Pump And Dump

This week has been Vacation Bible School week at the church I serve at. I am utterly exhausted, but my heart is full. I have desperately tried to keep up with the motions that accompany our theme songs for the week, I’ve played some mad games of Four Corners with the younger kids, and squabbled about the rules of Capture the Flag (or in this case, sponge) with the older kids.

I am saddened by how many men or women become crusty and somber due to studying theology, and Vacation Bible School is a refreshing way to break out of this in my own heart. I leave my office and my studies and interact with kids whose faith is encouraging and worthy of praise (all while eating plenty of cheese puffs and nachos along the way).

Last night I was able to be a part of a conversation in which a young child put their faith in Jesus for the first time. It was encouraging and exciting to be in the room when this happened, but it was also convicting. You see, I think it’s easy to come into discipleship with the exact same mentality as I came into my Psychology exams back in college.

What I mean is the ol’ pump and dump routine.

Generally my routine of studying for Psychology consisted of quizzing myself repeatedly with note cards the day before the exam, followed by regurgitating all of that on my test. If you asked me the following week about a definition, I would have no idea, it would likely already be forgotten. While this got me through Psychology, this is a horrendous way to do discipleship. Yet, if we’re being honest, if I’m being honest, we do discipleship like this sometimes in our churches.

We host a VBS, we host an Evangelism Sunday, we take students to Summer Camp or D-Now. We see God move in the lives of people in our community, then we pat them on the back, more or less saying good luck walking out your faith now. As long as we can post on Facebook or Instagram about the number of salvations, we’re not concerned about follow up and discipleship. I see no example of this type of pump and dump discipleship in Scripture. It’s painfully convicting to acknowledge in my own heart that I’ve been prone to be this way at times as well.

May we be churches that don’t settle for students coming to the altar and giving their lives to Jesus or kids having a conversation about the gospel with their counselor leading to the same. This is a wonderful, praise-worthy thing, the salvation of souls! However, we must not pump them up and then dump them out once the week is over and we’re back into our normal routine. There are many reasons for people departing from the faith, and every individual is individually responsible, but dumping kids and students and even adults off after they make a salvation decision is immensely detrimental to their spiritual growth.

Yes, the Spirit of God is what is ultimately responsible for the growth of the Christian through prayer and time in His Word. However, we are designed for community, created in such a way where we are able to flourish spiritually when someone is guiding us and leading us. We are woefully bad at times as the church at not doing this part of discipleship. We get them in the door and get them saved but we don’t walk through them how to think, feel, and act as a Christian. No wonder we have men and women in our churches who have come to programs and services for decades yet are still infants spiritually.

We must avoid pump and dump salvations. We must strive for discipleship.

The question of what discipleship is has been coming up a lot recently in my discussions with friends and fellow ministers. I look at a room full of people and I wonder how to get them from pews to God-honoring discipleship relationships. We have men and women in our churches who love the Lord and serve Him faithfully, but a vast majority of them are not in discipleship relationships.

Discipleship is pretty simple in my mind, at least at its core.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 11:1

That’s discipleship at its core for me. It’s me walking alongside someone, imitating their faith as they imitate Christ. It can look like a myriad of different things based on the relationship and situation, but it should always be life on life. Some of the most influential men in my life have been men who shared their faith while also sharing their home, family, struggles, and habits. Sometimes it looked like meeting weekly, sometimes it looked like tagging along while he went to pay utility bills for his home. Discipleship is not something that is for only the most experienced believers. It is for all who profess faith in Jesus.

My prayer for my community and my church is that older men will disciple, invest in, pray for, and commune with younger men, and same with the women. I don’t see a whole lot of that. We’ve mystified discipleship and it doesn’t need to be that way. We’ve made it for the elite saints instead of the everyday followers of Jesus.

My prayer is that myself and other members of our church will continue to walk with the young boy that professed faith in Jesus last night. My prayer is that we avoid pump and dump events.

If you’re reading this and you’ve never been discipled, I apologize on behalf of the church. My prayer is that you would encounter and partake in a relationship with another believer that grows you in your faith. A good step for you may be to step out of your comfort zone and ask an older believer if you can imitate them in their faith.

Let’s be disciples who make disciples.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

As For Me And My House

Movies like God’s Not Dead and A Matter Of Faith popularize in Christian circles the  belief that it is in college that a Christian young person has their faith questioned, sometimes by militant and angry atheist professors. While I’m not intending to chide these Christian films or those who believe the “going to college = faith being tested” mantra, I hope that I can remind us that the testing of a child’s faith is happening long before they leave for college.

I grew up in a day when Christian home decorations were all the rage (they may still actually be all the rage). Everywhere I looked I saw verses and hymn lyrics and crosses in people’s kitchens, living rooms, and family rooms. Sometimes even the bathroom. The maybe over-popularized verse on family, Joshua 24:15, was all over the place: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

These were families who had a heart and desire to see their children grow up in Christian homes, filled with gospel conversations or at least gospel decorations.

Here’s where I’m fearful for my students, this next generation of kids. I see parents and families who are gospel-centered in their public sphere, their social media, but they’re just good moral people in their family and private life. I see this in me, so it gets me nervous about my future kids as well. While finishing an old book from 1985 (if you know me, you know finishing a book was a tremendous feat), I came across a quote that floored me due to it’s accuracy and it’s conviction.

Our homes, the homes of church members, are often no different from the homes of non-Christians. We worship pleasure, convenience, the country club, money, success, power, and prestige, just as the world does. We don’t pray in our homes any more than our moral neighbor next door. We attend church twice a month to appease the Lord, and yet we become upset if the service goes beyond twelve o’clock. We go to great pains to teach our children math, science, business, football, baseball, tennis, golf, and soccer, or perhaps ballet, music, art, and theater. But how much time or effort is spent in the training of our children in godliness? – John Sartelle 

Read that again. It stunned me. Written 8 years before I was born, but even more applicable today than it was back then.

You see, children in Christian homes are not getting their faith tested in college, they aren’t getting pulled away from Jesus in college. They are getting their faith tested and are getting pulled away from Jesus in elementary school, in Christian homes.

I have seen peers grow up in homes where sports was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen peers grow up in homes where good grades was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen peers grow up in homes where being liked, admired, and well-received in the community was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen younger peers right now grow up in homes where their accolades and even their struggles are put on display on Facebook so the parents can gain a following (pet peeve numero uno).

It breaks my heart to write this and it breaks my heart to see it. Countless members of my generation have abandoned their steadfast commitment to the Lord not because they were challenged by an atheist professor in college, but rather because they looked back and saw that in their homes their parents modeled that discipleship, missional living, and Christlikeness were all half-hearted additions to a life of comfort, pressure to be perfect, and athletics.

People of God, let this not be so. Let us not be men and women who raise children to take the gospel as an addition to life, instead of the onus of life itself.

I have a healthy fear of parenting, and while I pray it’s a part of my future, it makes me nervous to take on the responsibility of shepherding a home and raising kids who love the Lord.

Brother or sister in Christ, you cannot control the outcome of your child’s life. You cannot control whether or not a child continues to walk faithfully with the Lord into adulthood, or not. That is not on you, so don’t carry that weight.

I do pray however that you carry the weight of being a mother or father who makes your home about the gospel. For the sake of your kids. It’s not enough to be for Christ in the public sphere, even if that’s working in a church like I do. You must be for Christ at home. Make Jesus more important than good grades. Make Jesus more important than being admired by everyone around. Make Jesus more important than sports. Make Jesus more important than any other pressure in your child’s life.

Let your children know that Jesus is the center of your life outside of your home. Way more importantly however, let your children know that Jesus is the center of your life inside your home.

Repentance goes a long way. When you’re imperfect (which we all are, daily), repent. Apologizing to children is a huge win for the gospel.

Start small. It’s going to be weird and awkward. Praying with my fiancee Jamie is kinda weird still sometimes. But it’s worth it.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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