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THE ONE THING I’D PUT IN A NEW CHURCH FROM DAY ONE

by Bob Roberst Jr

The Biggest Issue The Church Faces Today

Extreme radical limitless love is THE most important ingredient I’d put in a church from day one.  Love, is the differentiating mark by which, Jesus said, people would know that we are his followers.  But honestly, who thinks of love as a place people go to church looking for?  One of my spiritual fathers – Jim Hylton – asked that question in a small group I was in not long ago – and I can’t escape it.

We fight for relevance – and I believe that is good.  What good is it to have the greatest message in the world and not communicate it in a way that people can understand and apply?  When people gripe about relevance are they promoting irrelevance or past sentimentality for a world or culture they miss?  Making disciples – that’s the mandate of Jesus, but if our “disciples” love like everyone else, and there is no difference in how or who is loved – has a disciple really made?  Read more

PLEASE DON’T QUIT

by Bob Roberts Jr

Last week I was with several church planters who are at at different stages in their ministry, but all pushing hard.  Some of them were about to start and faced obstacles and were wondering if they could really pull it off.   Some of them were in the middle of it and didn’t have answers for obstacles.   One church planter is a now full-fledged “church” and was wondering if he shouldn’t start another church because of the struggles, the new and excitement had worn off.  I was also with some pastors of established churches – some fairly large and influential – one was weary of the constant complaining, another weary of dealing with staff issues.  I was with a married couple who was hanging on by a thread.  I was with a young man whose job didn’t work out and he was feeling like a failure.  Everyone, no exceptions, regardless of the situation would love to simply escape.  I was recently with a prominent pastor who is now 80, and he  told me of everyone he went to seminary with and started out in the pastorate, only three made it to the finish line.  One my mentors and heroes, now with the Lord, told me a few months before he died that as we get older things actually get more difficult and challenging. Read more

THE UNIQUE ROLE OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH & BELIEVER GLOBALLY

by Bob Roberts Jr. 

I believe the sleeping giant of the American Church globally is its African American believers.  The narrative most often related to biblically with the African American is that of Moses and deliverance being applied to the African American experience from slavery to the Civil War to Civil Rights to our first African American President Barak Obama. 

The world is ready for African Americans to be on the global public stage in a bigger way.  There are many who have paved the way – but in reality, in this modern period, no one more than Colin Powell.  He could have been President had he wanted it, by both parties and by all races, he is a leader xtraordinaire.  When President Obama was running for the Presidency and then won, his crowds globally were unprecedented for an American President – the world was ready.  Read more

RAISING “LITTLE COMMUNIST”

by Bob Roberts Jr

It’s true.  August of 2001 Ti Luu from Hanoi, Vietnam, came to live in our home with my son when he was a senior in High School and my daughter was a freshman.  It’s true, this year Nikki and I have Minh Hoang living with us.   It’s true they are Vietnamese and from a communist country, yet they don’t have any political affiliation at this point – that I’m aware of!  But, it was one of the greatest things, hands down, that I’ve done in my family.  I know it sounds crazy, having someone with a government opposite of yours, a faith that is not yours, as a part of your everyday life, especially as a pastor and with his kids in the home, as with Ti.  But, if you ask my children, the best thing we ever did to prepare them for the world and open their hearts to loving others through Jesus, hands down, they’ll tell you it was Ti living with them.  Read more

“THE CHURCH IS THE WORLD’S HOPE”

by Bob Roberts Jr.

I’ve heard this quote a lot over the past 20 years from many different people. I’ve even said it myself.  I believe when functioning properly as the body of Christ, it is.  In a technical sense, it is Jesus that is the hope of the world, but Jesus in Acts has a new body he establishes, a body called the “ecclesia” (called out ones, colony as an outpost).  In Luke Jesus had a physical body, in Acts it’s a spiritual body as a community of believers.  When those believers are connected to Jesus, the HEAD of the church, their FEET move in the direction he wants them to.  What Jesus came to do as one, we also do as one, but as a community of Jesus followers with diverse gifts, callings, and ministries.  It takes all of these in operation for the Good News of Jesus to spread and for lives and communities to be transformed.  It is to be the church that actually brings the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the peace of the Kingdom to life and the world, whether it always does or not.  The Kingdom of God will always have its church, yet the Kingdom is bigger than any single, local church.  I learned 20 years ago, when I was first discovering the kingdom, that what was good for the Kingdom would always be good for the local church, though at times it hurt a specific local church – we aren’t to hoard and hold on to, but give away and spread around. Read more

THE SKELETONS IN GOD’S CLOSET

by Bob Roberts Jr
I absolutely loved this book.  You have to read it slowly, or at least I did, and I had to think a lot.  Most “new” books, except for people like Willard, don’t make me do that a lot, at least not at a deep level.   As to his writing style and content – this young man is simply incredible.  I predict we’re going to be reading a lot more of his books, at least I hope.  I’m not sure I understood everything he said, or that I would agree with everything – but candidly I don’t read books that simply reinforce what I already think about stuff.  I read this as a favor to Rick McKinley because he is on staff as the glocal outreach pastor with Rick at Imago Dei in Portland, Oregon.
This book actually deals with questions that people ask – questions most believers want to avoid.  He focuses on three questions:  Hell, judgment, and war.  Theologically he develops them in a very consistent way.  He deals with the Biblical content both in terms of text and context and yet frames things in a very fresh way.
I believe his views are also shaped by what he has seen working with the poor, human trafficking, turbulent people and places, and other inner-city ministries.  That is the BEST context to look at Scriptures.  To try to interpret the Bible absent of people and the struggles they face is to make God cold, impersonal, and an ogre.
He takes three very dark subjects and makes them all objects of hope, justice, and mercy from a God who wants every person to experience him.  Make no mistake, these are dark issues – but not because God is dark.  As the cross was a horrible thing – yet for followers of Jesus it’s pain was a thing of beauty that accomplished our redemption and hope in Jesus.  God is not a Sadist, harming the things he creates, but a loving and merciful God who is about the business of reconciliation.  This books makes that incredibly plain and clear.

Evangelism: Who’s Job Is It Anyways?

Guest post by Beau Crosetto

If you are anything like me then you struggle with this tension too: Who is supposed to make things happen in evangelism, God or me?

When it comes to seeking conversion in our friend’s and families lives, we don’t want to be annoying and pushy, but we don’t want to sit back and wait forever either. Some of us are more temperamentally on the side of things that says, “I need to make something happen” while others of us are more the “If its going to happen then God is going to do it”.

But effective evangelism is more nuanced and partnered than this. Both statements above assume a black or white reality when God is inviting us into the blended.

In my book, Beyond Awkward, that just released last week, I help us dive into the awkward tensions that keep us from sharing our faith. My hope is to help us move beyond them so that we can see breakthrough in the people around us. One of those tensions is “Who’s role is it anyways when it comes to evangelism?” We don’t want to miss the moments God intends for us to have so how am I supposed to engage? Read more

READ THIS BOOK ON MULTI-ETHNIC MINISTRY!

by Bob Roberts Jr.

I just read the most incredible and helpful book I think I’ve ever read on relating to people of other races and making the church multi-ethnic.  In reading the book I even came to understand why this has grown in importance to me.  First, it’s that continuing thing about how Northwood Church has been, and is being “Made in Vietnam.”  You can’t engage deeply in a culture totally opposite of yours with hundreds of members going back and forth over there for twenty years and not come to learn and love other cultures.  Vietnamese helped me see the other minorities right where I live – had I not seen people differently halfway around the world, I may have never seen them as clear as I do in my own backyard.  Second, the good news of Jesus is for everyone – and I can’t love those of my race, and those of another country, and ignore those he has placed all around me.  Dallas is now at 44% in terms of non-English speaking people from other nations – that’s HUGE!  Because of its conservative and traditional nature, people would expect this to be towards the end of the list in terms of being diverse.  That’s changing.  Vietnamese is our third most spoken language.  Spanish is our second most spoken.  We have tens of thousands of Kenyans, Nigerians, Liberians, Congolese, Indians, Pakistanis, Saudis, Chinese and on and on and on.   Third, our country needs to heal racially.  By 2030 there will be no minority race.  If we don’t deal with this now – we will deal with it later – but it won’t be as pretty.  Faith, Church, and our ethics and character are being put to the test with how we are dealing with all of this.  Read more

FOUR LESSONS WORKING IN VIETNAM’S PUBLIC SQUARE

by Bob Roberts Jr.

Last week was a truly incredible week as NorthWood Church hosted top diplomatic leaders from Vietnam.  Universities, business leaders, civic leaders – all were shocked when I as a Pastor showed up with our delegation. I had set the meetings up in advance but it’s still hard for some to fathom a relationship between a pastor, a church, and a Vietnamese Communist.  Jesus likes it.  2015 will be twenty years of normalization between Vietnam and the US, and they want to celebrate it and move the ball forward in their relationship with the US.  I’ve been asked as a pastor to bring pastors from the US and there will be, in addition, a conference on faith and society with the government.  Vietnam taught NorthWood Church in ways nothing else ever could.  I had studied “missions” but knew little of globalization, domains, city management, public works, or anything else people in the public square have to deal with on a daily basis.  My view of the world was seen only through tribal religious eyes, prior to this, and not global, comprehensive, relational, geopolitical eyes.  It should not have been like that.  The Kingdom is much bigger than “religious” work.  When we get the Kingdom of God, all work is for the love and glory of God and the love of humanity.  Read more

WHY START A MOVEMENT WHEN YOU CAN JOIN THE WORLD’S GREATEST MOVEMENT – THE JESUS MOVEMENT!

by Bob Roberts Jr.

I had so much fun last week speaking and participating at the SENTRALIZED CONFERENCE put on by Lance Ford and Brad Briscoe.  As usual Alan Hirsch is brilliant and listening to Ori Brafman was a treat.  I always learn something from Neil Cole.  Brad and Lance we’re really good.  Caesar Kalinowski really did excellent teaching on the Holy Spirit.  Michael Frost brought such a great word on grace . . . I could go on and on.  One of the things I like about this conference is the freshness of questioning everything – even themselves!  That’s transparency and real thinking in my book.  So as we began the session Saturday morning they talked about the whole “missional movement” and where it is heading, where it is running out of steam, why that is, if it is, and what needs to happen?  The answers were simple, Brad talked about loving people, Caesar talked about being filled with the Holy Spirit, and Michael talked about living in grace.  I’ve heard some mega-church pastors have the same conversation about the “mega-church movement”.  Read more