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Why You Should Give on Giving Tuesday

TODAY IS GIVING TUESDAY!  You are going to get many appeals and many of them will be worthy.  We would like you to consider GlocalNet as one of the charities you give to today.  Why?

  1. We are all about building bridges and promoting peace in the public square.  Whether we are starting churches, gathering Pastors/Imams/Rabbis, doing conferences on community development around the world, engaging nations with volunteers in all the domains of society, training churches, consulting with governments – some of which are very sensitive places, or convening the global church – it’s all geared toward how do we live and communicate our faith in a positive way in the 21st century that glorifies God and brings value to humanity.
  2. Last year through our training and family of churches we helped over 65 churches get started in the United States.  We have a special DNA we call KDSC.  K is for God’s Kingdom and the foundation of everything for us as we read in the Sermon on the Mount and all the teachings of Jesus.  D is for disciples that hear and obey.  S is for society and the 8 domains that everyone has a job in.  C is for the church as the body of Christ built around the mission of Jesus, not just a Sunday event.  This year we will move from 5 church planting centers to 8 across the country.
  3. We gather yearly 20 major global evangelical pastors annually from all over the world – India, China, Brazil, U.S., Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa, Middle-East, and other countries.  We all have started our own churches and we all have multiplied churches out of our church.  We teach one another what we are learning and we serve one another.
  4. We teach churches how to work in hard nations of the world by being transparent and going through the front door.  Each church is encouraged to adopt a nation to be there long term, not just take a trip there.  The key for us is to mobilize everyday followers of Jesus to serve nations through their vocations in the 8 domains education, business, health, government, agriculture, communications, civil society, science/technology.  We do the exact same thing with pastors and church planters in teaching them how to engage their own local cities in the domains. 
  5. We have been blessed with the ability to convene significant Evangelical Pastors, Muslim Imams, and Rabbis to connect churches, mosques, synagogues to address islamophobia, anti-semitism, and global persecution of Christians and other religions as well.  It has opened doors to nations and platforms that most evangelicals historically have had little or no access toWe practice Multi-faith engagement globally and it his having a very significant impact.  We partner with Imam Mohammed Magid of International Interfaith Peace Corps here in the U.S.  and more recently the Atlantic Council in Washington D.C. has come beside us to help incubate our process called “My Neighbor’s Keeper.”  No one has helped us more or been a better partner than the Peace Forum with Shayk Bin Bayyah as we have taken the retreats to Abu Dhabi and Morocco with the Peace Forum.  It’s one thing to be with your tribe telling others how to treat you, quite another thing to do that collaboratively and globally with other religions and top religious and government leaders.
  6. Most of our churches are multi-ethnic.  Sermons and conferences on race relations have done little the past 100 years – the answer is the Church – but a biblical church with all tongues, tribes, and peoples present.  There is only the Church – not a black church, white church, Hispanic church.  When you work with the city, your church will be far more integrated because sadly, the city reflects the make up of communities more than the church.

Our dream is to redefine how churches engage the world in the 21st century.  Our Truth has not changed – our context to communicate that Truth has.  To not be relevant and clear to the time in which we live – is a sin.  Join us in this adventure!  Click here to support GlocalNet.

The Most Powerful Form of Discipleship

SPIRITUAL FATHERING & MOTHERING

In my last blog I spoke of discipleship and what it looks like to produce a really mature follower of Jesus.  There were three things I addressed in that blog that are very present in spiritual fathering and mothering.  1) Parenting is about providing a model of life that others can imitate. 2) Being present IS discipleship. 3) Finally, and this is so important – not merely telling a young disciple what to do, but teaching them to think.  For spiritual fathering and mothering as discipleship to occur there are several things that have to happen.

First, there must be a deep relational connection to the person that you are pouring into.  It has to work both ways for it to work.  It isn’t enough that the spiritual “parent” is willing to pour into a young Jesus follower, the follower must be willing to receive.  The great tragedy is that there is an “orphan” spirit in the church today.  It’s very individualistic and autocratic.  Sadly, ministry has become a place of self and personal significance and self-fulfillment more than it is about security as a child of God and extending his glory and not our own.  We come into spiritual parenting generally by brokenness or a deep desire of intimacy with God.  We see that intimacy in someone else filled with a credible walk with God in life.

Second, the goal of a spiritual parent isn’t a new way to build your own kingdom, it’s the biblical way of deploying people in God’s Kingdom and releasing them.  You see in biological families the challenge some parents have is letting go of their children.  They want them to fulfill their own unfulfilled desires and dreams.  This is never healthy.  Conversations with grown children and directives for toddlers and adolescents are very different.  This discipleship that I write about is that which is done with grown children.  I have several spiritual fathers – I go to get their advice, counsel, and prayer.  I don’t always go to get their approval.  I’m sad because many of my spiritual fathers are in their 70’s and 80’s now and they won’t be around forever.  Each one of them give me something different.  We cannot expect our spiritual fathers to be everything for us – they can only be what they are and what God has given them.  It involves listening and understanding the follower of Jesus – not making them in your image.  They have a divine destiny – your goal is not to make them into your image but help them grow in the image of Jesus.

Third, every child needs a father and a mother.  A single parent child needs aunts, uncles, grandparents, and close family friends to help fill in those gaps when both parents are not present.  Many would balk at this but I believe it’s psychologically core to why the Catholic Church views Mary as it does.  We all need a father, and we all need a mother.  I believe the father/mother characteristics are present not in merely male and female designations but in the Trinity.  When you read about the Holy Spirit, and the God of all comfort, the Spirit living in us, and so many other metaphors – as well as Jesus and how he loves you cannot escape it.  Paul writes clearly neither male nor female.  Sometimes I need to hear my mom’s voice.  If all we ever hear is the masculine side of God, we will wind up lop-sided.

Fourth, spiritual parenting involves spiritual sons and daughters being with you in your context so they can watch you.  All of us have things we do effectively without thinking, these actions are second nature to us – but not to others.  I read a lot of books, but I’m not an academic.  I have to put my hands on something and do it to understand it.  So much of my learning has been reverse engineering.  I would start doing something, it would work enough that I knew I was on to something – then I read like crazy.  Having your spiritual children present in all kinds of circumstances teaches them all kinds of things.

Fifth, spiritual fathering and mothering means giving young followers some responsibility and watching them.  Help them do it – allow for them to mess up.  Nothing, and I mean nothing – gives me joy like watching my spiritual children teach, lead, execute things that they’ve seen in me.  Recently, I was at various meetings where several of  the young men I disciple were speaking – I heard so much at what I’ve taught them it simply freaked me out.  I realized that what I taught them had gone deep inside of them and had became a part of them as it had me.  I listened to one talk about church planting, another at a secular event on the public square, another at a multi-faith event – I was simply blown away.  I hadn’t realized how much I had shared they had taken hold of.  It was perhaps the happiest day of my ministry.  I don’t worry what happens when I’m gone.  They’ll take it all to a new level before I’m gone and I’m truly blessed!

Finally, spiritual parenting involves affirming and correcting without stifling.  People are desperate for affirmation.  They don’t always get it from their fathers and mothers.  A little affirmation publicly – but all correction privately.  When something is done or said publicly it sometimes demands a public response.  I’ve learned to say, “I love you but I disagree here, and this is why . . .”  I have been corrected publicly and that isn’t always fun.  But sometimes, it’s good for all of us as long as it’s done in a positive manner.

There is one very serious note of caution on spiritual fathering . . . but I’ll save that for another blog! 

My Most Important Discipleship Lessons

There is so much about discipleship that I don’t know.  There is a lot I learned that was wrong.  There was a lot I stumbled into that was right.  I went from a discipleship that focused on learn, grow, and go – to hear and obey.   Had the early church made learn, grow, and go disciples it never would have gotten off the ground because at what point did you know enough?  When were you ready to leave?  Who determined all of that?  But, if discipleship is hear and obey, the primary focus is not what I know but instead my ability to hear God’s voice and then follow it.  The most important thing I’m now going to teach someone isn’t a book study, doctrine series, or information – but it’s how to hear God’s voice.  To do that I have to know how to pray, how to hear God speak when I’m reading his word, how to live in community and hear God speak through other disciples.  Spiritual disciplines are everything.  This discipleship goes through a very different door and produces a very different disciple.  It’s a lot easier to read a book and jump through hoops than it is hear God’s voice and follow it. 

First, I’m always being discipled. 

Many people feel bad that no one ever “discipled” them – but I’m not sure this is as true as it sounds.  One of my Spiritual Fathers, Doug Coe, said that we first have to disciple ourselves.  What he meant by that is that we have to love Jesus so much that we do whatever he says.  No amount of classes or courses can make us do that.  He was right.  Every time I’m in a worship service, I’m being discipled.  Every time I’m listening to someone teach I’m being discipled.  Every time I’m following the Holy Spirit I’m being discipled.  Every time I’m in a prayer meeting I’m being discipled.  For the follower of Jesus all of life is discipleship.  When I’m reading a biography on Washington to learn how he led – Washington is discipling me.  When I’m reading Fareed Zacharias to understand the world, he’s discipling me.  When I read a Rabbi Jonathan Sacks book on relating to other religions – he’s discipling me.  YES, non-Chrisitans can disciple us, too, and often even better than Christians.  When I watch someone serve Jesus like Dan Dubois or Bryan Stockton who worked beside me at Steve Bezner’s church after Hurricane Harvey or watch them at an inner-city festival for poor children  – I’m being discipled by those that I would disciple.  If you see life as one big discipleship opportunity you’ll grow a lot more.  If you see it as a single person pouring into you, you’ll be a spiritual shrimp.  YES, it’s great to have some one on one, but it isn’t the end of the world.  After all, the goal of discipleship is to be a self-feeder that follows Jesus.

Second, the best disciplers in my life don’t give me information but provide me a model. 

A man named Jim Hylton has impacted my life profoundly.  He’s in his 80’s.  Yes, he’s taught me a lot of stuff – but it’s his model of life that has taught me the most.  I’m watching him, a strong follower of Jesus, so I can know how to grow old in grace and bless others.  He models how to stay tender as you get older.  He’s not perfect – he has his flaws and I’ve seen them.  I’m not looking for someone to be Jesus, I’m looking for someone to let Jesus be Jesus in them in spite of their faults. 

Third, the best disciplers walk through tough times with you. 

They listen, they pray, they challenge you, they love you regardless.  Who ever thinks of discipleship as presence?  But you can’t be to others  what someone hasn’t first been to you.  Everyone hurts, everyone hits walls, everyone has struggles, everyone wants to hang it up at times – Jim has sat patiently with me at times and listened to me and loved me.  I’m often asked how did I handle the stress and not give up from taking a white church and transitioning it to multi-ethnic and also a church that has reached deep into other religions to build bridges.  We love everybody at Northwood and that makes for some challenging things at times.  Jim is one of those key reasons I haven’t quit.  I told him one day “maybe I just need to get out of the way” and let someone else do this.  He said “Bob, I want to ask you a question Jesus asked.”  Okay Jim.  “Bob, will you leave me too.”  That question convicted me and bought me another six months!  It took another conversation to make it another 6 months! 

Fourth, the best disciplers make you think for yourself and cause you to learn for yourself. 

Jim has never taken me through a book study – but he’s told me about this book or that book that I’ve read that has caused us to have some deep conversations.  I love the fact he doesn’t just read “religious” books but many kinds of books be they science, psychology, or philosophy.  If he was just teaching me “his” stuff then my growth would be limited to him – but he models learning which enables me to travel my own unique paths of learning and growth.

Fifth, the most important discipleship lesson I can provide is . . . . well, I’ve said enough – I’ll save that for another blog – but it’s really really really BIG!   

BRINGING THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Nothing has changed my life like discovering the Kingdom of God.  It’s sad that I didn’t really understand it until I was 33 years of age.  I knew what it was to be a good “moral” person and a good Baptist, but I really didn’t get the Kingdom of God.  I knew the Gospel of salvation, got my ticket stamped and practiced moral self-improvement – but I knew little of how the Kingdom changes everything.  The Kingdom starts from the inside out.  The Kingdom is what Jesus came preaching.  He didn’t start out by telling everyone exactly who he was, instead he said, “Do you know that you were created for more than you are experiencing and life is supposed to be better than what you see?”

For me, it was on a hill praying one day that I first heard the voice of the uninvited Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, “Bob, when will be Jesus be enough?”  Why wasn’t he enough?  I accepted Jesus and jumped through all the hoops but still didn’t see like he intended.  One day, when I’m very old, and hopefully still sane, a book about the Kingdom of God will be the last book I write – I’m still learning too much and fear writing this one too soon.  Here are some things I’ve learned about the Kingdom . . .

#1  The Kingdom of God is the internal expression of God within a person and the public expression of God to humanity.  The Kingdom has to first start inside of us.  It transforms us gradually, it isn’t a quick fix but each step depends on the previous step – it’s all connected.  The Kingdom is the present Jesus and his rule lining my life up with all that he teaches, has given me, the identity I have in him, and the freedom I experience.  But it cannot stop here!  Sadly, this is as far as it gets in those few who become obsessed with the Kingdom.  The Kingdom isn’t static and we aren’t containers of the Kingdom but channels of the Kingdom to flow through.  The Kingdom is to be present in all things, not just people – as Colossians 1:15-20 says. 

#2  The Kingdom of God transcends every life plan and preconceived notion of what God is going to do.  I knew how to grow the church, and frankly I did it quite well.  I just didn’t know how to be the church.  Dealing with people of other religions? Only a realization of the Kingdom of God would lead someone like me into that.  God loves all and wants all to hear.  The Kingdom leads us to ask, “how do we speak publicly about Jesus?”  And even more importantly, “How do others see our love for them?”  Only God could take someone like me and lead our church to become multi-ethnic.  Only God could make me love the crazy people I love – because he first loved Crazy Bob.

#3  The Kingdom of God is present at all times in all places.  I’m not taking the Kingdom anywhere – it’s already everywhere.  How do I flow with the Kingdom where it has a stronger presence?  How do people feel blessed from the presence of Kingdom citizens?  My job is not to be God.  My job is to abide in God so he can do through me what his glory creates and not fulfill my little dreams of self.  Modern Christianity is living according to your dreams for God, ancient present Christianity is living for the glory of God. These two aspects are radically different.  Most books for pastors are written to help you with your dream – which is fleeting.  Only the Glory of God is eternal.  Live for that reality young pastor and God will take you so far beyond your dreams and you’ll thank him for it. 

#4  The message of Jesus is the Kingdom of God is here, now, and within you.  My question is not what will God do in the future but how am I letting the Kingdom live in this moment as I meet this person, as invitations come.  I’ve learned that the invitations God gives us are often not the ones we would choose for ourselves and even can be costly – but they are the ones that matter the most.   God will never be experienced inside the lines we draw and the structures of religion.

#5  The Kingdom of God cannot be stopped by men without God or forced by men who think they speak for God.  The nations figure so prominently in the Scriptures.  My ancestors have fought in the American Revolution, the Alamo, the Civil War, and WWII – but NO NATION can ever be confused or equal with the Kingdom of God be it the United States or Israel.  He loves all nations – and his people are to be lights in all nations of an eternal kingdom that transcends nations.  Some Christians believe in something called “dominion” theology – they are going to take over things for Jesus.   When we have to stoop to the methods of the world to bring about the Kingdom of God – no doubt we have brought a kingdom – but not the one of God.  The reconciling, peacemaking nature of Jesus, the Sovereignty of Father God, and the power of the Holy Spirit really is sufficient for transformation.  Will it be complete in my life?  No, but may I be totally transformed in him more and more day by day to bring that Kingdom everywhere I live. 

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.

 

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.

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.


 

LEADERSHIP BY OBEDIENCE

Most of my ministry I have lead by vision. We are headed somewhere. There is a future destination, a mission, a goal. It’s about accomplishing something great for God that we all do together. It’s hard, but it’s fun. Everybody gets excited about it.

We’re going to start a church. We’re going to engage a nation. We’re going to bless our city. We’re going to multiply churches. We’re going to reach out to a new people group. We’re going to make disciples. We start doing it, small successes turn into big successes. Everyone starts talking about it, everyone celebrates it, everyone wants to mimic it – you even wind up going to tell others how they can also “do it.”

This isn’t bad – it’s good. Without a sense of shared commitment and enthusiasm and excitement you aren’t going to start or accomplish anything. People have a shared sense of destiny programmed in them from God to make the world a better place. Innate within every follower of Jesus is a bent to glorify God and exalt him.

The biggest challenge to the leadership in this form of leadership is egotism, arrogance, and self-centeredness. You have to resist the temptation to believe your own press and what others say about you. Deep down we all know who we are, but in our desire to be more than we are – humanly speaking – we can succumb to glorifying ourselves.

The past six years, I’ve discovered another form of leadership – I call it leadership by obedience. It’s not something you seek or even want. It’s hard. It isn’t something new, it’s something as old as creation. It doesn’t start with a dream of what can be but is the gradual realization that something is wrong, we’ve somehow gotten off the path. Everything is going great, everyone is excited – and now, maybe after a long busy work, you slow down enough to think and reflect. Is this the way it’s supposed to be?

Leadership by vision is very nuanced and “time sensitive” execution – which doesn’t always allow you to stop and look beyond what you can see with your physical eyes or immediate context.

Last month for two and a half weeks, I was alone in an ancient room in Bethlehem, Palestine. No air conditioning, no TV, just a fan, my Bible and journal – and prayer. It’s been a busy life. Though I start every day in God’s Word, prayer, and personal worship as soon as I’m finished I pick up where I left off the previous day.

Leadership by vision comes by a dream. Leadership by obedience comes from a divine nudge that calls you challenge something that’s wrong. It’s the prophetic role of leadership we don’t really practice that much in American Christianity or understand – me included.

I first experienced it when God convicted me years ago of my fear, disdain, and dislike of Muslims. I had to be reminded from God’s Word that they too were created in the image of God and were sacred as all human beings are. I had to be reminded from the Holy Spirit that God is love and I am to love and he wants me to love them. It required some necessary heart work inside of me personally. I pastor a few thousand people – they have those same negative feelings that I’ve had – how do I bring them over? Not to say I agree with everything Muslims say and do but neither for us to be driven by fear and hate, and thereby not fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. It was a very hard thing to do. So, I eased into the water. There is no map for this. Whereas leadership by vision is very focused and clear leadership by obedience is always in ambiguity. You can only follow the truth of God’s word and the direction of the Holy Spirt.

This isn’t like changing your worship style, leadership structure, or ministries – this is changing culture. Changing culture demands the highest level of leadership because you have to hear God moment by moment and you are going somewhere that you can’t raise money for or fire people up over. “Hey everybody today is going to be awesome – I want you to think of the person you are most fearful of or that you dislike the most and we are going to bless them!” I wasn’t ready for all the attacks I received both from within our church and outside of it.

I experienced it again when God began to speak to me about how me and our church works all over the world, but for the most part our church was anglo. There are over 50,000 non-Anglo’s that live in my area of nearly 500,000 people – do they matter? It’s just 10%, they can come to our church if they want! It took more than that – we began to intentionally and ethnically diversify our church. It was also a very hard thing to do, but the right thing to do. It would have been easy to just let happen what happens, but this was something that would never change on it’s own, it demanded intentionality. Nobody is going to encourage you to address things like this – if anything they’re going to tell you to be careful, change is slow and long, and in time it will change. Don’t believe that lie – change doesn’t happen without intentionality. Neither believe that change doesn’t come without a price. You can have all the action steps and change theory you want in place but know this, change always has a price, especially when you are dealing with cultural change. Sacrificing money is easy compared to what you will have to sacrifice with leadership by obedience.

The biggest challenge of leadership by obedience? It isn’t self-centeredness or glorifying yourself. It’s disillusionment with what you know the truth to be but bald-faced rejection of the people who say they love God giving reasons why we don’t have to love or reach out to others. It’s discouragement – when we speak prophetically we can expect people to get angry and leave us. If you’ve built your entire ministry around God’s blessing is equal to a growing crowd – you’re really going to struggle in this season – I have. It’s hard to see people leave because your expanding the gospel beyond your own “culture” or “tribe” to all people. It’s despair – wanting to give up and quit – it’s just too hard and no one really cares.

But, I’ve also hung in there long enough to see the fruit from “doing the right thing.” I am connected to the world and minorities in ways that I never would have dreamed. It has opened doors that I never would have imagined or knew were even an option. Here’s something else, leadership by obedience is incredibly critical because it sees a future harvest. If things are not put right, there is no future for a loveless discriminating church. Even now, millennials are so turned off by church in America because of the hypocrisy and that will not change anytime soon. No amount of lights, smoke, and celebrity leaders will lead us out of this desert. Things were going so good in Isaiah chapter one, big attendance, fasting, great offerings – but God wasn’t pleased. The corporate nature of sin even in the church eventually catches up with us.

I would also say that leadership by obedience demands a stronger walk with God, a focus more on his Kingdom and the eternal. I’ve learned that the world is reached not because of a pure church but in spite of a flawed church – read Acts & Corinthians. These things are not new. Acts is the story of the church growing, coming up against various prejudices, dealing with them and growing more. In American Christianity we’ve settled for crowds without realizing who isn’t present – as long as someone is present. The result is the church is very tribal, partisan, vs being an entity that embraces and makes space for all wanting to follow Jesus.

This is more about who we “are to be” for God than it is what are “going to do” for God.