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How you first engage a new culture matters

by Omar Reyes

Konrad Lorenz the Nobel Prize winning psychologist discovered a concept called bonding or imprinting. Most of us remember the picture of the duckling following him around at that critical time, just after hatching. Lorenz and the duckling were alone together and from that point forward the duckling responded to him as if he were the parent. The imprinted duckling experienced a sense of belonging to the man. Recent studies support the concept and significance of bonding between a mother and her baby. If mother and infant are together at that critical time right after birth a close bond occurs, but if mother and infant are separated immediately after birth, the infant can become attached to a surrogate or substitute mother. Apparently right after birth divinely designed psychological and physiological factors impact a newborn’s ability to bond with his parents. Birth is essentially the entrance into a new culture and environment with new sights, sounds and smells. It has been proven that during this moment of entrance, a child is especially equipped with the extraordinary ability to respond to these new and unusual circumstances. There is an important parallel between the infant entrance into his new culture and people who engage into a new foreign culture.

The first days and weeks of engaging a culture are critical. In this situation the person entering a new culture is bombarded with new sensations, sights, and smells but is able to respond to the new environment and experiences, while his adrenaline is flowing and his excitement is at a peak. Upon arrival he is in a unique state of readiness, both physiologically and emotionally, to establish a bond with the local people in his new environment. But instead many times he is taken away to bond with people of his own culture first, losing this unique opportunity. New missionaries tend to create this bond with other expatriates rather than with the people of the new society.  I grew up in Belize and was greatly influenced by Canadian missionaries and witnessed the effect of these two types of entrances. When the missionaries did not quickly immerse themselves in the local culture they were primarily perceived as outsiders and found it very difficult to develop a sense of feeling at home in that local culture, therefore seldom pursued, as way of life, significant relationships in the community. This was often reflected in their language and attitude towards the locals. You would often hear statements like “Oh, these people! Why do they always do things this way?” or “Someone ought to teach them how to live.” or “Won’t these people ever learn?”

During those first days or weeks, immerse yourself in the local culture. Try to live with a local family for a few weeks before you engage others like yourself. It’s better to dive right in and experience life from the “insider’s” perspective. Live with the local people, go shopping with them and use their public transportation. From the very first day it is important to develop meaningful relationships with the local people.  It will leave a lasting imprint. God came to us and entered our culture and made His home among us and became a belonger with mankind in order to draw people into a belonging relationship with God.

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

Why the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” is NOT an Islamic State

Guest post by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan with an introduction by Bob Roberts Jr
A friend of mine sent this to me and granted permission to post it on my blog.  Dr. Khan is a scholar, writer, and for the past few decades has been a leader of Muslims in India.  This is written from his perspective, but will help inform you on how Muslim scholars are viewing recent events. With all the confusion and fog in trying to understand ISIS and the current events, I felt it would be useful to share with readers of this blog.

On June 29, 2014, a Sunni self-styled mujahid from Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the establishment of a government and declared himself its caliph. He named it the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ (ISIS). According to recent media reports, ten Arab countries have agreed to help the United States in its fight against this extremist group. After talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Jeddah, these Arab states pledged to provide military support and humanitarian aid and to halt the flow of funds and foreign fighters to the ISIS. Read more

TOWN CRIERS, STREET PREACHERS AND EVERYDAY DISCIPLES PREACHING IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE!

by Bob Roberts Jr

Preachers talk a lot about preaching the “gospel”.  They also make sure when at churches and other conferences they talk a lot about “the gospel” and they preach “the gospel” at their churches and at conferences.  This is good, but God had more in mind than just that, especially when you read Acts and look at the ministry of Paul and the early church.

This is heavy on my mind and heart, because this past year I’ve been to so many places that are not “Christian” nations, or worship centers or areas.  It’s because of global humanitarian work and global interfaith (I like multifaith) events I’ve been invited to speak. I’ve always done this, but this was an exceptional year that allowed me to see patterns and put things in perspective, outside of just moving in a flow I hadn’t thought a huge amount about.  Yet, in those places I’ve been asked to explain what a Christian is, often an evangelical Christian.  It gives me an opportunity with leaders that are not Christians, and opens the door for other forms of media with interviews in print, radio, and television, to talk about Jesus.  Christians are often shocked when they hear I was in country X and there’s a newspaper article, or internet story, or something else where I’m literally explaining the birth, life, death, resurrection of Jesus and what he’s done for me and why I believe it, and why I want to bless all of humanity in the name of Jesus whether they follow him or not.  I’ve actually been invited to teach “Christianity” by non-Christians in nations that are not “Christian” nations in the least, some of which have Christians in jail.  It’s unusual to our Western religious culture, but not to Acts.  Read more

WHAT JESUS SAID SHOWS WHO HIS REAL FOLLOWERS ARE?

by Bob Roberts Jr.

I’ve always admired those people who put their lives on the line for the Gospel – going to hard places to share the good news of Jesus.  My view has been those people of all people must really know God because they are making a statement with their life.  However, that call to stand up for God regardless is not just for a special few but for all of us.  Most of us in America will never have to make that choice – but for some people, around the world, that choice is made every day.

My heart breaks over what is going on in the Middle-East right now with Christians.  The pain, suffering, and sacrifice that tens of thousands are making for the cause of Jesus is heart breaking.  I believe they should be protected unequivocally.  It’s one thing to invade a nation or to fight wars based on national interest – quite another thing to protect civilian populations from genocide and extinction.  Ultimately, our inaction in Syria on behalf of the civilian population, where now over 200,000 innocents have lost their lives, is one of the key factors leading to the birth of ISIS; even this morning I was sent emails of mass beheadings taking place in Iraq. Read more

D. L. MOODY – A LIFE By Kevin Belmonte

By Bob Roberts

Recently I was at Moody Publishing and Moody Bible Institute and met many people and had some great conversations.  I loved what I saw taking place there.  After reading this biography on Moody, and being reminded of who he was and what he did – I think he’d love the direction Moody Publishing, Radio, and Institute is headed.  While there, the publishing department gave me some books, one was the biography on Moody.  It was really good.  Long enough to give you more than a historical line allowing you to get inside his head and character, but not so long that you get lost and have to fight to stay focused.  I love reading biographies and thought this was one of the best written biographies on anyone I’ve ever read.

Young pastors would do well, and anyone for that matter, to read this biography.  I learned things about Moody that I didn’t know.  Often I will say or write that we must engage our world with a 21st century mentality not an 18th or 19th century mentality – Moody in many ways would be a 21st century faith leader.  Here are some things that really stood out. Read more