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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.

NOT BETTER … DIFFERENT by Kevin Cox

My wife, Kathy, and I have had the privilege of starting two churches. The first was in the Seattle area. With no assessment, no training, no coaching, and a little funding, we did the only thing we knew to do: knock on doors and send out mailers.  Unbelievably, it worked! We launched with a solid attendance, especially for the Pacific Northwest. We grew in spite of me and my lack of leadership skills. After 9 ½ years we had developed a reputation for loving on the children of our community. However, as I look back so many of our leadership conversations centered around how we could make the Sunday morning experience “better.” The prevailing thought for us, and for most churches in the early 2000’s was, “If we can just make Sunday morning better, people will want to attend.” And truthfully, for many churches, this mode of thinking bore fruit. We sought better performances on stage from the band. Better facilities. Better sermons. Better lighting. Better projectors and screens. Better children’s ministry. We were so worried about making Sunday morning better, mainly to keep up with the church down the street that was making their Sunday morning experience better, that we had forgotten the mission of Jesus to go make disciples capable of changing the world. The Father in his grace blessed our effort, but something seemed amiss.

After our tenure was over in Seattle, I vividly remember driving over the Cascade Mountains with our four kids in tow and turning to Kathy and saying, “We are going to do it differently this time.” I had no idea then the depth of that statement. We started Vista Church with a less than stellar grand opening. In fact, in the eyes of the church planting world it was horrendous. But in our eyes, that was irrelevant. “Butts in the seats” was not our primary goal…the kingdom of God was. We were not starting a better church in our new community. We were starting a different kind of church and the last 10 years have been the ride of our lives! What does this ‘different’ kind of church look like?

There are six characteristics that stand out:

1. Disproportionate influence

We do not ask the question, “How is my church?” Instead, we ask the question, “How is my city?” Since we desire to see our cities blessed, we often collaborate with city leaders and organizations leading to influence in our cities that far exceeds the size of our churches.

2. Start churches for the world

When you start with the world in mind, your church plant will be shaped by the world. And, when you start your church for the world, you will view your church plant as a sending base that affects the world rather than an isolated congregation in a single community.

3. New DNA 

Kingdom, Disciple, Society, Church (KDSC). Cut us and this is what we bleed. This is FAMILY DNA. Like a magnet, this DNA draws church planters and the Family is growing!

4. Public Square

As Paul engaged the city of Athens, we teach church planters how to engage kings, world leaders, city leaders, philosophers, business people and influencers by speaking ‘one message’ both publicly and privately.

5. Multiethnic

Jesus said, “…on earth as it is in heaven.” If we believe that all ethnicities inhabit heaven, then why should the church not look like that now? If we want to have a voice in the racial division of our country, the multiethnic church is the key.

6. Multifaith

Rather than denigrating other religions, we intentionally seek to befriend them for the purpose of building bridges of peace. Unlike the interfaith efforts of the past where “all roads lead to heaven” was the underlying premise, we have honest conversation based on the fact that we disagree theologically but the best of our religions compels us to work together for the betterment of our cities.

As I write this, I am about to participate in day 2 of a pastor/imam retreat in Ft. Worth, TX where we will make plans for our congregations to work together on a project that serves ‘the least’ in our respective cities. Last week I attended Family Gathering where we challenged our Family with a vision for planting 32 GlocalNet church planting centers around the United States and Canada in the next 10 years. I also received a text from the head football coach at our local high school if I would be willing to lead his team in a devotion before their first playoff game this week. This the different church we envisioned. Do we want to offer our best on Sunday mornings? You bet! But we want to offer our best on Sunday mornings to inspire and equip people for ministry. That’s different. If you are looking to plant a different kind of church, then check us out at www.releaseinitiative.com. We would love for you to be a part of the family! It will be the ride of your life!

Leadership From the Inside Out

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life – Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

Leadership has been a topic discussed since the beginning of time. We humans intuitively know that everything rises and falls on leadership. Yet, we live in extraordinary times where the turn of the millennium has brought the realization that we need a new kind of leader to help navigate us through a new world. We have never been here before, therefore a different paradigm of leadership is required. We need leaders that can innovate and create–that can adapt to changing environments. However, all the special gifts and skills needed are still informed and directed by what lies inside a leader. At the core of this leadership issue must be the awareness that the business of leadership starts and ends at the heart level. The soul of a leaders determines the direction and the course of life no matter the context. Techniques, skills and natural talents are not enough to create a society that flourishes. Extraordinary leaders are those who transcend the work at hand and create change not only in the material world but leave behind people who are changed by their character and ethics for the better.  They leave themselves in others.  Here are 4 characteristics that define extraordinary leaders.

Extraordinary leaders are reflective leaders. These leaders listen carefully to others to understand before trying to be understood. They refuse to pass quick judgement or make hasty decisions without considering the impact it will have on others. They don’t sacrifice great and deliberate decision on the altar of immediacy. Reflective leaders take responsibility for their decision and don’t spend their time blaming everybody else for their lack of progress or mistakes. They always plan time, days and even seasons of reflection. Their lives are not  reactive but proactive.

Extraordinary leaders are present in the moment. These leaders are always in the present now with you. They don’t have shifty eyes always thinking about themselves or something else while you talk. They make you feel like you are the most important person at that moment. They focus on you and make you feel listened to. They are so secure in who they are and are quite content in their personhood that criticism or flattery does not move them. They exude kindness and friendliness to everyone.

Extraordinary leaders are authentic. These leaders are very honest about themselves and their deficiencies. They are people of integrity; or wholeness. They celebrate their imperfections in the context of needing others. They understand that our deficiencies are simply an invitation to participate in our collective humanity to create a better world together. Authentic leaders are really happy in their skins and celebrate other’s gifts and success. They are mostly called real when you meet them. People feel comfortable and at peace in their presence.

Extraordinary leaders live from a higher calling. These leaders live above just the mundane acts or doing. They are driven by a higher calling than just making money of having the biggest church or wanting to make a name for themselves. There is a sense of deep abiding rest in the midst of the work. They are not workaholics, yet they work hard.  They know when to play and are at peace in the times of rest and play. These leaders live from a sense of calling not competition. Usually, their vision transcends time and space knowing they are here for a season and they are simply playing a small part in the story of humanity. They prefer to leave a legacy and not just make history.

The displacement of jobs is upon us as machines take over many of the high skilled knowledge base jobs. The need for extraordinary leaders will be in high demand because machines are not reflective, are not present in the now, are definitely not authentic and have no sense of a higher calling. Their souls are animated by a power cord with a 220v plug. They will never be like like human being who are created in the image of God and whose souls are animated by the spirit of God. This new world of great advances in every domain of society has created a demand for extraordinary leaders who are built from the inside out.

A Disruptive Agent of Refuge & Hope

It’s time to move beyond the hatred, divisiveness, labels and polarization that became the norm during the US election cycle. We were never destined to find our identity or a savior in a candidate or political party and we’re not called to find those things in our president or this current administration now. Some are still mourning while others are continuing to defend and gloat.

We must move on and get to the work we’ve been called to.  Our work and calling is not building an empire or personal kingdom in this world by aligning with a political party or worldly ideology, neither is it to condemn and curse this world and hide until Jesus returns.  We are here to be a disruptive agent, a refuge and a relevant hope.

As a disruptive agent we should be decisively and glaringly counter-cultural. To be counter-cultural at its roots means to love and care where our culture hates and demonizes. It means running towards those who the majority says to reject. It means drawing attention to unjust laws, practices and systems that advantage some while disenfranchising others. It means giving voice and value to those who have been silenced and dehumanized. It also means confronting and speaking to power on behalf of those who lack the know-how and access to do so. In doing these things we begin to look and act like a 21st century Jesus.

As a refuge and relevant hope, we’re embracing the reality we’re not here for ourselves but we are here for others.  Jesus said the greatest among us must be a servant (Matthew 23:11). We have to embrace a world-view that says, “I am here at this point in time to have my gifts and passions employed by the King of Kings, not a natural king.”  For the entrepreneur that means moving towards social entrepreneurship where sustainable enterprise is imagined and created not simply to make money but to reach and transform lives and communities. One example is Becca Stevens and Thistle Farms, who among other things makes natural bath and body products while training, employing and providing housing for a staff which is comprised of women who are former inmates, drug addicts and sex-trafficking victims.  For the executive, social-worker, dentist, medical professional, teacher, chef etc., being a refuge and relevant hope means no longer seeing our skills and professions solely and simply as a way to make money, but seeing them as a way to serve others and meet needs through volunteerism and community service.

Being a disruptive agent, refuge and relevant hope means churches must be reimagined.  The Church can no longer exist simply as the place to gather a couple of times a week for the purpose of helping us get through the week.  The Church must become the missionary.  The Church can no longer be the place that exists primarily or exclusively to gather in community and celebration of Christ’s work in “us” but we must be the place where people are trained, equipped and mobilized to engage the culture and society in which they live. The Church must realize its role as the agent and ambassador existing to embrace the most vulnerable and challenge the most powerful on behalf of the King. The Church must release disciples into society rather than existing as a place to hide from society. Throughout history the church has not primarily been just a different kind of place but a different kind of people. May we realize that call and mission now more than ever.

 

 

Hear more from Pastor Kevin Brown at this year’s GlocalNet Family Gathering.

 

 

 

Leadership That Engages The World

People always want to know “how’ to do city engagement and global engagement. I get it. Folks want to know the steps to take to do what’s in their heart to do or to replicate something they have witnessed in others. 

Bob Roberts said it best a few days ago in a blog he wrote when he said, “Everyone wants a five-step plan to engage the nations.  I resist doing it that way.  Detailed plans and programs may initialize some good stuff, but they get in the way of the awesome and radical work that God really wants to do.” – Bob Roberts

It’s difficult to capture in a “how to” manual what God has done through Three Rivers Church in our city and the world.  What I have been able to capture are some principles of leadership for the person who wants to engage their city and their world.  I’d like to share three principles with you that have been a great help to me in our local and global work. 

First, the leader has to be restless over sin and its effects on people and created order.

If the only thing that moves a person is the potential to do something significant, they will fail when hard times come. In other words, we can’t seek to engage simply because we want significance. What has to move a leader is the effects of sin on people and in creation.

Our church started and leads Global Impact, an NGO that works in our town and in some hard places around the world. Locally, we have worked for years with the local and state government in foster care and adoption. That work has led to the city of Rome partnering with us to help alleviate this crisis by giving us one of it’s elementary schools to operate in as a hub for foster care and adoption services. We don’t own a building to meet in as a church, but the city has given us an entire elementary school to operate our NGO out of. How did that happen? A desire to do something significant? No.

By God’s providential grace, I heard a statistic about our town regarding the number of kids in foster care. Our little northwest Georgia county rivaled metro Atlanta counties in number of kids in the care of the state. At the time, we had over 500 children in our county in care with less than 10 approved homes to keep them in. That meant that the great majority of our babies, and teens and children we being shipped all over the state of Georgia to temporary beds until they could be placed permanently or reunified with biological parents. That is crazy traumatic. Can you imagine a child being taken overnight from their home, school and familiarity to some place totally unfamiliar?

I began to make this information known, began recruiting foster parents and adoptive parents, and soon I found myself appointed by our city to the Department of Family and Children Services Board of Directors for Rome/Floyd County (I continue to serve that Board as the Chairman for Rome/Floyd County). 

Then the unthinkable happened…The Spirit spoke James 1:27 to me personally. “Don’t call yourself mine when you don’t obey my word.” Our passion led to our personal involvement. Long, complicated and hard story short — our third child was fostered and adopted out of the neighborhood that our elementary school is located in. We had to get our skin in the game. It’s one thing to talk about engagement. It’s another thing to get in at the hard level.

All of this led to many years of blood, sweat and tears and then success. The job is not done, we are only beginning to be super effective 10 years into the work, but it started by being bothered by the problem and then moved to action.

So, what is a challenge you need to address personally? Get after it, and watch God do his work with you as an instrument and ambassador.

Next, the leader has to set the example in domain engagement.

I recognize that this point represents somewhat of a paradigm shift for many thinking about ministry and pastoring and church planting. Since the church is not a domain of society, but rather should be manifest in every domain of society as the gospel of the kingdom makes disciples, should the leader not lead in domain engagement?

Our strategy dictated that our pastors work jobs. I am an educator. I love teaching. Three Rivers Church is 15 years old. I taught for 10 of those years. In my profession, I had the honor of teaching foster kids and adoptive kids. I learned about the effects of trauma on a child’s ability to learn. I learned how to adjust to those kid’s learning styles. I learned that great work needs to be done in education, law enforcement and medicine to learn how to serve children who have been traumatized. Those guys simply don’t learn the same way, respond to stimulus the same way or receive correction the same way. These things radically shaped the manifestation of our church and has made us lean and effective in our town and around the world. I now am “full-time” in our church, but the growth and reputation for such a ministry was pounded out by working in my domain.

There are many implications here, but what I’m saying is that we have to lead by example. Our leadership has to be more than words. If we will do these simple things, it’s astounding what the Lord will do with that sacrifice. He takes little and makes much with it. Focus on being a change agent, and the Lord will work that into city and global significance.

Finally, we have to be and do what God puts in front of us and be satisfied with it.

Honest and gut level truth: I find myself looking at what Bob gets to do and wonder what I’m doing wrong. Bob is in nice suits, meeting with well-educated people, hanging with prominent folks, changing the world. I find myself in the back of diesel Toyotas in a war zones (with no planning for this on my own simply what got handed to me trying to survive and getting in the first cab that looked like it didn’t want to kill me) with a pastor who is asking me what I do and if I can help him, in tents in the African bush dodging black mambas and hail storms and witch doctors and overt demonic attacks, altitude sick at 17k feet with no shred of civilization in sight and nothing but a Buddhist temple and a squatty potty for relief. I have health challenges that will be with me forever due to some of the places I’ve been and results of the work. What did I do wrong? Is Jesus punishing me for that thing I did when I was 15? No.

Seriously though, nothing I find myself doing looks anything like anybody else’s work. I’ve tried to conform, but it won’t happen. I’m the guy who gets to be sick, nearly die and live to tell about it, and see little fruit. You know what? That’s ok. I’m living the dream.

All that to say, don’t try to be someone else. Be who God created you to be, stay hidden if you can, and enjoy the ride he’s created for you to take. Ephesians 2:10 is a great help to me, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

I didn’t get to pick my good works. Jesus prepared them for me, and I get the joy of discovering them and joyfully doing them. I’m thankful for that.

[Mitch Jolly will be sharing even more leadership principles at the GlocalNet Family Gathering November 8-9]

Going to the World? Do This First!

You can read other blogs about the work Northwood Church does in Vietnam and around the world.  It has been a wild ride the past 22 years and we hope to have fifteen teams serve there next year!   I am often asked by church planters and pastors about the steps to engage a nation.  How do you pick the country? What should I do first? Can you connect me with a leader there?  Who should go on the first trip? 

These are great and important questions but I have another plan of action for you.

Everyone wants a five-step plan to engage the nations.  I resist doing it that way.  Detailed plans and programs may initialize some good stuff, but they get in the way of the awesome and radical work that God really wants to do.  So, for what it’s worth, here’s my plan of action:

  1. Start the day on your knees with God’s Word and don’t get up until you sense God’s presence and you’ve heard from Him.
  2. Tell God whatever He chooses to do with you, you’re okay with it.
  3. View every event as something God has divinely put before you.
  4. Seize the opportunity that no one else has or would do.  Chances are it will come in a phone call, a chance encounter, or some crazy idea that is lodged in your head.
  5. Watch God put stuff together.

That’s just the beginning, but it’s the crucial beginning!  I’ve written much more about this in my book Glocalization–How Followers of Jesus Engage the World in hopes it will help the Body of Christ engage their community and the world. 

GlocalNet Gathering – You’re Invited!

From NorthWood Church and GlocalNet, over 200 churches have been planted.  If you count in other ministries that have been birthed and leaders that have been equipped and sent, we couldn’t begin to count the number of people that are out there walking around with Glocal DNA.  After that,  you could try to count the churches, ministries and disciples that have come from each of those churches and leaders and it just becomes exponential.  It’s quite a big family!

In a little over a month, we are calling the family to come together.  We want to hear the stories of what God is doing around the world. We want to learn about the hard fought victories, the miraculous catches of fish, and the heart-wrenching defeats of these adventures.  We want to think deeply and creatively about loving God and loving people. We want to gather to worship God with great passion. We want to pray together believing for one another. We want to encourage and fuel each other for the next season. We want to hear loving truth and guidance from God. We want to courageously obey Him, together.  As you can see, we’re expecting so, so much from this little family gathering.

So, if you are part of the family, a part of the extended family or a friend of the family…..YOU’RE INVITED! If you are looking for a family, you feel alone, you need some brothers and sisters, YOU”RE INVITED!  If you are looking for a paradigm shift or a change of wineskins…..YOU’RE INVITED!  If you just want to get to know some great people and learn some cool stuff….Yep, we welcome you, as well.  We’d love to see you.  Sign up below!

Click on the 2017 GlocalNet Family Gathering banner below to get more details and to register.