Spirit-Led Leaders In A Broken Church

The world is broken and so is the church. We live in a day where the people of God do what is evil in the eyes of God. We worship the gods of this fallen world, all while claiming to be allegiant to Jesus. Our prayers before meals or occasional generosity seem to be the only things that separate us from the culture around us. We’ve forgotten the ways of God, instead living in the ways of this world. Church involvement is limited to when we’re free. Our leaders in the church fall into the trap of leading in ways that don’t honor God.

The church in America is broken, through and through.

But that isn’t new.

You know that right?

When people draw my attention to the great sins and hypocrisies of Christians, I smile and nod, and seek to listen respectfully. And then, given the opportunity, I tell them to read the book of Judges.

You see, the book of Judges teaches that the people of God have ALWAYS been broken.

That brokenness is real. It has adverse affects on us. It affects people’s willingness to enter into our church communities (and the last thing we need to do by the way is mock them, tell them they’re making excuses, condemn them).

Brokenness is real in the church.

So what do we do?

For me, I am begging and pleading for God to draw our attention to His Son and then that He would raise up men and women like Him.

Look with me at Judges 3.

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia. And the people of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years. But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them. Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. So the land had rest forty years. Then Othniel the son of Kenaz died. – Judges 3:7-11

All throughout the book of Judges, God raises up judges to deliver the people of God out of the hand of the enemy. Look though at how it described God’s people! They did evil. They forgot or neglected God. They worshipped other idols.

Sound familiar?

Again, it’s nothing new.

What did they do though?

They eventually came to their senses and pleaded with God for deliverance.

When I look at a church community that looks no different than the world, I start to pray and beg God to bring deliverance. We’re not enslaved to some bro that’s got a wild name. We’re enslaved to sin, and it’s far more insidious. We as the people of God have fallen consistently for every lie in the world.

So I pray. I cry out like this passage said the people of God did.

And I trust that God will move.

We, on the other side of the cross, know that the judges pointed forward to the Great Deliverer, Jesus Christ.

So we know that God has intervened firmly and finally in history.

But I regularly pray that we as the people of God would look to Him, and see innumerable men and women lead like Him.

You see, the judges were the symbolization or minor imitation of the presence of God. The Spirit was on Othniel (3:10). The Spirit was fully on Jesus. He is the perfect embodiment of the presence of God for He is God.

What about here and now?

Are there concrete examples of God’s presence?

I think so.

I believe by God’s grace He gives us examples around us of His ways.

Three things stand out from this passage. Three things that I believe show when God has put His presence in our midst.

  1. Look for those who exhibit His Spirit. In verse ten, we see that the Spirit of God was at work in Othniel. I can’t really put this one into clear words. But I think we all have experienced people in our lives who just exude the fruit of the Spirit. They’re a joy to be around. They are faithful. They are generous. They are distinctly different from the world around them. It’s not that they hate the world, they just love Jesus more, and it shows in their time, money, and conversations.
  2. Look for those who bring victory. Now, obviously, just like with the judges, we know that it is ultimately God who brings the victory for God’s people. Here in Othniel’s life, God used him to accomplish victory over Cushan-rishathaim. When I want to be reminded of God’s presence in our midst, I look for stories of people accomplishing Kingdom victory and bearing fruit when it comes to drawing people to Jesus and making disciples of those who choose to walk with Him.
  3. Look for those who bring peace. The final verse of this passage shows us that Othniel’s leadership brought peace. This is honestly the one that I am most encouraged by. When I see people who aren’t interested in stirring the pot, aren’t willing to talk poorly about anyone else, aren’t interested in drawing attention to themselves, my heart soars. Those are wonderful people to be around and spend time with. They want to love Jesus and love others. That’s it.

When I see people like this, I know the church isn’t lost in this broken world. I am reminded that Christ still reigns over His people. Those who are filled with the Spirit, those who are effective for Jesus, and those who are seeking peace are the types of people that I am strengthened in my faith by. They’re reminders that we aren’t left alone in this wild and broken world.

That’s the type of person I’d like to be as well. Fruitful and peaceful, all while living under the guidance of direction of the Spirit.

Our church is broken.

But it’s not lost.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

I Don’t Want To Be In Charge

“Why won’t people listen to me? Why won’t they follow my lead?”

Three years ago, I sat in the office of Craig Lyle, the pastor at Faith Baptist in Wichita Falls. Those two questions came flying out of my heart as I tried to share with him what I was feeling and thinking about my ministry here at FBC Vernon.

We were a few months into what became a fifteen month pastor search, and I felt overlooked and ignored as a leader in the church.

So in great frustration I asked my mentor and friend why he thought that was happening.

Our relationship had begun due to my need for marital counseling. I was one year into marriage, and I was ruining it. My anger and frustration was boiling over into unkind and abrasive words towards my wife. I needed help. I needed someone to point me to Jesus.

So there I sat on the couch.

I felt ignored at church and ignored at home.

I mean, seriously. I was twenty-five years of age! Why didn’t my church and my family submit to my vast knowledge and wisdom? Why didn’t they follow my great expertise?

Yes, that’s laughable now.

But that’s exactly how I felt.

I don’t remember exactly what Craig said in response, but the gist was clear.

It was something along the lines of “do you love them?”.

He went on to say “Nate, you’re not called by Jesus to be a cowboy driving cattle. You’re called to be a shepherd leading sheep”.

Man.

That was a challenging and convicting word.

All of that came to mind today due to a verse that jumped off the page in my quiet time. I was reading Colossians chapter two.

and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. – Colossians 2:10, NIV

Christ is the head over every power and authority.

That has so many implications in regards to governments and organizations, kings and kingdoms.

But what hit me was the fact that Christ is head over every authority, meaning he is head over mine.

I’ve been given responsibilities in my church. As I walk out these responsibilities, the fleshly desire to be followed, listened to, trusted, and affirmed can be high in me.

But here’s what this verse teaches me.

Here’s what I wrote in my journal after reading this verse.

I’m first and foremost a man under authority. Before I think about leading others, I have to remember I’m being led. I report to Jesus, my LORD. He is the authority that I am to submit to. This isn’t my youth group. It’s the LORD’s.”

That changes everything about leadership, doesn’t it?

If life is about me being in charge, I may guide people down a path, but they likely won’t feel loved along the way.

If life is about Someone being in charge of me, I’m going to seek to lead others the same way that I’m being led.

As I reflect on this, I worship.

The One in charge of me loves me. The One in charge of me is gentle, humble, patient, compassionate, merciful, kind, persistent, relational, intimate, and personal.

Wow.

That’s the type of leader I want to be.

The older I get, the less I want authority and power if I’m being honest with you. At times, the idea of me having authority feels dirty to me. Now I know from Scripture that godly men need to lead the people of God. So I keep going. But there are moments I just don’t want any part of the power structures of man.

The older I get, the less the desire to be in charge appeals to me.

The older I get, the more I want to love people like Jesus.

I’m asking God to bring that about in me.

I want those who are around me to see me as gentle, humble, patient, compassionate, merciful, kind, persistent, relational, intimate, and personal.

That truly brings a tear to my eye.

God, please let it be so.

At home, I want my wife and daughter to see Jesus in me.

At work, I want men and women to see Jesus in me.

If I’m given authority, I’ll use it.

But I want to use it in one way.

To love like Jesus.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Seek The Lord

Lately I have been trying to get into God’s word and grow in wisdom. I’m twenty-eight years old, and in a lot of areas of my life, I still need to grow up. I need the Spirit’s help through the study of the word and prayer.

A couple weeks ago, I was reading in Zephaniah, looking for Biblical wisdom.

This verse jumped off the page:

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord. – Zephaniah 2:3

What do I seek?

When I look at the year or month or week ahead of me, what is it that I’m pursuing with my time and energy?

Sometimes I look at the week ahead and simply think about the responsibilities I have. I’m striving to lead my family as a husband and father. That takes intentionality. I’ve got seminary assignments. I’ve got work assignments. I am now an umpire for the local Boys & Girls Club softball league. I’ve got students that I’m meeting with for discipleship. I’ve got upcoming D-Now speaking engagements.

I’m seeking a lot of earthly things.

Many of those things are good things.

Obviously being a God-honoring spouse and father is important.

Doing my school work and work work for the glory of God is important.

But what is it that I’m chasing?

Without intentionality, a week can go by with no real growth in my walk with God.

To avoid this, I need to apply that verse from Zephaniah to my life.

Seek the Lord.

How can I commune with God this week? That’s the most important question, the most important part of my schedule.

I occasionally struggle with staying asleep. For instance, I’ve been up since 2:30 AM, and I’m writing this post at 5:15 AM. I would love to be sleeping right now. Especially with a busy day of preaching and hosting students for dinner ahead of me. But here I am.

And you know what?

It’s been beautiful. Sure, I watched a couple YouTube videos. But for the most part I’ve been reading some and praying some and journaling a whole lot. I feel God’s presence close, intimately close.

I wrote in one of my journals that I would take this feeling of intimacy with God over sleep every time.

I wish I could say this was a daily reality. It’s not.

Again, this verse is kicking my butt.

I need to seek the Lord, seek righteousness, seek humility.

How can I become more righteous, more like Christ, this week?

How can I grow in humility (something that is central to my identity as a follower of Jesus, something I don’t have to work to have but rather seek to implement: see Philippians 2:5) this week?

Zephaniah tells me.

By doing just commands.

God’s commands that is.

If I seek to live in step with the commands of God in Scripture, I will over time, through the work of the Spirit, become more like Him and grow in humility and righteous living.

Humble, righteous men and women change communities because humble, righteous men and women give God all of the glory instead of seeking to hoard it for themselves.

Oh goodness I’ve got a long laundry list of times where I sought to get a little bit of God’s glory for myself.

It never pans out.

Brother or sister in Christ, seek the Lord this week.

He will be found!

May our communities be overflowing with men and women who seek the Lord and imitate His humility and righteousness to a watching world.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The Game Of Life

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:  – 2 Corinthians 1:1

         One Sunday night, a group of families from our church were gathering together for dinner. After I had my fill of the adult table, I turned my attention to what some of my students were doing in the other room. They were playing the board game Life. With each spin of the wheel, paper money was distributed, lifeless pegs were added to plastic cars, and laughter was had. 

         There are plenty of moments when I feel like I’m a participant in a divine game of Life. God spins the wheel, and I take my assigned path. Life feels aimless at times and out of my control (this is not the time nor the place to dive into the tension between God’s sovereignty and the free will of man). I simply feel at times like I’m just along for the ride in my own pink plastic car. 

         Here at the start of 2 Corinthians, the phrase will of God jumps off the page. You see, God has a desired plan for the cosmos, a plan that will come to fruition. He doesn’t spin a wheel and guide our lives accordingly on a whim. He guides nations and families into His plan for human history. In the case of Paul, God’s will lead him to become an apostle of the Son. Everything that follows in 2 Corinthians has authority because of Paul’s apostolic role. This apostolic role was God’s plan for His life. 

         You may feel uncertainty right now about what God’s will is for you. Be encouraged. You can trust His plans for you and your family. Every “action card” you come across in life is deepening your understanding of the grace and peace that is available in God (v. 2).  

         I want to be content as the blue peg in this game of Life. I want to lead my pink pegs well. And I want to remember that God is guiding me down a path that has far more than Countryside Acres waiting for me on the other side. 

Not Man’s Gospel

I was unconscious when they found me, blood on my forehead. They got me responsive and took me to the emergency room as I went into shock.

What had happened you ask?

I was on a jog with Gracie in her stroller when a pack of vicious street dogs attacked. I fought them off bare-handed as best I could, as I protected my precious baby girl. I pulled hair, punched snouts, kicked, and screamed for help. I eventually succumbed to their attack, but Gracie was saved.

What a story that would be.

Unfortunately, that is not the truth.

Seven years ago now, when I was a student at Oklahoma Baptist University, we had a snow day. Me, being the buffoon that I was, neglected to wear a jacket. Instead I decided to take DayQuil. After hours of snowball fights, makeshift sledding, and other shenanigans, I had approximately zero water in my body. That night, when getting ready for bed, my brain stopped working was a result.

I went tumbling into the shower, knocking down the shower curtain with a crash before drilling my face on the spigot.

And that, my friends, is where they found me.

Good stuff.

Hilariously embarrassing stuff.

So why do I share a lie and then the true story?

I’m glad you asked.

First, read these verses.

Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – Galatians 1:1

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. – Galatians 1:11-12

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul makes extra sure to emphasize a couple of things right off the bat. First, he is an apostle. He has authority to speak into the life of the church. But this authority comes from Christ’s call on his life. Secondly, the gospel message that Paul proclaimed in Galatia didn’t arise from his own deep thoughts about life. Rather, this was a message from God above.

Now, Paul likely didn’t have in mind the content of the gospel message when he made these statements. He was defending his apostleship and telling his testimony about experiencing the Risen Christ.

But, it has got me thinking.

I think that one of the greatest proofs for me personally regarding the truthfulness of the Biblical story is how bad humanity is in it.

If I’m going to make up a story revolving around me being found unconscious and bloodied, I’m going to tell you a story about me being the victor. I certainly am not going to tell you a story of me passing out getting ready for bed.

If humans were going to make up a story about our universe, and the meaning of life in it, they certainly wouldn’t make up a story where our righteous deeds are filthy rags, we deserve hell due to our natural inclinations toward sin, and we are in desperate need of a Savior.

The gospel message that Paul came to Galatia to proclaim, the message that he will tease out in all of its beautiful, grace-saturated truths, the message that we today get to continue proclaiming in our communities is not man’s gospel. It is the gospel of God.

Again, man’s gospel would not be what we find in Scripture. It would likely be quite Disneyesque, all about following your heart and achieving your dreams. Go your own way. Blaze your own trail. Be morally good.

But that is not the message of Scripture. The message of Scripture is I’m dead and need to be brought to life. I am a sinner in need of a Savior.

Brothers and sisters, be encouraged.

What we have is good news.

What we have is the best of news.

We should proclaim it from the rooftops, not as our beliefs, but as the gospel of our great God and Savior.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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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 

Are You Not Entertained?

Maximus had just laid waste to his foes in the gladiator arena. He raises his arms and yells to the crowd “are you not entertained?!” It’s an iconic moment from an iconic movie. It’s a line I quote quite often as a matter of fact (although more so in my college days).

Here is a man who is on display before the crowds, and they seem disappointed in his performance, underwhelmed when they were expecting a show that would keep them on the edge of their seats. Here is a man at war personally while the crowds stand outside the field of battle, cheering or heckling, complaining or affirming.

I’ve been a pastor now for five years, and I can relate to that scene more and more.

I’ve been hesitant to even say that because I genuinely don’t seek a “woe is me” line of thinking or a “poor guy” response.

But I feel it.

And I share that feeling to advocate for those in my life who have been brutalized in the arena of ministry, all while they receive the thumbs down of those seeking to be entertained by the public figure that is the pastor. I share that feeling because men in ministry have been so hurt by the war that they face depression, discouragement, and even suicidal thoughts.

I know a man who has been faithful for decades and yet has people grumbling against him because his personality is not to their liking or some other minutia.

I know a man who was falsely accused (and proven so) of all sorts of moral failures by a group of people in the church who didn’t like him.

I know a man who was critiqued widely and regularly for his style of preaching.

I know a man who is exhausted and he’s only been in ministry a few years.

I know a dozen youth pastors who have faced to differing degrees the perception that they aren’t in the big leagues, they’re not adults, they’re not actually doing anything hard, they’re not real pastors yet, etc., despite being ordained ministers of the gospel. And to that I say, there is no greater mission field in the world than the ages of 15-30.

I know a man who regularly has to quote Colossians 1 and the importance of being continuously strengthened by the power of Christ, in order to continue manning up and seeking to live out his calling (that man is me).

Pastoral ministry is war.

It’s emotionally, physically, relationally, mentally, and spiritually draining.

It is painful.

It is hard.

Now, again, hear me say as clear as day: it’s worth it. The moments when I see young men and women catch the fire of discipleship, when I see students take ownership of their own faith, when I see older believers not get out of the game but continue advocating for the Kingdom to come, I am overwhelmed with joy. The pain and difficulty of ministry fades to the background as the joy of fruitfulness comes to the forefront.

So, yes it’s worth it.

But sometimes, oftentimes, that doesn’t lighten the load.

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. – 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

When I was young, when God first called me into ministry (at the age of 7) and then later affirmed that call (at the age of 17), I thought pastoral ministry was easy and fun. I mean, I love to talk. I especially love to talk about Jesus. I thought people would love to hear me talk about Jesus. That’s all there was to it.

Then I actually got into ministry. Woah it ain’t that. Paul is challenging here. I think every man seeking to go into ministry should read this passage again and again. What does ministry sometimes look like?

Giving up one’s life for the church.

Sorrowful.

Yet always rejoicing.

Poor.

Yet making many (others) rich.

Having nothing.

But possessing everything (in Christ).

War.

For the Kingdom.

Here’s the beauty. Paul and his fellow ministers didn’t do anything that Christ didn’t do better. And so Christ doesn’t call the modern pastor to do anything that He didn’t do perfectly. Christ was homeless, lonely, poor. He continuously gave up His life for the people around Him and then He did it finally and firmly via the cross.

So, pastor, take heart.

Your affirmation comes not from the raucous crowd watching your public ministry.

Your affirmation comes from Christ who gives you strength.

Pastor, take heart.

Your faithfulness has been given a gigantic thumbs up from the only Emperor that matters, King Jesus.

Pastor, take heart.

He knows. He sees. He cares. He loves. He provides strength.

Church, pray for your pastors. They are imperfect men, broken men, men in need of great grace.

Church, support your pastors. In every decision they make, they are weighing many different opinions and perspectives.

Church, love your pastors.

Church, fight alongside your pastors. Get in the arena with them. Do ministry alongside them.

Church, don’t lose your pastor. Don’t be the reason they step away from ministry.

I long for the day that I don’t hear of pastors taking their own lives. I long for the day when pastors don’t need counseling, don’t get burnt out, don’t battle depression on the regular.

I long for the day when the question isn’t “are you not entertained” but rather “are you with me”?

Let us strive for that day here on earth.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The Lowest In The Room

It’s mid-evening, and we just went on a walk as a family. I’m sitting in the living room with a good book. Gracie has been asleep for three minutes and I’m eagerly diving into a new book I just received in the mail. The baby monitor is right next to me and I hear her waking up. I can go comfort her, or I can keep reading.

I’m on vacation with my family in Waco. As we’re planning our trip back to Vernon, Jamie mentions that she wants to stop at a furniture store for an extended period of time. I can joyfully participate in this excursion or make it a draining experience of me clearly being annoyed and frustrated.

I’m sitting in staff meeting trying to stay mentally engaged after an early morning trip to Wichita Falls. Ideas are flying around about this or that upcoming ministry opportunity. Assignments are dished out, some that I wouldn’t have gone looking for. I can faithfully do the assignments I’ve been given with a cheerful attitude or just get by with mediocre work.

In all of these recent scenarios, I had a choice. I could choose my comfort, my way of life, my priorities and passions.

Or I could stoop.

I could submit.

I could put Gracie, Jamie, and my coworkers first.

In our modern world, the idea of submitting to any authority is frowned upon by some. It is difficult for most, myself included. Everywhere we look we’re told that we should be in charge, that we should pursue what’s best for ourselves. I mean, the loudest, proudest and meanest are the ones that get the spotlight and the responsibilities.

You want attention? Be the loudest in the room.

You want to be like Jesus? Be the lowest in the room.

You want to model the character of Christ? Submit.

In Ephesians 5, Paul shares with the church in Ephesus the behaviors and character traits of those who are seeking to walk in the light of God’s presence. After detailing the importance of being filled with the Spirit as opposed to earthly things, Paul says the church should be doing the following:

Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:21

Submission. It’s the way we show our love for Jesus. It’s the way that we grow our relationships as the people of God.

In my marriage, I am to willingly submit to the desires of Jamie. In my parenting, I am to willingly submit to the desires of Gracie. This doesn’t mean I don’t lead my family in the way that God has called me to. It just means my family is not about me. In my job, I am to submit to Brooks, Donovan, Mike, Greg, Tisha, Joni, and Sandra. I am to be consistently seeking the good of all those around me.

And when I do so, I am living in the way that Jesus would.

That being said, don’t get me wrong. Submission isn’t easy to me. I still don’t want to listen to others when I think I’m right. I still don’t want to submit to the preferences of others when I’m passionate about my way. But if I’m staunchly, arrogantly refusing to submit to anyone or anything, I’m showing that I am not fully grasping Jesus nor the commands of the New Testament.

A friend recently said to me that the entire New Testament ethic could be summarized in the word submission. And I’m inclined to agree with him. We’re called to submit to Scripture, the Spirit, the government authorities (not just those we voted for), our spouses, our pastors, etc. Submission is central. So why isn’t it practiced in our lives?

Probably because submission doesn’t come naturally. Yet, I can tell you that it’s the way to fullness of life. When I stoop, I feel joyful. When I submit, I feel like I’m living in the way that God designed me to live. When I stoop, I dream of and envision a church, a community, that is full of submission.

What would that look like?

What if we went out of our way to promote someone else’s worship style? What if we went out of our way to give someone else the spotlight? What if we went out of our way to make someone else’s ministry idea happen even if we aren’t naturally on board with it? What if we went out of our way to serve and sit under the authority and leadership of others? What if we went out of our way to stoop, stoop, stoop.

Man, that would be something else.

I think that would be the type of community that God desires us to be.

So, as counter-cultural as it may sound, I want to submit.

I invite you to do the same.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Not So Courageous

When I was a kid, I avoided anything that had the possibility of inflicting pain. When playing paintball I would hide in the back of the field to avoid getting shot.

I played six-man football growing up and did the same thing. I was not a talented football player so I spent most of my time on the sideline. They would ask for someone to fill a spot to give one of the starters a breather and I would often pretend like my ears didn’t work. When I was on the field, I wouldn’t seek out contact. I remember one game getting chewed out for not attempting to tackle the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage. Me and pain didn’t mix. Things that required courage didn’t come easy to me.

That’s fine in football. I may have missed out on the NFL, but oh well.

It’s a lot more serious when you’re an adult with adult responsibilities and adult consequences.

In college, I didn’t have the courage to pursue Jamie romantically while being six months away from moving to Phoenix. So I bounced back and forth between communicating with her a lot and ghosting her (to use a young and hip modern term). Thank God Almighty that He is greater than my commitment issues. Jame and I are married and now raising our daughter!

I still wrestle with courage. My job requires an inner strength that is often lacking in me. I have to have hard conversations, I regularly share a message about Christ that is becoming less and less popular, and I am put in positions where I’m stepping into messy and difficult situations.

As I’ve been praying for courage and thinking about courage, the Lord has reminded me that courage is not up to me. It’s not dependent upon me. Strength is given from the Spirit. It’s not something that I can manufacture by putting on a brave face and charging into the gap.

In his prayer for the church in Colossae, Paul says that he wants them to be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might (Colossians 1:11). Later on in his letter Paul says this: For this (the desire to make all mature in Christ) I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me (Colossians 1:29).

That has leapt off the page for me recently. They are such simple statements but they contain a timeless truth. The church is strengthened and made powerful by God. It is His might, not their own, that is the source of such strength. For me to lead my family and my ministries well, I need the glorious might of God working through me. Every single day. Left on my own, I would cave. I would hide. I would do easy and comfortable things. But through the might of God above, I can do hard things.

As I look back on my life, I can see how that simple truth has been on display over and over again. When I worked for the North American Mission Board, I led a team of OBU students on trips to Portland two Summers in a row. These were ten week trips for me that always began with me sitting in the PDX airport alone, feeling immensely overwhelmed. The second Summer, I remember pulling out my journal and asking God if I could just go home. Being in charge of a team in a city that was so spiritually dark was too much for me I claimed. When I came to terms quickly with the reality that there was no way out, I asked God to give me the strength to move forward and lead my team well. He blessed me with courage and strength.

If you’re lacking strength and courage right now, I want to invite you to stop trying. Stop gritting your teeth and clinching your fists. Rest in the power that is in you as a follower of Jesus. Ask Him for strength and then trust Him to provide it.

As you ask God for strength, I would encourage you to ask your friends to pray for that in your life. Often our prayer requests are all circumstantial.

“Pray the covid test comes back negative. Pray the house gets sold. Pray for my kid to excel or get through a difficult circumstance.”

These aren’t inappropriate prayers (my prayer requests can be like this often), but man they’re shallow compared to these prayers we read in the Bible. Paul prays for the church to have strength in God. I quite often ask friends, youth volunteers, or family to pray that God would give me courage. I would encourage you to invite others to do the same for you. We’re called to carry one another’s burdens, to uplift one another for the sake of the church’s effectiveness and the glory of the God we worship.

In His Name,

Nate Roach