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

Giveaways, Grub, Games, or Grace?

Don’t drink. Abstain from sex outside of marriage. Be a morally good person who passes out food to the poor every once in a while. Pray sometimes when you remember to, read your Bible occasionally, memorize a couple verses a year, and be a good friend.

If we are not careful, Christianity can become nothing more than this in our youth groups, and in our personal lives. We can absent-mindedly take the greatest story, the story of Scripture, and make it about being a morally upright person.

Thankfully this was never a temptation or even an option in my heart and life. When I was a teenager I had a deep fascination and draw to studying the Scriptures, for understanding what the Bible was saying in its entire story. This oftentimes became an obsession that became more about knowledge than intimacy with God, but the reality was I always seemed to understand there was more to Christianity than I was hearing on Wednesday nights in youth group.

That being said, I still struggled with what I was taking in on Wednesday nights. I remember countless weeks of emotional worship sets with the altar open. I also remember countless trips to that altar to draw attention to myself. I remember games and giveaways and lessons about dating well and not having sex or partying. In this season of my life, there were for sure men who took me deeper in my faith, men who proclaimed the gospel’s life-changing power, but they were rare in comparison to the weekly morality lesson I was used to hearing.

That style of youth ministry is likely close to completion.

“Due to the volumes of research suggesting that the moralistic, emotional, entertaining approach to youth ministry has had little to no efficacy in creating lasting followers of Jesus, many youth pastors have put the dry ice machine in the church attic and toned down the underage drinking speeches.” – Cameron Cole

As I now sit in a position of leadership over a group of youth, I am aware of my faults and struggles, but I am glad that I have the opportunity to show teenagers that there is more to Christianity than they think or may have been led to believe. I do my best from week to week to teach students the 3 things they need to know.

The Source Of Truth

The indoctrination of media is astounding to me. This is something that even as a 24 year old male I am needing to fight in my own life and walk with Jesus. We are fed information incessantly. iPhones aren’t evil but they inundate our existence with a barrage of news and opinion. The truth of life is found in the Word of God.
Here’s where I differ with people however. I think we need to be proclaiming the authority and inerrancy of Scripture in the context of the grand narrative of Scripture. Stories are inherently powerful. We learn more from stories than we do from facts and figures. I know this to be true because my students remember more from The Last Jedi then they do my latest Wednesday night sermon.

It is certainly true that we need to search and meditate upon the Scriptures to find the truth about our world and matters that are in the public eye. However, we should do so without turning the Bible into a book of mere facts and prescriptive life lessons. the The Bible is a grand narrative that needs to be read, studied, and taught as such.

A Correct View Of Self. 

We absolutely need to paint a picture of our sin. This is true and necessary for a true understanding of the gospel. That being said, I think we need to do a better job of starting in Genesis 1 with our students rather than Genesis 3.

When we start in Genesis 3, we approach the gospel with the brokenness and terrible nature of our hearts that need to be healed. Acceptance of the gospel brings this healing and redemption. This is good news. Here’s where things get dicey for me. It becomes a story of God making bad things good, and I think this limits the gospel message.

I am in 100% support of the truth that we are all naturally wicked and evil outside of Jesus. We are born with a sin nature. No one has to tell us how to sin. But when we start with Genesis 1, we can show our students that at their core, their deepest identity, they are made in the image of God, they are a son or daughter of God. Yes, they sin and are wicked. But deep down they are an image-bearer of the King and through belief in the gospel they can be set free to live out their true identity.

A Correct View Of God

This goes hand in hand with a correct view of God. I pray before every Sunday school session and Wednesday night sermon that we would all leave the church with a deeper understanding of who God is.

We concoct views and ideas about God that are simply not true. This is not often on purpose, but rather when we take a text from Scripture outside of the grand story. This is how we get a view of God as a malicious sociopath, an uninvolved clock-maker god, a grace-giving genie who doesn’t call us to holiness. We need to teach our students (and our adults, and ourselves for that matter) who God truly is. What His character is truly like.

Giveaways, games, and grub are not sinful things. But if we aren’t proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace every single time we meet with our students, we are wasting our time. I can attest that an entertainment-based version of ministry to youth rarely produces long-term disciples of Jesus.

Let us proclaim the grace of God in our youth buildings.

Our kids are learning geometry and biology, they can learn some theology. Don’t sell them short.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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