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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.

HOW TO GET HUNDREDS OF MUSLIMS TO YOUR WORSHIP SERVICE ON SUNDAY

(Skip to 16:10 to see the interview with Imam Zia)

 

The church I pastor, NorthWood, celebrated MLK Day not just last Monday but Sunday as well.  We are in a series called ANXIETY in which we are looking at how we deal with it as people.  On January 15, we looked at how we deal with anxiety when community issues arise.  We had a guest band that was awesome, we had ethnic food tables from all over the world, and we had Muslims, Jews, Buddhist, and even an Atheist who came out of curiosity over an “evangelical church that would invite all those people to come together.”

I preached on standing together out of Romans 12 and in the sermon even brought up a friend from a mosque in Irving, Imam Zia.  He shared what Muslims believe and I explained what we believe about the birth, death, burial, resurrection of Jesus, and how to accept him as Lord and Savior.  We had hundreds of Muslims with us.  I LOVE preaching to people of other religions about Jesus – kinda what Paul did.

Paul would be shocked at what he would find in American Christianity with it’s isolationism and tribalism.  Paul was a frequent speaker at synagogues, other religious temples, philosophy gatherings, universities, markets, and countless other public square gatherings.  As a matter of fact, all of Paul’s evangelism was in the public square generally being asked to speak at their request.  Frankly, I get asked to speak at many non-Christian and other religious events and I’ve come to love it.  You’ve not preached until you’ve preached to a packed house of people where you are the only Christian!  It’s like skiing on the black slopes.  A little scary at first, but then – wow it’s incredible!

The reality is, any evangelical pastor, in any city in America can do what I do.  The truth is, it would be easy.  The reason is that so few evangelical pastors reach out intentionally to people of other religions, and most of those people of other religions as minorities want a relationship with us.    Keep in mind the early church didn’t grow through sheep swapping, better music, celebrity pastors, or backslidden Baptist and Methodist but from people from many other religions who loved the message of Jesus.

How do you do it this?  The clip above of the Sunday service illustrates this:

  1. Intentionally be friends with people of other religions.  If you’re an American evangelical pastor you are the majority – not the minority.  THEY DON’T BITE!  I’ve yet to get a bad reception from someone of another religion that you try to just be their friend.  Ask to go drink coffee, probably tea is better, or eat a meal or just hang out.  ALL THE APOSTLES DID THIS!!!  That’s how the Gospel spread to so many nations. My wife is in a cooking club with Muslims and Jews.  There are so many ways to build friendships.  Zia and I have been friends for years.  All good things come out of relationships.
  1. Visit their place of worship.  They will let you.  As a matter of fact it shows honor and respect that you would do that.  It would be a great education experience for you.  Paul did this – don’t let other Christians who live by fear and isolationism leading to judgmentalism keep you away.  It gives you chance to speak intelligently to them and to your members about what you believe.
  1. Let them share their view!  Paul did this as well.  Leave your rhetoric at home, have a conversation with people.  If the strength of our faith is keeping other faiths away or not allowing other faiths to speak – we must have a very small view of the power of the Gospel and of the Trinity.  Be gracious, listen, ask questions, be kind.
  1. When you’re asked to speak, smile a lot.  Take off your preacher face and your oratory.  Don’t let others tell you everything you need to say.  Let the Spirit guide you.  Be kind.  Self-depreciating humor helps.  Take a long term approach to what you say and do.
  1. State what you believe but be kind about it.  Share where you disagree but don’t disparage the other person.  Everyone talks about look at all the commonalities, frankly I believe the strength is in how much we disagree but how well as followers of Jesus we can still be friends with others.  As a friend of mine says, “Lift up Jesus!”  You don’t have to trash others, just tell your story and the story of Jesus.
  1. Eat a meal together and keep hanging out.  You don’t know what God might do with building relationships.  I’m sorry to say I used to see other religious clerics as obstacles to overcome in order to engage with others – I’ve come to see them as the most important people I should be friends with.  We have access to masses that can lead to all kinds of things in terms of standing up for one another, etc.
  1. Work together for religious freedom.  The whole world is connected.  What you do here affects there.  I get to help persecuted Christians around the world, and other religious minorities, because of my credibility with Muslims here in America.  Would to God, we American Christians and especially evangelical pastors would realize that when you speak and spout hate, you make it incredibly hard for believers around the world.  But, many pastors in America have been told this and still don’t control their tongues.  I guess they don’t really care about believers around the world that much as long as things are ok with them.

People talk a lot about going back to the early church – this is how it started.  They didn’t have revival meetings, seminars, books, not even a Bible – just a few letters passed around.  But they did have the Holy Spirit and Love.  The formula has not changed – but we have.  It still works.

TRANSFORMATION CHURCH – Being the Church on the Hill

There are all kinds of words that we would use to describe what “church” should be like.  My favorite word is transformation, because it’s the direct result of a church based on the Kingdom of God.  That transformation changes us, our families, our communities, our nations, and the world.  That transformation will not be complete until Jesus comes. As a result, some give up on seeing transformation beyond personal spirituality and a walk with Jesus because it won’t be complete until he comes.  This is a wrong response.  The kingdom has begun; we are to move with the kingdom as it comes.  It has been coming since Jesus came, it has come throughout the New Testament, the Early Church, church history, and even now.  Jesus set the direction and pattern for the church in the Sermon on the Mount and his parables in what he expects of us.  Paul further takes the Kingdom to new levels in Colossians 1:15-20 when he talks about glorifying God in all things, all dominions, all principalities, being transformed as a result of the Gospel of the Kingdom.  We should never give up on people, cities, and nations.  A church that is built upon the kingdom will see lost people come to follow Jesus – but it will not stop there.  A Kingdom church will engage the person, the family, the city and nation at all levels.  Read more

MORE INFORMATION & LESS KNOWLEDGE

I was at a meeting in Doha a while back on things that are happening globally with world leaders from many domains and disciplines.  It was truly an incredible meeting.  It wasn’t a huge conference, a couple of hundred people and was kept small on purpose.  I’ve actually come to love gatherings like this more than speaking to thousands of people.  Most of the time those big gatherings are pep rallies or marketing in disguise!  Smaller groups of thinkers and practitioners gathering and learning from one another is always more impactful.  There were some panels in 3 or 4 main sessions then we would break into groups and ask questions, challenge each other & debate.  It would get tense but it was really a lot of fun – you could pretty much share whatever you wanted – it was a safe place.  I was one of only about 3 evangelicals there so man were we bombarded trying to explain all of the “nuts” in our movement.  Funny how we want to define an entire group of people by a few nuts no matter what tribe! Read more

CHURCH PLANTING AT THE CROSSROADS

Knowledge is doubling faster than ever.  I can remember 30 years ago Tom Wolfe telling a group of us that knowledge doubles every 6 years, and it was projected it would do so every four, and the latest number is that it’s now doubling every 18 months.  In the past you could read where the changes were coming and plot your coarse somewhat.  Now, you have to think on the run, in the moment, realizing there are variables at work driving sub-categories of culture and knowledge that impact everything the church does.

The world is changing like never before.  Migration – a context for God’s greatest moves throughout history – is happening on a scale like never before because communications, the internet, and travel.  All things, all people, all religions are all places, no longer held within specific national borders and tribes. Do you know how to plant a church beyond your tribe?  Tribes aren’t so good at welcoming strangers.  Calling it a success because we grow a big church but basically our same tribe just makes us more of a shrinking sub-culture than a transcultural movement.  The early church and growing church knew how to relate to other cultures and religions – we can’t keep eating our own body and expect growth.  Read more

A CALL TO NORTHWOOD CHURCH – In the Wake of Violence

Who could have known, 3 years ago when Northwood began focusing intentionally on becoming a multi-ethnic church that we would be facing the challenges we are today in DFW and our nation?  God knew and he has been preparing us for such a moment as this.

Last night, as we all know there was a protest of all races and religions downtown Dallas to speak out for African American lives lost unnecessarily.  By all accounts it was peaceful.  Pictures were even taken of smiling black and white policemen standing with protesters in support.  As the event was ending, snipers deliberately targeted and opened fire on policemen.  As the crowd ran from the area where the shots rang out, the courageous Dallas policemen went towards the active rifle shots to protect the protesters.  The aftermath saw 12 officers and 2 civilians shot leaving 5 policemen dead.  Our hearts are broken over this.  I sat up and wept watching on television the reports until late in the night. Read more

LESSONS FROM THE EAST HOW WE RELATE HERE WHAT’S HAPPENNING THERE

 

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The global church struggles with issues and people in the public square like we do.  They don’t always get it right, but they seem to be far quicker to addressing the issues and giving grace to others than we are.  They have lived in a “migrated” world far longer than we have and as a result has learned better how to maneuver.  There are three hot areas that challenge us today in the U.S. that they have been dealing with longer than we have in relating to others.  What can we learn from them?  Read more

SAME SUBJECTS DIFFERENT CONVERSATIONS – HOW THE GLOBAL CHURCHES & PASTORS THINK

 

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I have been amazed at how similar and at the same time different the conversations are between global pastors and U.S. pastors.  These “little” differences I’ve come to believe, make all the difference in the world.  I’ll be writing about some of them later but for now, here’s some of the shifts in they talk is what I’ve observed.  We long for many of the same things, but our mindset or structures prevent us.

First, we talk a lot about church planting and church planting movements.  They talk obsessively about the Kingdom of God and nations a lot.  They are like Dallas Willard on steroids but not in a primarily theological sense but a practical sense.  Their kingdom view and passion to see their nation and surrounding nations reached, drives all other activities as in church planting, disciple making, leadership development  etc.

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LESSONS FROM THE EAST RELEASES TODAY

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God has truly blessed my life in so many ways – but one of the greatest is allowing me to get to know global pastors that are movement makers.  Eddy Leo, Oscar Muiri, Joseph Maisha, Joshua Vivyakumar, Sean Bau, Jossy Chacko, Terry Virgo, Dion Rober, Robert Lay, and so so many others.

These men are different from most pastors I know here in the U.S., myself included.    They embody not just growth in terms of tens and hundreds of thousands if not millions – but they do it not by PR, marketing, business management – but real moves of God.  They are not full of themselves, they are humble men.  They are not the loud people at a pastors gathering if you didn’t know who they were you might think it’s a lucky global pastor who someone paid their way to come to an event – but you’d be very mistaken.  Yet, they struggle – but not like us.  Family issues, financial issues, societal issues, war, persecution, hardships that we can’t imagine.  Even last week as I was hearing from leaders in Pakistan they were sad but still victorious looking for how God would use the tragedy they were all affected by.  I remember one pastor once saying “You guys have great insurance and medical care” we have to learn to “call on the Lord – he’s all we’ve got”.

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DFW Pastor Gathering For National Mosaix Conference March 31st at Northwood Church

By: Bob Roberts

November 2-3, 2016 the Mosaix Multi-ethnic Conference will be held at Northwood Church in Keller, Texas.  This has become the nation’s largest conference where churches and Christians gather on the issue of race, faith, and the church.  I can’t wait!!!  They are anticipating a record and historic gathering.

They had way over a thousand at the last gathering and are anticipating far more for this.  Leaders from the all over the U.S. will be converging.

March 31, Mark DeYmaz who heads up the conference will be having a very special gathering of pastors and faith leaders who want to find out what it’s all about and get on board early.  It will be held at NorthWood Church. He will be speaking and answer any questions you might have.  There will be a lunch from 11:45 AM  to 1:00 PM with a meal provided. You can RSVP for the lunch by Click Here To RSVP For March 31st LuncheonRead more