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Going to the World? Do This First!

You can read other blogs about the work Northwood Church does in Vietnam and around the world.  It has been a wild ride the past 22 years and we hope to have fifteen teams serve there next year!   I am often asked by church planters and pastors about the steps to engage a nation.  How do you pick the country? What should I do first? Can you connect me with a leader there?  Who should go on the first trip? 

These are great and important questions but I have another plan of action for you.

Everyone wants a five-step plan to engage the nations.  I resist doing it that way.  Detailed plans and programs may initialize some good stuff, but they get in the way of the awesome and radical work that God really wants to do.  So, for what it’s worth, here’s my plan of action:

  1. Start the day on your knees with God’s Word and don’t get up until you sense God’s presence and you’ve heard from Him.
  2. Tell God whatever He chooses to do with you, you’re okay with it.
  3. View every event as something God has divinely put before you.
  4. Seize the opportunity that no one else has or would do.  Chances are it will come in a phone call, a chance encounter, or some crazy idea that is lodged in your head.
  5. Watch God put stuff together.

That’s just the beginning, but it’s the crucial beginning!  I’ve written much more about this in my book Glocalization–How Followers of Jesus Engage the World in hopes it will help the Body of Christ engage their community and the world. 

GlocalNet Gathering – You’re Invited!

From NorthWood Church and GlocalNet, over 200 churches have been planted.  If you count in other ministries that have been birthed and leaders that have been equipped and sent, we couldn’t begin to count the number of people that are out there walking around with Glocal DNA.  After that,  you could try to count the churches, ministries and disciples that have come from each of those churches and leaders and it just becomes exponential.  It’s quite a big family!

In a little over a month, we are calling the family to come together.  We want to hear the stories of what God is doing around the world. We want to learn about the hard fought victories, the miraculous catches of fish, and the heart-wrenching defeats of these adventures.  We want to think deeply and creatively about loving God and loving people. We want to gather to worship God with great passion. We want to pray together believing for one another. We want to encourage and fuel each other for the next season. We want to hear loving truth and guidance from God. We want to courageously obey Him, together.  As you can see, we’re expecting so, so much from this little family gathering.

So, if you are part of the family, a part of the extended family or a friend of the family…..YOU’RE INVITED! If you are looking for a family, you feel alone, you need some brothers and sisters, YOU”RE INVITED!  If you are looking for a paradigm shift or a change of wineskins…..YOU’RE INVITED!  If you just want to get to know some great people and learn some cool stuff….Yep, we welcome you, as well.  We’d love to see you.  Sign up below!

Click on the 2017 GlocalNet Family Gathering banner below to get more details and to register.

 

Elements of Movements

What a man does in life becomes history, but what he puts into motion becomes his legacy – Paul Cole

Here’s a question for you, “Are you creating history or making a movement?”

The word movement comes from the latin movere which means to move or set in motion. It speaks of something that is bigger and will probably take a few generations to see it’s fruition. Nevertheless, some leaders give themselves to such tasks with all their might. They care not who gets the credit, their only goal is to initiate it knowing that they may never see it to completion. They are moved by the prospect of changing the world for the better. The irony is that nobody creates a movement, they simply just lay the groundwork for one.

Here are some of the elements you will find in that groundwork that are vital in creating movements.

Movements are not about self-interest but are about what is right and wrong. Self-interest does not allow for long term thinking because it is only motivated by that which the leader can control or by what gives them credit. Some leaders are driven by small tasks they can complete in their life time in order to get the credit and accolades that short term achievements produce.

Movements always begin with the minorities. It is not the size of group that determines movements but it’s the commitment of the few involved. All you need is a committed and motivated minority in order to begin. When God wants to start a movement he always begins with a small minority or someone who has been discarded or rejected by society–someone that fits into the misfit category but possess the raw material of a nation’s future. The stone that the builders rejected becomes the cornerstone of a new world.

Movements requires action not discussions. It is not dialogue that creates movement, but actions that creates a new dialogue. That new dialogue is very distinct and carries within it the seeds of the new movement. Dialogue by itself tends to be circular in nature and carries no potency to break through the old thinking; the only way to break through from the old is to take a new action.

Movements are visionary.They offer society a desired future. People are attracted by the prospect of a sudden and spectacular change in their condition of life. Movement sees right through the present and imagines a new future. It is written that Jesus endured the cross and shame for the joy set before Him. His vision of the future was so magnificent that it helped him deal with the present sacrifice.

Movements are prophetic.They call people to higher standard of life. They call for justice and order and equality. They call us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. A prophetic vision believes despite of the evidence to the contrary. It does not succumb to the pabulum of emotional self pity or the arrogance of the self-made man. It calls us to higher standard, one that elevates us above the mundane and provokes us to live a transcendent life in the transient world.

The Power of Biblical Connectedness

In 2002 we started an organization called Glocal.net that focused on starting churches. It would change and morph to ultimately what we have become today – but it was a journey. We didn’t plan to start a network organization, we had just started a lot of churches and many of them wanted a way to gather and network. It quickly grew very large and far beyond my administrative ability and became several groups. I had no desire to start or run a “mini-denomination!” As a matter of fact, I did very little with GlocalNet for years. As a church, however, we kept on starting more churches and by default GlocalNet grew.  I could see the value of all of us coming together – but our first response to the way we were relating was very western and industrial.  We came together around three things we all did – and still do:  (1) start churches, (2) work with the poor in our city, and (3) work in hard places in the world.  This brought around all kinds of people from charismatic to reformed to Baptist and even a few Anglicans. We had so many stories. I knew God was doing something different, but I responded the only way I knew how — in an old western, task-driven, organizational wineskins. 

As I began to travel the world I had the extraordinary opportunity to come to know and learn from many global pastors who lead significant movements.  We would call their what they’re a part of “church planting movements” (cpms), but most of them would not be familiar with that kind of language. These leaders taught me a new way of coming together as family.

This doesn’t mean that principles are not real or do not matter. The difference is that in the global church, they don’t start with principles, they start with people.  The people are first.  You can go to many conferences now and hear someone lecture or speak of how to start a movement and what it takes: a catalytic leader, a winsome message, a complimentary team, multiple evangelist to promote the movement – and on and on and on.  Inevitably, people without movements begin to use the language of movements to get people to join a movement that doesn’t exist.  We are missing something.

What we are missing is the Biblical Concept of Family. The global pastors I’ve met do not talk about movements or networks. Instead, when they talk about the church, they speak of their family and of their spiritual sons and daughters.  In many of these places around the world it’s impossible to have big meetings and gather thousands of people to hear your message.  You can only grow through relationships. Here, we often join movements through hearing preachers preach about their networks or movements.  A family requires a lifetime of relationships and a lifetime of relational work, not simply a staff and an organizational chart.  This is much more than a language shift.

As I have worked with pastors over the years, I’ve discovered they join groups for the purpose of identity or mission.  You can tell the identity groups because they have robust statements of beliefs, certain teachings, and doctrine you must agree on.  Teaching, for them, is huge because it’s critical to make sure everyone is on the same page.  With mission groups, story is the critical factor.  This is so and so and this is what happened . . . God opened this door, etc.  All organizations and tribes have a certain measure of doctrine and story but each will lean stronger in one way or the other.  This distinction is important to know and understand because it will give you the ethos and direction and values of a particular network, tribe or organization.

But here is what I’ve learned.  Most young pastors join a group because they are really looking for family.  They don’t want organizational ladders or organizational stats – they want family and they need Fathers.  This is very hard for us as Americans. Our history as a nation, our culture, our rugged (if not sinful) individualism makes family hard – but make no mistake about it – we all long for and need family.

Here’s something else that’s important to consider as a leader in this shift, people want to touch people, not worship a new king.  I’m always amazed by how these global movement leaders are so  accessible to the people.  They are not like American mega-church pastors at all.  They are humble, they are normal, you couldn’t pick them out of the crowd.  Often their clothes don’t match and they’re missing teeth! 

Finally, a family has a certain DNA – ours is Kingdom/Disciple/Society/Church.  We all share that same DNA.  It’s in our blood. We believe Jesus is leader of the Kingdom and his teachings are foundational on the Kingdom.  We define disciple as hear and obey.  We believe the grid we engage is our society through domains in the public square.  We believe the church isn’t just a worship service but a small group, a congregation, and a global church.  We build our everything around those four strands. 

When you start operating as family everything changes.  I’m having more fun in ministry today than ever before because pretty much everything I do, I do it with young people alongside of me. I’m trying to raise up a family.  I love working with world leaders at this stage in my life, but I don’t do it alone any more.  I often take a young pastor beside me, mentoring them in diplomacy, protocol, culture, or whatever is necessary at that moment. From the credibility we’ve earned over our lives we gain far more access than we had when we were young which leads to many more opportunities.  As we get older it is critical that we share our access and opportunities as we mentor young sons and daughters so when we’re gone the family and the ministry continue. 

If you want to know what our family is like, you’re welcome to join us at our Family Gathering.

 

Unleashing Vocational Influence

If you grew up in church, you heard many religious phrases that subconsciously shaped your thinking, such as “born again,” “decisions for Jesus,” or “joining the church.”  One of these is is “called into the ministry,” a phrase which I now find highly misleading.  I am convinced that God has called the entire body of Christ to ministry, nor just the few whose talents lead them to be pastors.  Some followers of Christ are called to various specialized functions, but every one of us has a responsibility to edge with God’s work in the world.  There is within each of us a longing, a deep inside that calls us to something unknown.  Throughout our lives, we may get glimpses of it, and it draws us forward to an undefined goal.  C.S. Lewis attempted to describe this longing when he first experienced it as a child:

‘It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation that came over me; Milton’s “enormous bliss” of Eden…comes somewhere near it.  It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what?…Before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased.’

For most of us, calling is something like this – a deep, private, personal longing that bring everything together in a single experience of great significance.  God calls every one of us in many ways, often using these undefined longing we tend to ignore or pass over as mere feelings of the moment.  Those who wish to follow God must learn to develop sensitivity to these moments, and when they come, to tune their ears to God for his call. 

When you are seeking God’s call, your skill, vocation, and passion are critical.  But undergirding all of this are four things that are essential to hearing God’s “full counsel” for your life.

 

1) The Importance of Prayer

Prayer is where it all starts.  When our hearts are clean and our lives are an open book before God, He will often speak things in our heart that give us a sense of where he is leading us. 

 

2) The Guidance of God’s Word

Scripture is indispensable.  For most major decisions, God will often give me a verse or a particular passage of Scripture to meditate on.

 

3) The Council of Other People

Proverbs says that there is safety in the presence of many counselors (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6).  This isn’t to say that God won’t call you to do something that goes against the counsel of other people.  But a wise disciple of Christ will often seek counsel from people they know and love.

 

4) Divine Intersections

Finally, I frequently keep my eyes open for God’s mysterious work – those divine intersections.  Sometimes God has place something on my heart, something I can’t let go of, but I have no ability to do anything about it.  The next thing I knew there are people, resources, and situations emerging, beyond my control that are causing significant changes.

 

What is God calling you to do?   Specifically, what is God calling you to do TODAY?  Be obedient and let God fulfill the longings you have.  

 

Discover more about unleashing  vocational influence in the book: 

Real Time Connections by Bob Roberts Jr.

The Original Design – God’s Household

The church by divine design is patently and functionally the family or household of God. Adam the first man was referred to in Luke’s genealogy as the son of God. If the church is the family of God then it should function as a family. Herein lies the present problems confronting the church. While the notion that the church is the family of God is generally accepted by most denominational tradition of Christendom its practical outworking is largely foreign to the bible. It has strayed from God’s divine intention and instead has developed into an institution of religion, encumbered by an excessive amount of regulations and practices. Consequently, since the church has abdicated it’s fundamental purpose the earth is plagued with dysfunction that can only be broken by a fresh inquiry into scriptures concerning the church’s essential structure and apostolic mission. We need to address the question of God’s Household and the need for apostolic fathers who will selflessly raise up sons of God to steward the Kingdom of God thereby establishing the sovereign rule of peace in creation. God’s desire is the strategic placement of mature sons into the influential places in the world so that the nations of this earth may be reconciled to Him resulting in peace and goodwill among men.

The first and major key that we must address is how we relate to each other.

A family is by nature an organism not an organization. It offers relationships instead of rules and regulations; connections instead of separation; community instead of conformity. God’s plan when He created the world was to extend His rule on this earth through families; through father and mother having sons and daughters, thereby filling the earth. Sin however came into the world and the results were broken and fractured relationships. However, God never abandoned His original plan and sent His Son, the second Adam to redeem, reconcile and restore us back to his original plan; the family of God. Jesus came to restore us back to the Father and to reconcile the family to each other. Fatherhood and family are the dominant themes of the New Testament. If we miss that we automatically end with systems to replace relationships.

The second key in a family is the issue of DNA. Families are built on a common DNA.

DNA informs the organism of its characteristics and helps shape it into that which resembles the family. Science tells us that the main role of DNA is the long-term storage of information. All cellular life exists and is replicated through DNA. However, organizations by nature tend to grow and multiply by maintaining structures, policies or belief system. However, a family grows and multiplies through life giving relationships in an environment of mutual love for each other; a common mission that flows through the blood stream not the corporate manual. Northwood Church gave birth to Glocalnet; a family of churches that is committed to building according to God’s blueprint; His Kingdom, disciples that hear and obey His voice, focused on the reconciliation of all things and discovering the church in all domains of society. Breaking out of the walls of church buildings and engaging with the public square; bringing the reality of the Kingdom of God to bear upon every domain of society. Relentlessly pursuing peace and reconciliation among all people in all places for all things. We are committed to building according to God’s original design; His blueprint not ours.

 


JOIN US AT THE 2017 GLOCALNET FAMILY GATHERING TO LEARN MORE!

SIGN UP HERE!


 

LESSONS FROM 9-11

Here we are in the middle or unprecedented hurricanes, earthquakes, nuclear threats, epidemics, & if that isn’t enough Elon Musk is predicting WWIII but not because of North Korea but because of artificial intelligence.  I can promise you, in the next 5 years, some really good stuff is going to happen and some really bad stuff is going to happen.  We all want the good stuff right?  Right.  But here’s the deal . . . and some of what I learned from 9-11.

 

You don’t get the good stuff without the bad stuff

9-11 was bad.  It was horrible, shook us to our core, made us recognize our own vulnerability.  I know right where I was when it happened.  Ti had just come to live with our family as an exchange student.  Because of our work in Vietnam and our ability to work with governments and domains I immediately got invitations to go to the world – but I kept refusing.  Without 9-11, I never would have come to know Muslims as I do.  Without 9-11 I doubt I’d be working with world leaders like I do.  Without 9-11, I never would have understood or experienced the world at a deep level.  Without 9-11, I never would have worked with other religions.  Without 9-11 my theology would be shallow because I was used to answering “church” questions from Christians not “hard” questions for people of other religions.

 

God uses the least likely people to do his will

I’m often referred to an expert from many people on Islam and Muslims.  I am not.  The experts know I am not.  I laugh about it.  For me working with the Communist of Vietnam was hard enough.  At least they were atheist – no competing version of God.  I think God uses us because we are open to anything, don’t live by old boundaries and rules, and we believe anything is possible.  We also keep learning because we know that we know so little.  Curiosity drives the unpretentious to ask questions, explore things, and put things together – in unexpected ways.  God also gets the glory because the novice knows they really are not gifted!

 

You will become friends with people who you thought were enemies

I was afraid of Muslims.  I believed anything bad anyone said about Islam or Muslims.  It was because I didn’t know any other Muslims and the media I listened to only focused on the crazy ones.  Then something happened – I went to Afghanistan and began to work with the people and with rare exceptions they were all Muslims.  I didn’t just work with any Muslims but the imams – some who had been trained by Mullah Omar.  I came to know them.  We laughed, prayed, shared sad and happy stories, and became friends.  No, we didn’t agree on everything but we respected each other.  I’m friends with many of them to this day.

 

Your best successes can be things you didn’t even know existed or planned on

I was going to grow up and be a global evangelist.  I pictured myself being Billy Graham when I was a young teen-ager.  I knew church work, but not peace-building.  I knew preaching to Christians with a few lost and backslidden Baptists, but I never dreamed I’d share at Muslim events with tens of thousands where I’d be the only Christian.  I wanted to live “on fire” for God, that was our language.  I came to be obsessed with loving God and other people with love, not fire, driving me.  Fire is about religious zeal – any person of any religion can do that.  Love is about relationship – with God and others.  To be a follower of Jesus, loving in the extreme is the radical, reckless way – demanded the Holy Spirit.  You had to first overcome your fear or you would never have a conversation.  I’m all over the U.S. and the world, often the only Christian being friends with people not of my faith. 

I was with a world leader of a particular nation not long ago who’s very close to the head of his country.  This man is very successful – a Christian but not of my tribe and he loves Jesus.  He’s very successful in so many ways.  I asked him, “Tell me, of all that you’ve done, what are you most proud of?”  “Bob, that’s easy.  I’m proudest of the fact that I have been born and live in a Muslim majority nation and as a Christian I am one of very few that God has placed to represent Jesus to my friends and family here.”  Spoken like a true follower of Jesus!  “Keep learning my friends”  from the most exciting man in the world!   

 


WANT TO HEAR MORE FROM BOB ROBERTS?  CONSIDER ATTENDING THE GLOCALNET FAMILY GATHERING. CLICK HERE FOR MORE.


 

GlocalNet Family Gathering – Nov. 8-9

Join us for an amazing time of worship, inspiration and learning at the 2017 GlocalNet Family Gathering.  If you are a part of the family, a friend of the family or just curious about what our family is all about, you are invited to come be a part of this experience.

 

 

WHEN                 November 8-9, 2017

WHERE              NorthWood Church — 1870 Rufe Snow Drive, Keller, Texas 76248

SCHEDULE      Begins at 8:30 AM Wednesday the 8th & ends at 4:30 PM Thursday the 9th

WORSHIP         We will be led in worship by a Multi-ethnic, multi-church team.

COST                   $49

** Special Hotel Pricing at Holiday Inn Express & Suites DFW West – Hurst, Texas 820 Thousand Oaks Dr, Hurst, TX 76054 (817) 427-1818

 

PRESENTERS

  • Bob Roberts — NorthWood Church & GlocalNet
  • Omar Reyes — NorthWood Church & GlocalNet
  • Kevin Brown — The Perfecting Church, PA
  • Kevin Cox — Vista Church, TX
  • Mitch Jolly — Three Rivers Church, GA
  • Nic Burleson — Timber Ridge Church, TX
  • Steve Bezner — Houston Northwest Church, TX
  • And other special guests….

 

SESSIONS & BREAKOUTS

  • Multi-Faith
  • Multi-Ethnic
  • Multiplication
  • Multi-Domain
  • Multi-Nation
  • Multi-Dimensional
  • The Multiple Aspects of the Public Square

 

R E G I S T E R   H E R E