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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

Embracing the beauty of diversity

by Jill King

I believe that every human is born with value and worth, therefore should be entitled to rights. I also believe that every person is unique, characterized with specific attributes which contribute to who they are and what they have to offer the world. When we look to a level playing field of equality as an end goal, it’s important to keep this masterful mosaic of the human race in mind. No one should be treated poorly because of their classification, but perhaps individuals should be considered in light of the diversity they represent. There’s an attitude that I perceive to be somewhat forced when we attempt to view the world through the lens of color-blindness, sexual orientation blindness, religious blindness- the list goes on. This practice really does us a disservice and manifests itself through our societal ignorance. We were all created in the image of God, and this is one telling commonality that humans share. He created this world with color and variety, and it would be a shame to dilute these characteristics that reflect his very nature. I believe in advocacy and justice for those without a voice, but when the motivation is pure power, not supported by experience or relationships, I think we are missing the point.

As a woman, I want to be perceived and remembered for the unique person God made me to be. He gave me a feminine nature, a compassionate spirit, and zest for life. I do not want to assert power and control to simply prove something to the world. I want to thrive in my God given identity. I think it would serve us well to see others for who they really are, not only through association of the tribe that they belong to. I wish we could boldly admit to one another that we are different and intentionally celebrate or advocate for the difficulty that comes along with certain classifications. We can’t ignore the fact that we live among people who are not like us. I don’t want to look past skin, which tells a story of history and surrounds eyes that have witnessed things that some of us have only had nightmares about. I want to be seen differently than a man, because some of my God given qualities are based on the distinguishing characteristics of being a woman. I will not assume someone with a different sexual orientation is just like me, because I know their experience of facing society is vastly different from my own. I want to have an understanding of different religions, because our faith and beliefs significantly impact the way we choose to live our lives.

My desire is to deeply understand others, not to assume that everyone is like me or that we are simply all the same. I’ve always been burdened by the fact that even when we seek to walk in the shoes of another, we still only have our own perception of their perspective. We can not get outside of our own mind, but the Holy Spirit can bring wisdom and understanding. When we view people in light of who they are, understanding that there is no replication of them in this world, it shifts the way we see others, and it deepens our expression of love. If our hearts are centered on the beauty of diversity, I believe we will take advances toward being more direct with one another, and less concerned about being politically correct. Our uniqueness matters, and it’s all part of His eternal Kingdom.

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