American Dream In A Choir Robe

What guides your life?

If I looked at your schedule, your finances, your conversations, your thoughts, your motivations, and your habits, what would they point to?

For far too many in the West, they certainly wouldn’t point to Jesus.

For far too often in my life, they don’t point to Him.

I 100% believe that following Jesus in the West has been condensed down to The American Dream in a choir robe. Get the big house, the lake house, the boat, the spouse, the two kids, the dog, the promotion, the popularity, the success. Get it all. Just make sure you pray before meals and go to church on the weekends if you’re not busy.

Y’all. That ain’t the call of the gospel.

But for far too much of my life, that has been the dream. I want all that this world has to offer.

Right now I’m hanging out at the beach in North Carolina, on a family reunion trip that we take every few years. When I was little, we came to this exact same beach. I remember standing out in the waves as a teenager, thinking about what my life would be like. I wanted to taste and see that America was good. I wanted to work in sports information and make a name for myself. I legit thought I would be working at ESPN as a statistician.

Fast-forward half of my lifetime and I’m looking out at the waves praising God that He didn’t give me what I wanted.

This world is insidious.

We can 100% enjoy beach trips and all the other pleasures of this world. They’re from God. They’re good when received with thanksgiving.

But all too often, I get hooked.

Here’s what I mean.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is talking about the dangers of sexual immorality. In verse 12 he makes a statement that I believe applies to matters far broader than sexual activity.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

As Christians, we have freedom. There are a thousand worldly things that aren’t mentioned in Scripture. And even those that are come down to belief not behavior.

When it comes to my choices concerning things of this world, this verse gives the perfect thought process. Is engaging in a certain activity, going on a specific trip, establishing a certain rhythm, or implementing a certain hobby helpful for my walk with Christ?

I’d rather miss out on a million worldly things if those worldly things dim my light for Christ or lessen my commitment to Him.

I used to think that those who said ‘no’ to certain worldly forms of entertainment or activities were crotchety old legalists. And maybe some were. But now I see that maybe they had it right.

Here’s the definition of dominate:

have a commanding influence on; exercise control over.

Oh geez.

Does that not sound like the church in the West? We have become controlled by the things of this world. We have bowed down to a different lord.

So how do we know if we’ve been dominated by worldly things?

Where does your money go to first?

What do you first think about when you wake up?

What is your weekly schedule operating around?

What do you talk about the most?

The answers to these questions show us what we’re being dominated by and controlled by. If the answer isn’t “God’s people, the Kingdom of God, making disciples, and the good news of the gospel” respectively, then I’ve bowed down to an idol. I’ve taken a good thing and made it a god thing in my life.

Can I confess my false gods?

Over the last few years, I’ve had three things that have taken the role of lord in my life, three things that while not unlawful became the core of who I am. And boy they’re embarrassing.

The first one was a stupid little white ball with dimples. Back in 2020, I played AT LEAST once a week. Instead of devoting time to God in prayer or study, or spending time with my wife, I would go hit a ball over and over again for four or five hours. It became what I wanted to talk about, post about, research, and receive gifts regarding. It dominated me and it didn’t help me in my walk with Jesus.

After much conviction, I put it back in its proper place. I still play from time to time, but it no longer dominates me.

The second one was a dual threat of TikTok and YouTube. From 2019-2021 off and on I would become overpowered by the need to watch idiotic videos at every free moment I had. It was bad. And boy it’s embarrassing. But I would get home from a tiring day of work and lay on the couch or in bed looking and laughing. Now, humor is a gift from God. Laughter and levity are gifts from God. But I was neglecting time with God in prayer and word because I ‘didn’t have enough time’. All while ScreenTime was saying I spent 4 hours on my phone daily.

After much, much, much conviction, I deleted TikTok and have slowly tried to waste less time on YouTube.

The last thing that dominated me was work. For the last several years work had become something that was a burden instead of something that was a joy. While circumstances may have contributed to that burden, I mostly did that to myself. My time at home was consumed by my responsibilities at work.

In two days (depending on how the vote goes of course) I’ll be starting a new chapter in ministry. My prayer is that it will take its proper place in my heart and life. It is not what my life is about.

My life should be about Jesus.

Brother or sister in Christ, I can’t tell you what you’ve become dominated by.

What I can tell you is that removing good and morally neutral things from your life isn’t legalist. It’s life-giving.

Every single week I want to think about and live in response to what will make the most like Jesus, what will make me pursue Him the hardest.

Let’s be honest, the pleasures of this world will not compare to the glories of the Kingdom.

So I’m more than willing to miss out on some here.

Let’s not be dominated by anything.

The American Dream is incomplete.

Let’s do only that which is helpful for our walk with Jesus.

Let’s do it together.

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

Surprise The World

I have been around some incredible evangelists in my life. I served with a guy named Joel in Salt Lake City who could make a seemingly innocuous conversation with a clerk at a gas station into a presentation of gospel truths. I have served with a young woman named Molly who was able to relate to seemingly all people from any walk of life and get them to understand the message of the gospel. I have been around men and women who are able to sit on a plane, a bus, or an Uber and have gospel-centered conversations with strangers. It’s impressive and cool, but sometimes discouraging.

In his book, Surprise The World, Michael Frost shares how many people in our churches feel discouraged by the evangelists in our midst because God hasn’t wired all people to be like the Billy Grahams of our age. Frost goes on to say in the book that God has a two-fold design for evangelism. God has called all to be evangelistic, but only some to fulfill the role of evangelists.

In my life, I’ve felt the pressure to be more evangelistic than I am prone to be. I led trips to Portland and Phoenix, spending a total of around 20 months in urban church-planting environments. Yet if I’m honest, I never felt like an evangelist. I did not find myself comfortable in that setting, equipped to function in such a role. I had many nights in those cities plagued with the questions of why I hadn’t done more. When in Phoenix, I lived with a friend named Marcus who made it a point to have conversations with neighbors, while I floundered in such conversations. I knew the Scriptures, loved teaching them, but actually opening up and talking about the gospel with strangers was exceedingly difficult.

Was my faith not strong enough? Why was I so bad at evangelism? These types of questions haunted me.

In his book, Frost looks to Colossians 4:2-6 as a picture of the twofold ministry of evangelism:

“For evangelists, Paul asks for opportunities to proclaim the gospel clearly (verses 3-4). But he doesn’t suggest the Colossians pray as much for themselves. Rather, evangelistic believers are to pray for the evangelists’ ministry, to be wise in their conduct toward outsiders, and to look for opportunities to answer outsiders’ questions when they arise (verses 2, 5-6).”

So in the mind of Frost, God uses those called to an evangelism role in the church to be vocal, traveling ministers of the gospel. The rest are to be wise in their conduct and ready to answer the questions of those around them who are not walking with Christ. That is where Frost comes up with the name of the book: Surprise the World. The actions of first-century Christ-followers was genuinely surprising to all who encountered them. It was their actions, rhythms, and habits that led into conversations.

Some of us are gifted orators and apologists, whom God can use to have on the spot conversations with non-believers about the good news of His Son.

The majority of us however, are to surprise the world around us with the rhythms, habits, and actions that we take. When this happens, we can vocalize why we do what we do. Here’s where we as Christians get it wrong. If we’re honest, few of our habits are affected by our belief in the gospel.

Frost puts it like this:

“If we’re trying to live questionable lives, then cutting the lawn, saying hi to the neighbors, washing our car, walking the dog, and driving to the office every day is hardly an intriguing lifestyle.”

Living the American dream with a bi-weekly church attendance and occasional Bible reading is not living in such a way that surprises the world. We’re no different than our neighbors who believe in morality if that’s the case.

That being said, in the ‘radical Christian’ age that we live in, where crazy acts of sensationalized missions brought about by guilt seem to be the rave, we need to step back and remember that ordinary acts of kindness, love, and Christlikeness is likely more appealing to the non-believer than our profile pictures from Africa or Asia. God alone deserves glory and honor and praise, and I believe that many of us are using and abusing the message of Christianity to make a name for ourselves, to be ‘world-changers’, and to leave a legacy. That is living for your own glory and it is a travesty in our current church climate. My life on earth is NOT about my desire to be remembered. It should be about Christ and God’s ultimate glorification in me.

Here are some examples from lives of those around me that are the middle ground between living a life of suburban bliss that doesn’t awaken neighbors to their need for the gospel and a life of radicalized missions that makes life about our own glory:

My father’s friend Michael who in the face of impending death due to cancer was able to live a life of joy, hope, and trust despite what was an unfair diagnosis and circumstance that ultimately led to his passing.

My friend who lives with a faith in God that is greater and stronger than any earthly circumstance that she has had to walk through in her life, including poverty, and how she has opened up her home to foster and yet remains trusting the promises of God in this season as well.

My friend Donovan who has nine children. He lives with a joy that is tremendous and he lives with a commitment to Christ and family. His devotions with children as opposed to aimless media consumption each night shows in the lives of his children and it is definitely surprising in this day and age.

My friend Sarah who manages the local Boys and Girls Club. It is a humongous task that she undertakes, dealing with the pains of seeing kids struggle with sin and being in the midst of suffering and yet at the end of the day she is able to say that Jesus is still on the throne and in control.

These are just a handful of friends who have surprised the world with the way that they live for Christ here in Vernon, Texas.

You may not be a gifted evangelist. That’s okay. Because you have been called to be evangelistic. Surprise the world with the love you have for Christ.

In His Name,

Nate Roach