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Making Alliances & Saying Prayers — GlocalNet Participates in the Alliance of Virtue and the National Prayer Breakfast

 

The work of peacemaking is an endeavor of endurance. Peace is achieved in relationship over a period of time — and relationships do take time, especially when the differences between parties are vast.  The true work of peace happens face to face and table to table. However, this relational work of peace can be facilitated through many other figures and efforts. Leaders are needed to champion peace. Events and conferences are needed to create awareness to mass audiences. Initiatives are needed to pull people together and push the cause of peace forward.  Partnerships, coalitions and alliances between organizations are powerful, as well. In its mission to relentlessly pursue peace and reconciliation among all peoples in all places for all things, GlocalNet has utilized every possible mean to build bridges. Just recently, GlocalNet was involved in a convergence of peacemaking relationships, efforts and events.

The Alliance of Virtue for the Common Good was held February 5-7 in Washington DC.  The gathering of four hundred religious leaders from around the world explored, in the words of Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, “ways in which the three great Abrahamic faiths can offer their shared values in the service of peace.” The aim being, “to call for peace and urge others to do the same.” The conference included speeches and conversations ranging many topics such as religious virtue, the common good, the role of religion in governance, religious freedom and the need for alliances.

The sessions of the Alliance of Virtue built toward the unveiling and affirmation of the Washington Declaration, a document written for the purpose of building reconciliation and seeking to heal the wounds of global conflict and violence. Simply, the declaration states: 1) All people, regardless of faith, are entitled to religious liberty. 2) All people, men and women alike, are entitled to equality and due process under the law 3) Each government has an obligation to respect the dignity and related rights of all who dwell within its jurisdiction 4) People from all sectors – including public service, religion, business, academia, civil society, and the arts – share a responsibility to encourage international and intercultural understanding and to oppose any effort to convey information that is false or defamatory toward the members of any ethnic, racial or religious group.

Along with religious leaders and scholars from around the world, the Alliance of Virtue brought together the American Peace Caravan — a network of pastors, imams and rabbis who are banding together in their local contexts for the sake of peace.  These new friends, through the My Neighbors Keeper initiative, are taking this work to their cities and neighborhoods, calling their congregations to join the bridge-building peace work.  GlocalNet is already working in 20 cities around the US and has its gaze set on 50 cities by 2020. This network will provide relationships, resources and support to uphold overall peace efforts.

Finally, as the Alliance of Virtue concluded, many of its participants transitioned to another important event, The National Prayer Breakfast. This event, hosted by politicians, calls together about 3000 people and asks them to let go of their parties and politics for the sake of praying for our nation and our nation’s leaders in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This served as a great reminder of where the power of peace really lies. Indeed, prayer is the last great resource we have in the cause of peacemaking. Seeking the God of Peace as we seek peace on Earth is what gives us the wisdom and the power to continue such efforts. The two-day event was filled with meals, meetings and conversations opening doors for God to work and for peace to reign.

Below you will find several links to articles from these events that will give you more information and photos. Enjoy the articles and may God bless all of your peacemaking efforts. May His peace flow in you and overflow from you.

— CLICK TITLE TO SEE ARTICLE —

How the National Prayer Breakfast sparked an unusual meeting between Muslims and evangelicals

Can Christians, Jews & Muslims Find Common Ground? This Group of Leaders Hopes So

Evangelicals join interfaith leaders in Washington to promote religious tolerance

400 Muslim, Christian, Jewish Leaders Sign ‘Washington Declaration’ for Religious Tolerance

 

BELIZE – A Foundation Problem

“While many things change, most things remain constant”

Belize is a small country nestled in the Caribbean Basin between Mexico and Guatemala. Rich in resources, Belize boasts the second the largest barrier reef in the world and is the home to one of the largest most fertile rain forest in Central America. Eco-tourism has flourished in the past few decades. Oil was discovered a few years ago in the western part of the country. However, in light of such wealth, Belize also boasts of poverty levels in 30-40% of the population according to Caribbean World Bank Development.

However, “While many things change most things remain constant.”  For example; In a world of buildings we have seen changes in types of homes. Just consider homes from past to present you will see the constant changes in space, design and shapes. However, no matter the constant changes to these structures one thing remains constant, the foundation. The need for a good foundation has never changed. Without it, these structures—no matter the external changes—will not stand for long. I believe the same principle is true for nations. As monumental shifts have occurred in this world due to the discovery of the internet, globalization, migration and new inventions, certain things remain the same, specifically the absolute need for an unchangeable foundation based on the absolute truth about mankind. Here are a few foundational problems I thought about on my recent visit to Belize.

Health of Families

As I traveled across the country for six days I came across a constant call to help in the area of marriage. I found myself spending hours with couples who were in trouble in their marriage. The complete inability to deal with conflicts, generational offenses, and just the rampant need for relational principles at a basic level is evident. A nation is strong when the family is strong. When families begin to disintegrate the negative impact is massive. One of the issue is the vacuum it creates among children that leaves them open to street gangs who provide that need for some sort of family structure. Belize has seen a tremendous rise in gangs and gang violence. Today it ranks the third highest national murder rate in the world. The majority of the homicide take place in Belize City where gang violence is rampant. This is a direct result of the complete breakdown of the family, especially in Belize City. 

Lack of Male Leadership

Northwood Church is very invested in Belize and our approach to mission is through the domains of society, especially through the education domain. We have developed relationships with those at the highest level in education. One such female leader was asking me to help them in the area of motivating male leadership in this domain. This particular leader is the director of the largest school district in Belize. She told me that out of 176 schools she only has 2 male principals. There has been a complete exodus of males from leadership in the education domain. Male leadership is foundational to the health of a family, church, nation. The question is why are they absent in the education domain and how can reverse that trend?

Lack of Servant Leaders in Government

Another area is the lack of Servant leaders. The entire system from the top to the bottom and across all domains of society is built upon leadership by power and manipulation. The desire to take for themselves as much as possible before they are relieved from their position develops a winner-take-all attitude. If you ask children in Belize the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” the answer is usually two-fold, an immigration officer or a government position. They understand that to have anything beyond just barely surviving these two vocations afford you the possibility to make more money through stealing and bribes. An entirely different leadership foundation is needed or these patterns will continue to perpetuate themselves through every generation of leadership.

While many things are changing in this world, many remain the same. Without healthy families, male leadership and a philosophy of servant leadership within the fabric of a society, a nation will have a very weak foundation. It will not able to withstand the whirlwind of change and the house it is built on will eventually fall. It does not matter how great the external structure is the foundation dictates the future of that house.

JOURNALING

THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE THAT CREATES DEPTH

To journal you don’t need to be a good writer.  You just need to be still and quiet and write.  You aren’t writing for publication or for your English teacher.   I would not write a journal for anyone but myself.  It’s not history, it’s how you see life, what you are learning, questions you have, and anything you want to write about.  Mother Teresa, Henri Nouwen, and others have used journaling and it was key to their spiritual development.  Some of the things they wrote about included personal struggles, frustrations, and even deep questions about God.  Some people freaked out over that – I didn’t.  We all have those questions and I believe it’s in the slow wrestling of those questions that we find truth, meaning, life and, yes, God.  There is NOTHING that has grown me spiritually, emotionally, and relationally – even globally, like journaling.  Yet, it’s not journaling – it’s reflecting, remembering, discovering patterns, recording events that were good and bad, and writing down the things God spoke to you about in the middle of the night.  If you’ve read my blog you know that around November to December every year I write about journaling.  I’m serious about it.  There is no greater or formative discipline that intersects all the disciplines and all of life like journaling.  It’s not a diary – it’s reflections.  I define a journal as “a catalogue of reflections of what God is doing and saying in your life.”

I believe the book of Acts is how God intends for us to walk with him, learn, grow, and experience life.  Having read Acts many times, studying it, preaching it – I’m convinced the biggest message of Acts is the unexpected.  The Holy Spirit orchestrates everything from relationships, timing, schedule – and none of it comes through orchestrated action plans, goals, systems, and processes.  That doesn’t mean those things don’t matter – just that they aren’t primary.  I know this, the greatest things in my life that God has done, has had little to do with how I organize but rather how I hear God’s voice or recognize him moving in unexpected circumstances or people.  At the moment at which things are taking place I don’t always recognize their significance – but as I journal and see things develop there really is a pattern.

Each year I start a new journal.  It has what I learned from the previous year, it has words people give me, verses burned in my heart, goals, people I work with, people I’m praying for, models, tons of stuff – about 30 pages worth, then daily and early in the morning I write.

THUS, this is why I’m promoting the book “Journaling:  Catalyzing Spiritual Growth through Reflection” by Adam Feldman.  It is simply the best book I’ve ever read on how to journal.  I would encourage you to buy it, read it, and use it to begin.  Your own style and preferences will takeover, but it will be a fantastic guide to start with.  You can read more about his view of journaling at AdamLFeldman.com –   I loved the book and was excited when it came out.

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Global Pastors Speak About Global Trends

 

Every year global leaders meet somewhere in the world to build relationships, learn from each other and leverage what God has given each leader. This group consist of about 20 global leader which represent approximately 11 million followers including their networks. In December 2017 this group met in Bethlehem to share what God is doing in their part of the world. One of the question we asked all of them was “What were the 10 top global trends which they thought will significantly influence the coming years?” Here is the list of trends they selected.

Media/Social/Tech

The Church has unprecedented opportunities to enhance social connectivity, influence right social action, and extend its evangelism and discipleship efforts by utilizing these rapidly emerging technologies. New possibilities will exist to employ aggressive strategies to reach people broadly or in a specific way through technology. This will allow continued and expanded communication into difficult-to-access countries or people groups. It will be important that new models are researched and best practices are shared broadly. More than ever, Global South partners can and should participate in these wide-reaching conversations as equals.

Rise of Radicalism & Grassroots Religious Persecution

A continuing rise in radicalism, especially in failed states, will be a consequence of disillusionment and anger over lack of economic opportunities and of ideologies that emphasize ethnic, tribal and religious differences. Christ’s call is higher than mere tolerance – it is to show love and respect in a language that is understood. Following Christ’s teaching to be peacemakers would call for appealing to common values and reducing antagonistic rhetoric. The global Church has the opportunity to set an example in respect-based diplomacy.

Growth in Islam & Christianity

Both Islam and Christianity will continue to see rapid but uneven growth. Islam’s growth will be fueled by high birth rates in some traditionally Muslim countries, coupled with immigration to Europe and aggressive expansion in other regions. Christianity will grow in the Global South, primarily driven by Pentecostalism and indigenous mission movements. Conflicts will intensify between these two major religions in many parts of the world.
The global Church’s challenge can be summed up as learning how to love one’s Muslim neighbor in the name of Christ while seeking respect and reciprocity. Both Islam and Christianity will face challenges from the tendency to see the other as a monolith. Both will have trouble dealing with extremism and theological shallowness from within. Conflict management and peacemaking initiatives will be needed, as will increased levels of advocacy and dialogue on the issue of religious freedom.

Young People

There is a crying need for role models for youth, from elders and peers. Traditional structures, often bound by the culture of an older generation, are seldom appealing to younger generations. By dealing with institutionalized issues of hierarchy, the Church could empower youth to get involved, take initiative at a much younger age, and offer fresh thinking to aging organizations.  The global Church can equip youth to become prepared for all spheres of society by providing discipleship and leadership training, recognizing the practical need for employment and livelihood, and developing and practicing an “integral theology” through education and skills training. It will take an openness to significant change while not losing a biblical center.

Broken Families

Since the 1960s the family has undergone significant transformation. In many countries, the extended family has all but disappeared, and the traditional family consisting of a married couple with children has become much less widespread as divorce rates, cohabitation, couples “living together apart”, single parenthood and same-sex partnerships have all increased. A rise in migration has made cultures and values more diverse. Families have seen more mothers take up work in the labor market.  Adolescents spend longer and longer alone and the elderly members of the family live longer. This disintegration and reshaping of the family unit is creating massive social problems around the world. This environment puts a demand on the global church for holistic, multi-generational, multi ethnic and multi-cultural approaches to ministries.

Nationalism/Tribalism

There is a resurgence of tribalism and identification with religious factions. Identity conflicts are, and will remain, the most important source of international violence and war in the world. Nationalism is on the rise, the belief that your own country is healthier when it returns to its ethnic and historical roots.  This rise is due in part to globalization and the sense of rootlessness that it has caused.  Sometimes nationalism makes people not want to work with other countries to solve shared problems and isolate itself from the world. It is important not to confuse nationalism with patriotism. Patriotism is a healthy pride in your country that brings about feelings of loyalty and a desire to help other citizens.  The challenge for the global church is to rise above the politics of the day and call people to a higher standard of living and relating to this world where its identity is rooted in Christ and not some temporal entity, where people are called to live as kingdom citizens in this world.

Terrorism/Violence

Terrorism and Violence is on the rise in the world. So, what does this all mean for the world today? If massively destructive terror attacks continue, terror management theory predicts that societies will grow exponentially more chaotic and divided. Heightened aggression towards dissimilar others produces a tendency to favor war over peace. Right-wing nationalism will thrive along with prejudice and intolerance. Islamic fundamentalism will flourish while terror attacks grow more frequent. Raised tensions between nations, ethnicities and political groups will lead to further conflict, creating a devastating feedback loop of suspicion and violence. The Challenge to the global church is live out the mandate of being peacemakers, to be reconcilers and not dividers. To love our enemies and bless those who curse us.

Refugees

Every minute, 24 people around the world are forced to flee their homes. That’s 34,000 people a day who leave everything behind in the hope of finding safety and a better tomorrow. THERE ARE 65 MILLION REFUGEES IN THE WORLD TODAY. A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries. Right now, nearly 5 million people have fled the conflict in Syria, and there is no end to the crisis in sight. The global church must see this as an opportunity and not a problem. We must welcome the stranger in our home. Let the government entities deal with the geopolitics of this issue. Our role is to love and take care of people when they knock on our doors. 

Decline of Religion

Modernity will be expressed differently across generational lines. One common face, however, will be materialism and a move towards religious nominalism. Traditional religious institutions will be eroded. Developed nations will see a growing worldliness in their religious congregations. Some developing nations will follow the same trend, as modernization leads people to lose a living sense of the supernatural. The Church’s greatest challenge in this area may well be to interpret culture in light of the Gospel rather than reading the Gospel in light of culture. Diversity not secularization is to be celebrated. Our Christian distinctive should remain unambiguous. We are to be relevant but not relativistic, proclaim absolute truth and provide a contrast for people who are hungry for a Kingdom reality. The need for investments in leadership development has never been clearer.

Sex/LGBTQ

The relationship between religion and the LGBTQ community is a complicated one and everyone experiences it differently. It all depends on how you feel and what you choose. Historically many orthodox religions have treated LGBTQ people harshly. However, within nearly every religious denomination there are now supportive groups that have adopted different interpretations about LGBTQ people. Some denominations, such as Reform Judaism and the Episcopalian church, are openly supportive of LGBTQ members. As society shifts to be more accepting of LGBTQ people, many other denominations are starting to grapple with this issue. The question is how will the global church communicate its conviction on this issue without alienating people who are part of this community. How do we speak the truth in love?

 

(Thank you to First Fruit Global Trends and www.care.org for some of the data included in this blog)

Religious Leaders as Peacemakers

[THE THIRD POST IN A BLOG SERIES ON RELIGION & GOVERNMENT BY BOB ROBERTS]

I’m a part of a small group of twenty global evangelical pastors that gather yearly somewhere in the world.  We’ve become close friends and co-laborers.  Each of us started our church and each of us start churches.  All of these have thousands in their movements, most have millions.  We learn from each other, compare notes, and see what’s happening globally and how we can help each other.  Each of us is very unique and bring a different set of gifts to the table that are all complimentary.  We tackle hard issues, visit one another’s churches, and talk about what it looks like to live as the global church.  This year we decided to meet in Bethlehem.  We had no idea about President Trump’s announcement on moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem or we probably would not have met there – and that would have been a mistake.

We heard that the announcement might come once we were there.  The night of the announcement we were eating at a local restaurant and happened to be with Bishara Awad who started the Bethlehem Bible College, Jack Sara the current President of the college and Pastor Munir Kakish, the President of the evangelical church council there.  I interviewed them, prior to the announcement and you can hear it on a pinned tweet on my twitter feed @bobrobertsjr if you want.  We actually wound up watching President Trump live on our iphones.  Once it was over, we went back to our hotel to keep a low profile, especially those of us that were Americans.

The next day was calm, but around 11:30pm while we were eating lunch in a café in the hotel we heard a loud banging we thought was some hammering on the roof.  I’ve been in war zones and thought it could be guns, but at first didn’t think much.  Plain clothed guards in the hotel begin to bolt the windows.  A huge interior iron door was closed and bolted with iron rods.  I found out our hotel is ground zero for where they protest in Bethlehem.  Palestinian protesters went out into the streets to protest as they often do when something like this happens.  The Israeli’s responded with tear gas and rubber bullets as they do.  It was all very predictable.  I would agree with reports that protests were limited and not “raging” as some had called for but there were some incidents.  To them, more was being taken away and this was the only way anyone could or would hear them.  Out one window down an alley you could see young people, male and female, putting on Palestinian headgear that covered their faces and run out into the rode and throw rocks towards the Israeli check point that was a few yards from our hotel.  The loud banging came again, followed by guns with rubber bullets.  The loud banging was tear gas and water canons.  All of a sudden a strong wave tear gas entered the hotel and all of us cleared the café literally running to our rooms.  Our eyes were watering our throats parched and impacted from the tear gas and skunk water.

I didn’t like my wife being there – I’ve been in places in the world that were tough but never take her with me to those places.  I prayed for God’s protection over us and especially Nikki.   As we were running another pastor and his wife were running beside us and that pastor’s wife, from a church of tens of thousands in a Muslim Majority nation began to pray outloud, “Oh Jesus for the pain of the Palestinian people, please be with them Lord, help their suffering.”  The pastor’s wife was praying for God’s protection over the Palestinians.  Man was I convicted.  The rioting went off and on all day, the next day we left for Abu Dhabi.  As we drove past the checkpoints, past the 30’ concrete walls to the other side, though glad for us, I was heartbroken for all the evangelical Christians who cannot leave, stuck behind those walls facing an uncertain future.

Governments and Presidents and Kings will do what they do, but what about the global body of Christ?  Aren’t we to be peacemakers?  What does that look like?  Do we mix the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of the world to force God’s hand?  It bothered me more than anything how some far far right evangelicals, that live in the media in America were perceived by part of our brothers and sisters in Christ in another nation, even worse as being a part of creating their pain and suffering.  The geo-political and non-essentials theological views of fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus from a nation across an ocean, a sea and two continents was creating hardship, pain, suffering, and fear among fellow Christians in Bethlehem, the very place Jesus was born.

I’ve been grateful over the years to see many evangelicals, especially younger evangelicals who still support Israel nevertheless challenge Israel when she is unjust taking homes and land that people have owned for centuries.  With the evangelical leaders we were with not a single high profile evangelical leader in America, except a lady who was working with our government, called to encourage them and let them know they were not alone. There were some global evangelicals that also reached out.   I asked the evangelicals I was there with, “How do you feel about the evangelical church in America?”  Their answers were alone, abandoned, ignored, and they don’t care about us.  However, many of them would also point to evangelicals who have befriended them, built relationships with them, and are aware of their situation and trying to make others aware as well.  Media for evangelicals was pretty one-sided in the news, some social media had evangelicals challenging what was taking place.  On twitter I encouraged other evangelicals to encourage them, regardless of their position on Jerusalem and gratefully many did – but others actually spoke condemnation to me for encouraging them.  Ten years ago, I would have been the same, I knew no Palestinians let alone Palestinian evangelicals and my view of the second coming was more religious populist hype than biblical let alone theological, so I understand.  I knew God had me and my wife there to encourage them and love on them – they needed an evangelical from America to know that there were evangelicals back in the States that loved them, supported them, and would stand with them.  Many evangelicals in the U.S. I reminded them were just oblivious that there were evangelicals there.

Personally, I support a two-state solution and a shared capitol in Jerusalem – which has been at the heart of the negotiations for decades.  President Trump has made it clear he supports that as well.   I have supported Israel all my life and will continue to do so.  I am sorry to say, I have only supported the Palestinians in the past decade.  I allowed my own “speculative” theology about the second coming of Jesus to determine my views on foreign policy.  I allowed fictional religious authors and bad hermeneutics provide me with a disjointed, sensationalistic, us against them ethic of escatology that shaped my entire view towards loving Jews and Israeli’s but not Arab’s and Muslims.  What kind of Great Commission is that?  I’ve had to repent of it.  The crazy things I was taught and swallowed like there were no Palestinian people.  If that logic is true, and this logic persist then the same logic means there can be no Lebanon, no Syria, no Jordan, no Egypt – at least not as we know it because the original borders of the land promised in the Old Testament involved all those nations.  God has a future for Israel, and he has a future for every nation!  God loves all the nations and in eternity he will orchestrate and put things as they are to be.  My response to the second coming is to live ready for Jesus to return at any moment and help others be ready.

Jesus is called the Prince of Peace.  We are called to be peacemakers.  We are called to the Ministry of Reconciliation.  We are Ambassadors for Christ.  We must be very very careful of trying to drive foreign policy.  We need to understand there are consequences for our positions, statements, and pushing politicians to do things because we move as voting blocks instead of the people of God, filled with the Spirit, living out the presence of Jesus in the Kingdom.

If you want to live as a peacemaker, let me give you six things that I try to do.  I’ve learned being a peacemaker requires me working on me more than people I would seek to reconcile!  I’m sure there are more things than these, but this is what I’ve learned so far in working with Arabs and Israelis, Muslims and Christians, and Christians mad at Christians!

  1. Love them all as equal as possible.  All are created in the image of God.  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks book, “Not in My Name” has got to be one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read.  Anything he writes is good.  The book is basically a commentary on Genesis in which he says the essence of that entire book is for brothers not envy one another but each celebrate who they are.  Cain and Able, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers all illustrate this.  Jesus says love one another, love your family, and love your enemies.  He doesn’t say like, he says to love them.  You can’t love people you don’t know.  There has yet to be a race of people or a nation or a tribe that isn’t “lovely” in various ways.  When all you see is the dark side of a people or nation, you aren’t seeing them.  When all you see is the bright side, you aren’t seeing them as well.  Your ability to truly love is your credibility that enables others to sit down with you and those that they are at odds with.  We often want to sit down with people without truly knowing them.  Spend time on the front end knowing someone before you try to see them reconcile.
  2. Know history – both histories!  Everyone and every nation has a story.  Do you know the story?  When I’m asked to visit a nation I have never been to or don’t know much about, I start reading all I can about it.  When we began to work in Vietnam I read many books about Vietnam, the only problem was they were about the Vietnam war.  There is so much more to Vietnamese history than 1963-1975!  I began to read Vietnamese literature.  Their poetry is incredible.  Their paintings and art work are incredible.  Vietnamese food is awesome.  For years the only way Americans could look at Vietnam was through the pain of a war, but there is at least 3,000 years of history in that part of the world.  If you’re going to be a peacemaker you will also have to look at your own history towards a particular people.  I remember the first time I went to Vietnam in 1995 and landed at the airport in Saigon from which many American soldiers were shipped home in body bags.  That was what my mind and imagination saw as we sat on the tarmac that day.  I had to get over my fear, anger, sadness towards Vietnamese because of the 58.000 soldiers that died there, some that I knew.  As I did, and I came to know the Vietnamese I found out that over 2,000,000 of them had died.  You have to be able to acknowledge the hurt from all sides, because all have been hurt.  I once had a Palestinian tell me that what made reconciliation so hard between the Jews and the Palestinians was that they were both victims.  The Jews were Nazi victims and the Palestinians were victims from the occupation of the Israeli’s.  Victims operate out of woundedness.
  3. Listen critically.  This involves more than anything a high level of emotional intelligence.  What is fact and fiction.  What is real and what is not real.  Often people’s positions don’t reflect them as much as it does the tribe that they’re associated with.  Sometimes individuals are far more open to negotiate and build bridges than their tribes are.  This is good.  This is the kind of person you want sitting at the table because of they have the respect of their tribe they should also be able to challenge their tribe.  To build peace there must be trust established between people.  It’s not always possible to fix everything at once, build it out over time.  All or nothing generally winds up with nothing.  Find places of agreement that you can execute on immediately.  Instead of a peace treaty we should be thinking peace treaties one at a time.  Emotional Intelligence on the part of the peacemaker means knowing how far to push and when to stop.  Emotional intelligence always demands your willingness to have both sides at times upset with you.  If they aren’t, you’re probably not an impartial peacemaker.  Emotional intelligence is important on the part of the peace maker also in the sense of not getting their feelings hurt or taking things personal.  A peacemaker also has to listen and yet ignore the critics from the outside.  A peacemaker is going to be shot at from every angle.  I learned long ago it isn’t worth responding to some people.  Let them say what they will, they want a fight, or they want to win, they don’t want to reconcile.
  4. Build a path from where you are not where you were or wish you were.     You can’t change the past but can create a future.   Knowing the past and how it got there is good.  Using the past as the starting point will stop you from moving forward.  Where are you?  Build your future from there.  Often peacemaking gets stuck because we view things as right or left.  Great peacemakers see third ways of doing things, just like Ghandi and his non-violence movement.  His was the first in the world that freed an entire nation through non-violence.  When I have gathered pastors and imams we do an exercise where we each write a sermon on peace from our Scriptures and then present it.  Then we give them blank paper and tell them, we will never agree on theology or other things, but if you would create bridges to each other so we don’t fear and fight each other and the sky was the limit how would you do it?  It’s been amazing seeing them come up with ideas and later execute many of those ideas.  We get stuck in old thinking and narrow solutions.
  5. Follow the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is orchestrating all kinds of things – as a follower of Jesus we have to stay open and follow the Holy Spirit.  So many unexpected good things happen when we step back and let God move.  When I read the book of Acts I’m amazed the Spirit moved in Acts 6 over how they cared for widows, and then in Acts 15 the Jerusalem Council, and Paul being exposed to all the Roman leaders through prison.  Always pray before, during, and after meeting with people to bring about reconciliation.  I was once in a country with some diplomats from that country that has said Israel shouldn’t exist.  We had been together several days, eaten meals, laughed, learned from each other, etc.  At one of the conversations around formal tables, I told them, “You’re country is incredible, the levels of education, the development – I had no idea.  If the world could only see you as I’ve seen you!”  They were beaming.  I then said, “You know guys, Israel isn’t going away – but your rhetoric makes the rest of the world afraid of you when you’re not as bad as what they think and what one of your leaders keeps saying.  You guys should chill on that some.”  I said it with a grin in a low key way hoping for the best.  One of them said, “You know Bob, I’ve been telling  . . . the same thing!  I think it’s a great idea – it’s just people being political.”  I responded, “I figured as much, but you shouldn’t be held back because one person can’t control their emotions.”  They nodded their head yes and we all went out to eat and talked the practicalities over a meal.  The Spirit opens people, moments, words, and ideas like nothing else.  This country still has a ways to go, but the reality is there are people always open, don’t paint with a broad brush.
  6. Lay down your life.   Be willing to put your heart and soul into it, if not even your life, for the sake of others.  I was asked to speak recently to hundreds of world leaders of different religions and governments and organizations on peace in Abu Dhabi.  I spoke why I as an evangelical am committed to peace and how Jesus was the Prince of Peace and why he went to the cross to establish a way for men to have peace with God.  But I told them there is another cross, and command of Jesus to every follower of Jesus that he gave in Luke 9:23  “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, daily, take up his cross and follow me.”  I explained that this is a cross that Jesus says his followers are to choose,  this cross is also a place of death and sacrifice but for the sake of someone else.  As Jesus went to the cross for us, so he calls us to go to the cross for others.  The cross of Jesus was for all of us to have peace with God, the cross we take up for others is to build peace between men.  What are we willing to die for?  Who are we willing to die for beyond our own families?  Who do we love like Jesus so that we die for others, even if they don’t appreciate it? I told them for me, “It’s you – that’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m willing to be misunderstood by others in my own tribe – because you matter to God and you matter to this evangelical.”

Everyone is going to have different positions on various issues.  For those of us as followers of Jesus, we just have to keep in mind that our body is global and how we communicate in the public square can be a thing of tremendous pain that we unintentionally cause others.  Let’s be peacemakers, and be called sons and daughters of God.

Religious Leaders As Prophets

[THE SECOND POST IN A BLOG SERIES ON RELIGION & GOVERNMENT BY BOB ROBERTS]

We need really good prophets who are religious leaders today.  Nathan, whom David loves and listens to, stands before him and calls him out for sleeping with Bathsheba and having Uriah, her husband, killed. He says that famous line to David, “Thou art the man.”  Jeremiah is thrown into a muddy cistern for prophesying against the King of Israel and warning of impending judgment.  Jeremiah also had to stand up to false prophets like Hananiah when they said only what the King wanted to hear.  There are manhy prophets in the Old Testament, but few really speak for God.  Most are enamored by access, power, authority, and privilege.  It’s the same today.  1 Kings 18 is a powerful chapter where Obadiah is hiding 100 prophets from King Ahab for challenging him.  It’s here, when Elijah is going to meet King Ahab, that Ahab’s responds, “It is you, you troubler of Israel.”  1 Kings 22 is rather funny – when Ahab is seeking a word about going to war, his 400 prophets say do it and you will win.   He’s asked by King Jehosaphat of Judah if there are any other prophets who have anything else to say.  King Ahab says, “There is yet one man . . Micaiah. . . but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.”  Ahab should have listened to Micaiah. 

The prophetic isn’t limited to the Old Testament.  Though not exactly the same, it is actually a ministry and gift of the church.  Stephen spoke prophetically at his martyrdom to Jews who had become hard-hearted.  In Acts 21 Agabus prophesies Paul will be imprisoned to which Paul’s response was “let the Lord’s will be done.”  Church history is so filled with prophetic ministry.  Look at St. Francis of Assisi challenging the church and kings of the day against war and the crusades.  Look at Martin Luther challenging the Holy Roman Empire and the Pope.  Look at Roger Williams challenging England and the early American Colonies on religious freedom.  Look at Wilberforce and Livingstone challenging slavery.  Look at Charles Finney challenging the government in the 1800’s on child labor laws.  Look at Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer challenging Hitler, Germany and the Nazi’s.  Look at Mother Teresa challenging Bill Clinton on abortion at the National Prayer Breakfast.  THESE are the stories that lead to biographies that people devour. These are the examples that people long to emulate, not hob-nobbers and pundits and would-be prophets who are soon forgotten as kings rise and fall.  These are the prophets that change the world – the ones who fear God more than the King.

I hear the prophets all around us today – do you?  Beth Moore, Kevin Kelly, Derwin Gray, David Brooks, Mary Demuth, John Jenkins, Jim Mather, Chris Seiple, Tim Scott, Lecrae, Rich Nathan, Leonard Sweet, Brian Zahnd, Eddie Leo, Gabe Lyons, Ed Stetzer, Eugene Cho, Oscar Muriu, David Devonish . . . and I could go on and on and on and on.  They are with us.  No one really wants to be a prophet, at least not a real one.  You go through a lot of trials.  Your own tribe judges you harshly.  It’s not going to make you popular, if anything just the opposite.  The majority of the prophetic ministry is aimed not outside your tribe but inside it!  A prophet lives for eternity and truth.  A prophet isn’t looking for reward or recognition in this life.  A prophet has to have incredible strength and endurance and resilience when they get knocked down and trashed by others.  Prophets aren’t necessarily mean and harsh, they are just used to getting hit a lot!  We should all strive to be “happy” prophets.

Prophets speak about truth and injustice and how nations are treating others.  They see the big picture.  It’s always been fascinating to me that Matthew 25 is the judgment of NATIONS!  People are gathered as and by nations. This is profound.  God loves nations.  God has established nations.  Nations are not done away with throughout eternity.  God wants his will on earth to be done today and here are a few metrics he will hold all nations and all people accountable for.  Nations will be judged by God, and notice, according to Jesus, what they are judged on . . feeding, giving water, refugees, clothing, how we treat prisoners, health, how you treat “the least.”    These are the literal words of Jesus.  We can’t ignore them, soften them, spin them, side step them.  Morality and character and integrity have always been things that prophets have spoken to but now Jesus shows the fruit of real character, integrity, and morality.   These things cannot be ignored.  People can be very moral externally but unloving.  You are going to care about these things because you radically love all people just like Jesus.  Therefore, as faith leaders, if we would practice prophetic ministry and spare our nations God’s judgement, then these are the issues that we must be speaking to.  Thus today, as faith leaders have in the past, we must have a prophetic ministry. 

Matthew 25:31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I teach our young pastors that there are two reasons you stand before a King or leader.  The first reason is that you know someone.  The second is that you have earned credibility from your work and service to others and the King wants to see you.  Those are two very, very different meetings.  The first is a hand shake, a picture, a few statements of niceness.  The second, is a conversation filled with questions and a search for understanding.  I’ve learned it’s better to not meet a King at all than meet a King with a pundit.  You will forever be labeled by that King by how you met them.   Not only the King, but the company you are with before the King labels you by others as well. 

The goal of the prophet is not to win the favor of the King but to speak on behalf of God and truth.  Obviously there is no point in being antagonistic to a king.  When God opens the door, challenge them – but not in a mean and hateful way – rather, in an affirming and hopeful way.  Smile a lot.  Use laugher and self-deprication.  It goes a long way and may help you keep your head a little longer!  Pray for them, know all you can about them, be respectful and never underestimate why God might have you in front of a King.  I’ve been in situations where I wound up talking about my faith and what it means to follow Jesus that NOT IN A MILLION YEARS would I ever have expected.  I remember the first time someone labeled by the world as “significant” began to ask me about Jesus, what I believed about him, and what the cross was such a big deal.  I’ll never forget another leader asking me, “Why do you evangelicals believe we are the anti-Christ.”  Oohhh, the stupid, stupid, things we say that hinders the gospel.  That one took me a couple of hours. 

When I’ve stood before leaders, and I have young leaders with me – which I often do because I’m always mentoring – I have to talk to them about how to enter a room.  When to speak and when to be silent.  I tell them we aren’t tourist so don’t ask for pictures.  If they want a picture we will oblige, but don’t ask.  I tell them when we eat a meal with a leader, it’s not about the meal – don’t focus on the food, focus on the leader and listen to what is said and what is not said and how it’s said.  I could go on and on and on.  I’ve become friends with leaders by keeping confidences, saying little, challenging privately – and sometimes only when absolutely necessary, publicly.

Prophetic leadership challenges wrongs and promotes right.  The danger of being too public with a public figure is when they do wrong, and you remain silent – you loose your own credibility.  The quieter you are publicly about your relationships, the more you will have, as well as far more latitude to operate in.  No leader wants to be a sermon illustration, a photo opp, or news story.  Kings and Presidents come and go, truth remains and God is eternal. 

By the way, these principles are not just good for Kings & President but for how you treat everyone, and also how you want to be treated. 

Religious Leaders as Pundits

[THIS IS THE FIRST POST OF A BLOG SERIES ON RELIGION & GOVERNMENT BY BOB ROBERTS]

George Washington had a personal faith in God.  Daily he read the Bible and prayed.  He served at his church.  He didn’t talk a lot publicly about his faith, but neither was he silent.  He encouraged his men to worship and to be moral. 

Thomas Jefferson was a Deist.  Washington according to Chernow, he was very careful with religious figures publicly, perhaps because he never wanted to be seen as using religion as a means of gaining power or pandering to people for votes based on religion. 

He, as did all our early presidents (and even later ones), believed in separation of church and state but also believed the church should influence the country for good, morally.  He also believed in religious freedom and went out of his way to make sure the Jews in America felt welcomed. 

In Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin believed in religious freedom so much that he built a pulpit so that even “if the Grand Mufti of Constantinople wanted to preach here, he could.”  In a healthy democracy, you need both religious freedom and separation of church and state to complement one another.  You don’t have one without the other. 

I see three roles religious leaders can play today that impact our nation and the gospel, the first is the PREACHER/FAITH LEADER AS PUNDIT

Historically, since the 1980s, we’ve seen an especially vigorous and overt wedding between religion and government. Before that, there was civil religion, deeply influenced by Protestantism, and politicians and leaders felt free to invoke God’s name and seek the prayers of Americans.  It was a generic religion that was found in the public square, and no particular faith tried to dominate that public square. But beginning in the 1980s, with rise of Jerry Falwell and the religious right, this changed. I was one of those young evangelicals that was glad about it – at first.  He called his movement the moral majority, and he sought to impose his particular religious values on the whole nation.  He became what I call a pundit.

When pastors and religious leaders become pundits—people who try to influence government to promote their particular religious values—they easily become corrupted by the pursuit of political power.  It starts to become more important that morality, character, and even theology.  Policies are promoted by pundits with talking points no longer looking at all sides of an issue.  You have to use Scripture and questionable hermeneutics and invoke the name of God at every turn to justify your politics.  Even though this approach was started by the religious right, I see people on the religious left doing this as well.

You wind up with all kinds of crazy rationalizations about the leader or party and why she/he/they must be supported at all costs.  I’ve heard pastors actually use Romans 13 as a basis for supporting political leaders, but that passage isn’t carte blanche, meaning there are still some moments when we have to disobey leaders.But Christians did not, for instance say Caesar was Lord and perform an act of worship to him. That refusal cost many early believers their lives.  

There would have never been a Martin Luther or a Reformation with that kind of hermenuetic.  There would never have been a United States of America with that kind of hermeneutic – we should have simply done whatever King George wanted.  They definitely disobeyed the King.  What about the prophets in the Old Testament challenging the Kings?  

There is something very significant about America: we aren’t governed by kings but by our constitution.  Politicians, the military, judges and law enforcement officials all swear allegiance to a constitution – not a person.  It is “WE THE PEOPLE” who govern together with all three branches of government.  NEVER in the history of humanity has a nation been built upon ideas like the United States.  What a tragedy to try to be like all the other nations and call for king or to give our president powers like a king, including unquestioned fealty. Israel tried to have a leader like that, and it didn’t work out so well.  Pray for your presidents, support them in every way possible, but be a responsible citizen of first God’s Kingdom. 

I have always prayed for every president and supported each in every area I could.  Less than half the time of my voting career have the presidents been people I voted for, but I prayed for them the same.  I hate this mutual hatred of political parties and how the church is now swallowed up in that. Guess what church:  not all Democrats are liberal, immoral, and demon possessed, and not all Republicans are mean, hard core, unloving, racist people!   For the follower of Jesus the Kingdom of Jesus must come first and political parties must not be allowed to divide us into voting blocks, or we wil have lost our Gospel and will cease to be salt and light.    

Part of President Trump’s appeal to evangelical pastors, particularly mega-church pastors, is granting them freedom to endorse candidates from the pulpit.  I’m sad about that – because it’s just another way to divide churches and body of Christ. I want Jesus loving Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Independents in the church I pastor.   I have my own views politically, but the reality is that we live and as pastors lead for the Kingdom of God more than any other earthly kingdom.  We already have a King–King Jesus. 

 Pundits love the lime light and photo ops.  I’ve heard this story from two different long-time friends and relatives of Billy Graham.  The first President that Billy Graham met with was President Truman once, and when the meeting was over some reporters asked him to pose praying in front of the White House, so he did.  When he saw the picture in the paper, he realized how bad it looked.  He later found out Truman didn’t like it at all, and felt like the young evangelist was using him.  Graham realized his mistake and from then on, when he went to the White House, he went in the back door and out the back door, and he didn’t tell other people about it unless the president first said something.  You can’t be a pundit and be humble and a servant. 

 The truth is the President needs pastors and faith leaders around him, but not pundits – they already have a lot of those.  Neither can a pundit always be quiet and save what he has to say for the backroom—otherwise, the the pastor will be seen to be endorsing wrong behavior or values.  Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, . . . . all provide models of how to relate to a king or leader . . . but that’s the next blog.  

 

Players, Lovers, & Learners by Nic Burleson

In this blog, Pastor Nic Burleson shares three really big lessons Timber Ridge Church has learned through global engagement in Vietnam.  This is what can happen to you and your church with intentional and ongoing investment in the world.

We started Timber Ridge back in 2011 and from the very beginning our church has been involved in global engagement, specifically in Vietnam. We’ve mobilized people from our local community to serve in various domains, such as education, medicine & agriculture. Along the way, we’ve learned some great lessons that have been a huge benefit to us as a church. Here are the top 3 takeaways we’ve learned as we’ve engaged globally:

#1: Everyone has a seat at the table. 

When a church releases its members to use their careers, jobs & education through the domains of society, it’s a game changer. This means that ministry and global engagement are no longer the sole responsibility of vocational pastors or missionaries, but that every person in the church has skills and knowledge that can be used to impact and serve others in the world. Through engaging in domains as we serve in Vietnam, the people of our church have realized that everyone can be used in God’s Kingdom to make an impact simply by using the trades, skills & vocations God has given them. That means that everyone in the church has a seat at the table when it comes to working toward good in our world and impact in our community.

#2: Love has no borders.

Our world is divided in so many ways. Borders. Languages. Religions. Political ideologies. One thing that transcends every border and every language is the outward practice of truly loving others. When we started to work in the mountains of north Vietnam, one of our biggest concerns were how we would make an impact with the existing language barrier. But we quickly realized that love is a language all its own. As we have learned to serve others and genuinely love people who are different from us – but no less created in the beauty and image of God – we’ve seen that love isn’t confined by borders or boundaries. And that’s not only impacted how our church serves globally, but has affected how we serve and love our own local community as well.

#3: There are lessons to be learned.

Far too many times, it seems that the only posture the Western Church has taken in regards to the rest of the world is the posture of teacher. But what we’ve experienced at Timber Ridge is that there are countless lessons to be learned from our friends all around the world if we’ll simply take the posture of the learner. One of the things that our church has become known for is hospitality. We didn’t discover that on our own. We learned it from our friends in Vietnam. The Vietnamese people are some of the most welcoming, hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. And as we learned what it meant to truly welcome and embrace strangers and guests, it’s had a huge impact on the culture and influence our church has had in our local community.

Global engagement isn’t a good idea or program for the church. It’s what Jesus has called his disciples to do. And as we engage globally, not only do we show and share the gospel of the Kingdom of God, we grow in that gospel as well. So get out there…it’s a beautiful world that we get to learn from!

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!