events, we see that God was in the practice of walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Eden was communal.

Yet way too often that cord of three strands is just me, myself, and I.

As the end of the school year has come, I have felt this need for community, for brotherhood, but have experienced the lack of it. This is just as much my fault as anybody’s as I have not taken all the active steps necessary to cultivate relationships that bring grace to those involved and glory to God.

I am neither a husband or a father (or wife or mother). There are daily responsibilities that are not on my shoulders that many of you reading this carry. I know there is an innocence and naivety there. That being said, I believe that God’s desire is to see His church genuinely and truly care for one another with love. Even when it’s inconvenient, even when it’s tough.

I am aware as well that we don’t live in an era where the Acts 2:46 version of church is possible (meeting every evening). That being said, I also don’t believe we live in an era where this idea of actually being the church to each other can’t be fought for.

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century because I loathe the family isolation that our culture is all about. You do you and I’ll do me. THAT’S NOT THE CHRISTIAN WAY. If I take the Lord’s Supper with you, that’s me saying that my family’s habits, struggles, and joys are your business. You have the right, even the calling, to call me out when I’m leading my family in sin, just as you should be rejoicing when we rejoice and mourning when we mourn. The Bible paints a picture of community that I rarely see in this day and age.

Forgive me for ranting, I’m passionate about that topic. It is my desire to lead my family (40 days till I’m married. That’s terrifying and exciting.) in a way that puts Christian community over the status quo of what you’re supposed to do in the US of A. Again, there are things that are required. I’m not saying ditch all the end of the year events. I am saying that God made you for community and when you’re throwing that aside for unceasing pragmatic programming, I think you’re missing out on so much.

Heaven will be idyllic. There will be no more nights of fast-food, no more relentless responsibilities. Too often we think once we’re there than we’ll embrace community. Yet in the Lord’s Prayer it says ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. We are to be a people formed by God to bring heaven down to earth. We are to be a people formed by God in such a way that our weekly habits and rhythms stand out. I’ve caught myself looking no different than the world when it comes to my isolation and the way that I spend my weeks. Being a Christian is about being different.

I say every word out of love and every word to myself more than anyone.

As a follower of Christ, slow down.

Speak with a friend. Confess, encourage, pray together.

Go for a walk.

I don’t want to wait ’till the end of May to walk in community, cause then the finish line will just keep getting extended (let us not forget as well that rest was woven into the fabric of creation, and when we don’t allow ourselves rest we are breaking a command of God).

Be different. Be in community.

In His Name,

Nate 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