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American Peace Caravan

October 24-26 — Rabat, Morocco

In a world that thrives on conflict, offense and outrage, a few people are still fighting for peace, trust and faith.  This was the case in Rabat, Morocco October 24-26, 2017. The American Peace Caravan—Faith, Trust and the Common Good brought together leaders from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions to not only talk about peace but to work on peace. 

Twenty cities were represented in Morocco by their religious leaders who spent the three days working on exercises and experiences designed to cultivate relationships. These relationships will be multiplied back in the United States as each city convenes ten more leaders of each faith tradition to foster conversations, understanding and common good. Meals will be shared. Congregations will come together. Friendships will be built. All for the cause of peace.

Here are some of the photos from the week. 

GlocalNet Multi Faith Retreat in Detroit

The Lodge is a retreat center nestled among beautiful pine trees. It sits right on the edge of Lake Huron in Detroit, Michigan. It is in this setting that a group of Pastors and Imams met to build relationships that were real, transparent and forward thinking.

Over two days, these faith leaders heard each other’s stories, discussed their irreconcilable differences, and asked hard questions of each other. They also ate together, sat around a campfire and created moments of inspiration, “aha” moments and lots of laughter. The leaders arrived with suspicions and some trepidation as to what would happen but left as friends. 

GlocalNet Multi Faith Retreats are catalysts for relationships that leads to action. There are 5 objectives that move the conversation from words to intentional actions steps. Each faith leader worked on a strategic plan together which includes family meals, bringing their constituencies together for an event, working on projects for the good of the city, standing up for each other and bringing other leaders along on this peacemaking  journey.

It is simply amazing what happens when we sit across from each other face to face and seek to understand the other. Everything changes! One Imam stopped me during the retreat and said, “Omar, we have no choice but to do these things. The alternative is not good.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” The key word is maker. Jesus did not say peace-keepers. Peace-making takes sacrifice, intentionality and giving up focused time to building these relationships.  There’s no doubt that the leaders gathered in Detroit this week are peacemakers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

LESSONS FROM 9-11

Here we are in the middle or unprecedented hurricanes, earthquakes, nuclear threats, epidemics, & if that isn’t enough Elon Musk is predicting WWIII but not because of North Korea but because of artificial intelligence.  I can promise you, in the next 5 years, some really good stuff is going to happen and some really bad stuff is going to happen.  We all want the good stuff right?  Right.  But here’s the deal . . . and some of what I learned from 9-11.

 

You don’t get the good stuff without the bad stuff

9-11 was bad.  It was horrible, shook us to our core, made us recognize our own vulnerability.  I know right where I was when it happened.  Ti had just come to live with our family as an exchange student.  Because of our work in Vietnam and our ability to work with governments and domains I immediately got invitations to go to the world – but I kept refusing.  Without 9-11, I never would have come to know Muslims as I do.  Without 9-11 I doubt I’d be working with world leaders like I do.  Without 9-11, I never would have understood or experienced the world at a deep level.  Without 9-11, I never would have worked with other religions.  Without 9-11 my theology would be shallow because I was used to answering “church” questions from Christians not “hard” questions for people of other religions.

 

God uses the least likely people to do his will

I’m often referred to an expert from many people on Islam and Muslims.  I am not.  The experts know I am not.  I laugh about it.  For me working with the Communist of Vietnam was hard enough.  At least they were atheist – no competing version of God.  I think God uses us because we are open to anything, don’t live by old boundaries and rules, and we believe anything is possible.  We also keep learning because we know that we know so little.  Curiosity drives the unpretentious to ask questions, explore things, and put things together – in unexpected ways.  God also gets the glory because the novice knows they really are not gifted!

 

You will become friends with people who you thought were enemies

I was afraid of Muslims.  I believed anything bad anyone said about Islam or Muslims.  It was because I didn’t know any other Muslims and the media I listened to only focused on the crazy ones.  Then something happened – I went to Afghanistan and began to work with the people and with rare exceptions they were all Muslims.  I didn’t just work with any Muslims but the imams – some who had been trained by Mullah Omar.  I came to know them.  We laughed, prayed, shared sad and happy stories, and became friends.  No, we didn’t agree on everything but we respected each other.  I’m friends with many of them to this day.

 

Your best successes can be things you didn’t even know existed or planned on

I was going to grow up and be a global evangelist.  I pictured myself being Billy Graham when I was a young teen-ager.  I knew church work, but not peace-building.  I knew preaching to Christians with a few lost and backslidden Baptists, but I never dreamed I’d share at Muslim events with tens of thousands where I’d be the only Christian.  I wanted to live “on fire” for God, that was our language.  I came to be obsessed with loving God and other people with love, not fire, driving me.  Fire is about religious zeal – any person of any religion can do that.  Love is about relationship – with God and others.  To be a follower of Jesus, loving in the extreme is the radical, reckless way – demanded the Holy Spirit.  You had to first overcome your fear or you would never have a conversation.  I’m all over the U.S. and the world, often the only Christian being friends with people not of my faith. 

I was with a world leader of a particular nation not long ago who’s very close to the head of his country.  This man is very successful – a Christian but not of my tribe and he loves Jesus.  He’s very successful in so many ways.  I asked him, “Tell me, of all that you’ve done, what are you most proud of?”  “Bob, that’s easy.  I’m proudest of the fact that I have been born and live in a Muslim majority nation and as a Christian I am one of very few that God has placed to represent Jesus to my friends and family here.”  Spoken like a true follower of Jesus!  “Keep learning my friends”  from the most exciting man in the world!   

 


WANT TO HEAR MORE FROM BOB ROBERTS?  CONSIDER ATTENDING THE GLOCALNET FAMILY GATHERING. CLICK HERE FOR MORE.


 

GlocalNet Family Gathering – Nov. 8-9

Join us for an amazing time of worship, inspiration and learning at the 2017 GlocalNet Family Gathering.  If you are a part of the family, a friend of the family or just curious about what our family is all about, you are invited to come be a part of this experience.

 

 

WHEN                 November 8-9, 2017

WHERE              NorthWood Church — 1870 Rufe Snow Drive, Keller, Texas 76248

SCHEDULE      Begins at 8:30 AM Wednesday the 8th & ends at 4:30 PM Thursday the 9th

WORSHIP         We will be led in worship by a Multi-ethnic, multi-church team.

COST                   $49

** Special Hotel Pricing at Holiday Inn Express & Suites DFW West – Hurst, Texas 820 Thousand Oaks Dr, Hurst, TX 76054 (817) 427-1818

 

PRESENTERS

  • Bob Roberts — NorthWood Church & GlocalNet
  • Omar Reyes — NorthWood Church & GlocalNet
  • Kevin Brown — The Perfecting Church, PA
  • Kevin Cox — Vista Church, TX
  • Mitch Jolly — Three Rivers Church, GA
  • Nic Burleson — Timber Ridge Church, TX
  • Steve Bezner — Houston Northwest Church, TX
  • And other special guests….

 

SESSIONS & BREAKOUTS

  • Multi-Faith
  • Multi-Ethnic
  • Multiplication
  • Multi-Domain
  • Multi-Nation
  • Multi-Dimensional
  • The Multiple Aspects of the Public Square

 

R E G I S T E R   H E R E

 

LEADERSHIP BY OBEDIENCE

Most of my ministry I have lead by vision. We are headed somewhere. There is a future destination, a mission, a goal. It’s about accomplishing something great for God that we all do together. It’s hard, but it’s fun. Everybody gets excited about it.

We’re going to start a church. We’re going to engage a nation. We’re going to bless our city. We’re going to multiply churches. We’re going to reach out to a new people group. We’re going to make disciples. We start doing it, small successes turn into big successes. Everyone starts talking about it, everyone celebrates it, everyone wants to mimic it – you even wind up going to tell others how they can also “do it.”

This isn’t bad – it’s good. Without a sense of shared commitment and enthusiasm and excitement you aren’t going to start or accomplish anything. People have a shared sense of destiny programmed in them from God to make the world a better place. Innate within every follower of Jesus is a bent to glorify God and exalt him.

The biggest challenge to the leadership in this form of leadership is egotism, arrogance, and self-centeredness. You have to resist the temptation to believe your own press and what others say about you. Deep down we all know who we are, but in our desire to be more than we are – humanly speaking – we can succumb to glorifying ourselves.

The past six years, I’ve discovered another form of leadership – I call it leadership by obedience. It’s not something you seek or even want. It’s hard. It isn’t something new, it’s something as old as creation. It doesn’t start with a dream of what can be but is the gradual realization that something is wrong, we’ve somehow gotten off the path. Everything is going great, everyone is excited – and now, maybe after a long busy work, you slow down enough to think and reflect. Is this the way it’s supposed to be?

Leadership by vision is very nuanced and “time sensitive” execution – which doesn’t always allow you to stop and look beyond what you can see with your physical eyes or immediate context.

Last month for two and a half weeks, I was alone in an ancient room in Bethlehem, Palestine. No air conditioning, no TV, just a fan, my Bible and journal – and prayer. It’s been a busy life. Though I start every day in God’s Word, prayer, and personal worship as soon as I’m finished I pick up where I left off the previous day.

Leadership by vision comes by a dream. Leadership by obedience comes from a divine nudge that calls you challenge something that’s wrong. It’s the prophetic role of leadership we don’t really practice that much in American Christianity or understand – me included.

I first experienced it when God convicted me years ago of my fear, disdain, and dislike of Muslims. I had to be reminded from God’s Word that they too were created in the image of God and were sacred as all human beings are. I had to be reminded from the Holy Spirit that God is love and I am to love and he wants me to love them. It required some necessary heart work inside of me personally. I pastor a few thousand people – they have those same negative feelings that I’ve had – how do I bring them over? Not to say I agree with everything Muslims say and do but neither for us to be driven by fear and hate, and thereby not fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. It was a very hard thing to do. So, I eased into the water. There is no map for this. Whereas leadership by vision is very focused and clear leadership by obedience is always in ambiguity. You can only follow the truth of God’s word and the direction of the Holy Spirt.

This isn’t like changing your worship style, leadership structure, or ministries – this is changing culture. Changing culture demands the highest level of leadership because you have to hear God moment by moment and you are going somewhere that you can’t raise money for or fire people up over. “Hey everybody today is going to be awesome – I want you to think of the person you are most fearful of or that you dislike the most and we are going to bless them!” I wasn’t ready for all the attacks I received both from within our church and outside of it.

I experienced it again when God began to speak to me about how me and our church works all over the world, but for the most part our church was anglo. There are over 50,000 non-Anglo’s that live in my area of nearly 500,000 people – do they matter? It’s just 10%, they can come to our church if they want! It took more than that – we began to intentionally and ethnically diversify our church. It was also a very hard thing to do, but the right thing to do. It would have been easy to just let happen what happens, but this was something that would never change on it’s own, it demanded intentionality. Nobody is going to encourage you to address things like this – if anything they’re going to tell you to be careful, change is slow and long, and in time it will change. Don’t believe that lie – change doesn’t happen without intentionality. Neither believe that change doesn’t come without a price. You can have all the action steps and change theory you want in place but know this, change always has a price, especially when you are dealing with cultural change. Sacrificing money is easy compared to what you will have to sacrifice with leadership by obedience.

The biggest challenge of leadership by obedience? It isn’t self-centeredness or glorifying yourself. It’s disillusionment with what you know the truth to be but bald-faced rejection of the people who say they love God giving reasons why we don’t have to love or reach out to others. It’s discouragement – when we speak prophetically we can expect people to get angry and leave us. If you’ve built your entire ministry around God’s blessing is equal to a growing crowd – you’re really going to struggle in this season – I have. It’s hard to see people leave because your expanding the gospel beyond your own “culture” or “tribe” to all people. It’s despair – wanting to give up and quit – it’s just too hard and no one really cares.

But, I’ve also hung in there long enough to see the fruit from “doing the right thing.” I am connected to the world and minorities in ways that I never would have dreamed. It has opened doors that I never would have imagined or knew were even an option. Here’s something else, leadership by obedience is incredibly critical because it sees a future harvest. If things are not put right, there is no future for a loveless discriminating church. Even now, millennials are so turned off by church in America because of the hypocrisy and that will not change anytime soon. No amount of lights, smoke, and celebrity leaders will lead us out of this desert. Things were going so good in Isaiah chapter one, big attendance, fasting, great offerings – but God wasn’t pleased. The corporate nature of sin even in the church eventually catches up with us.

I would also say that leadership by obedience demands a stronger walk with God, a focus more on his Kingdom and the eternal. I’ve learned that the world is reached not because of a pure church but in spite of a flawed church – read Acts & Corinthians. These things are not new. Acts is the story of the church growing, coming up against various prejudices, dealing with them and growing more. In American Christianity we’ve settled for crowds without realizing who isn’t present – as long as someone is present. The result is the church is very tribal, partisan, vs being an entity that embraces and makes space for all wanting to follow Jesus.

This is more about who we “are to be” for God than it is what are “going to do” for God.

Seven lessons I learned in Abu Dhabi

30 Leaders from 10 different cities gathered together in Abu Dhabi early May 2017 for a Multi-Faith event. Every city leadership had representations of the three Abrahamic faith; Christians, Muslim, and Rabbis. The goal is to build bridges of relationships, develop trust and work towards a strategic plan that would bring peace and reconciliation to their cities. They created plans to eat meals together as families; to bring their constituencies together to break down the walls of separation and work together to see the prosperity of their city. They committed to standing up for each other in the face of religious persecution and get involved in global affairs in promoting peace among religions and to speak up against religious persecution worldwide.

This event was a collaborative effort between three organizations; Glocalnet, International Interfaith Peace Corp and the Forum for Peace. Glocalnet led by Dr. Bob Roberts and IIPC led by Imam Magid Mohamed, have been working together for years bringing Pastors and Imams together on a retreat called “Building Bridges of Faith”. This retreat has been designed to break down walls of suspicion, build a foundation of trust and create a pathway to peace and reconciliation in their cities. Forum of Peace led by Sheikh Bin Bayyah a world-renowned Muslim scholar and the United Arab Emirates sponsored this retreat in Abu Dhabi in May 2017 and invited Rabbis to join for the first time. It was a historic event; the first of it’s kind.

The leadership of each city returned with a strategic plan to execute the vision to promote peace and to work together to build stronger and more resilient communities of faith.

These are some lessons I walked away with.

 

  1. Every Religion has peacemakers. Find them and work with them for the common good. These are people of peace who wield massive influence. Influence many times is greater than power, for influence has the ability to move the masses as it frequently affects the heart not only the head.
  2. Love is stronger than hate. The force of love is much more powerful than hate. When religious leaders decide to love all people regardless of their differences and choose love over hate, it changes the environments of our cities and communities.
  3. Generosity is a powerful force. It is not a passive sentiment but a powerful action that moves the heart of others. It puts pressure on the soul of others for good. The leader of this region led by Sheikh Bin Bayyah showed great generosity toward the strangers and visitors and it warmed the heart of all who attended.
  4. If not us, then who? Just because we do not share common beliefs does not mean we do not share a common humanity. Religions of all people carry an ethos of what Rabbi Sacks calls “ethics of responsibility”. We of all people should be the first to put into action love and care for people. The best of our faiths should always move us to love and harmony not hate and wars.
  5. We are all truly created in the image of God. We are all children of Adam and Eve. Our journey through life and religions shapes us. However, if you look beneath the layers of beliefs and philosophies we developed as we have grown from childhood to adulthood, you will find a common humanity. A desire for family, peace, friendship and community. We all desire to be known and loved. We were not created to be alone therefore God made us to remove the aloneness of each other.
  6. Hospitality is a powerful practice. Eating meals together and listening to each other’s story breaks down the walls of suspicion and separation. Eating meals together is not some flippant thing we do. It is the core of what we do. Food creates an environment like no other. It values the other at its very essence as we share each other’s culture.
  7. Laughter brings people together like nothing else. When people laugh with each other it creates a bond. It speaks of a God who has given to us such a precious gift that allows us to forget for a moment, all of our differences and troubles and elevates us to a place that is transcendent. Rabbi Noach Wienbergs says, “Laughter is an opportunity to transcend limitations that bind us to see God more clearly.”

 

There is a need for a grassroots movement that will create friendship among religious leaders of all different faiths. “Dealing with religious actors is the major missing ingredient,” says Pastor Bob Roberts, President of Glocalnet and one of the leading Christian leaders promoting peace among all religions. It is time to capitalize on the extensive ties of faith leaders and develop a grassroots movement that is built on trust and respect for each other and seek to collaborate with our academic, political, and institutional efforts to bring positive change to this world.

 

Blessed are the peacemakers

 

Human relationships are not negotiated; they are reconciled – Robert Seiple

 

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God – Matthew 5:9

 

 

Notice it did not say blessed are the peacekeepers. There is a world of a difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper. A peacemaker works toward reconciliation instead of tolerance. Its goal is transformation versus co-existence.  It deals with the heart and not just the head.

Glocalnet’s vision statement states that we are about reconciliation. The fact that relationships are to be reconciled not negotiated is a profound statement that if properly understood reframes our approach to conflict resolution. This applies to all kinds of relationships and all kinds of conflicts. Only when our goal is reconciliation instead of negotiating a transactional arrangement do we move toward a more sustainable solution. However it does require a different vision, a different set of relational tools and ultimately a desire for transformation; a permanent change of heart not head.

A different vision begins with starting with the end in mind. What is the goal we are looking for? Is it only tolerance or reconciliation; is it to be confined to our church buildings or tribe or are we called to take the message of reconciliation to the hard places of the world? A vision isolated from a hurting world loses its power.

The call of a peacemaker is to take this message of reconciliation into the hardest, darkest, most hurting places and apply the balm of healing to the hearts of people and nations. To disciple the nations it must start with healing. In the book of Luke chapter 10 verse 9 Jesus makes this point when He said, “healing precedes preaching”.

 A different set of relational tools. One of the most important relational skills is the discipline of listening to understand before you try to make yourself understood. Stephen Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People articulated this principle. It’s also called listening with empathy or listening with the heart not the head. When we are in a negotiating mindset our heads lead out with logic and reason. Logic and reason are the wrong tools for emotional pain or past wounds of the heart. Only emotions heal emotions is the rule of the universe. When we sit with others and listen intently to find a way to crawl into their world, they will feel less alone after they’ve met us.

Robert Seiple, a former U.S Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, wrote in his book Ambassadors of Hope “The ultimate sustainable solution to so many of the world’s problem is reconciliation. A permanent change requires a change of heart.”

GLOCALNET’S INCREDIBLE 2016

 

We are off to a strong start for 2017!  We are speaking, training and convening from Washington, D.C., to Hanoi, Vietnam, and even Lahore, Pakistan!  We will be all over the U.S. and the world this year.  We are training government leaders, imams, pastors, mentoring emerging pastors and connecting with religious leaders of other faiths to build bridges.  We are working with governments and government leaders globally defining what it looks like to engage in the public square in a new era.  We are deeply involved in religious freedom issues and religious persecution in some of the harder places of the world.  We are working on racial reconciliation in some very new ways that we’ll be writing about later.  

 

Last year Bob Roberts spoke at many events from church planting conferences, to being invite to being a part of the Marrakesh Declaration with Shaykh Bin Bayyah that protects the rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority nations.  He spoke at churches, mosques, government gatherings, the Newseum and even to 20,000 Muslim young people in Toronto, Canada.  Articles about our work were written in many national newspapers, here in the U.S., the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Dallas Morning News, the Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, Christianity Today, In-Touch Magazine, Christian Post, Huffington Post, and many others.  

 

Glocalnet’s passion is summed up in it’s vision statement. “We relentlessly pursue peace and reconciliation among all peoples in all places for all things.”

 

Here is a brief summary of 2016:

Glocalnet Family of Churches

Glocalnet consist of a family of churches that carry the same DNA and vision to be a light in this world and to engage our cities and the world to be peacemakers and reconcilers. We have 7 churches that gather yearly for community, sharing and learning from each other. We also support each other in living out our three most cherished values which are engaging our local communities, especially among the poor and marginalized, engage hard parts of the world together and help each others establish communities of faith that make a difference both locally and globally. Our goal is to keep increasing the family by developing leaders who buy into Glocalnet’s vision and are committed to living out our three main values.

 

Church Planting & Church Planting Centers

Glocalnet church multiplication is core to our DNA and moves us forward in accomplishing the above vision. It’s going to take a different kind of church to engage the city and world in this 21st century that goes far beyond what the music and worship service is.  We train and equip our churches to multiply communities of faith with the same vision and values. We established 2 church planting centers in local churches in 2016. Our Glocalnet family trained over 40 church planters to go and establish communities of faith that bring about peace and reconciliation both locally and globally. The key to creating and sustaining this movement is multiplication, therefore we are intentional about placing the expectation and the training in every leader of Glocalnet.

 

Multi-Faith Retreats

We have designed a retreat that brings together evangelical pastors and muslim Imams together for three days. These retreats are designed to break down walls of fear and suspicions and get to know each other as humans. The essence of these gatherings is to have transparent and honest conversation with each other about difficult issues. However it does not stop there, these leaders make a commitment to build ongoing relationships with each other and their constituencies and to work together in their cities for the common good and to protect each other from religious persecution.   Glocalnet gathered for two such retreats in 2016. We did one in Phoenix with 12 pastors and 12 imams and one in Washington DC hosted by the Turkish government. These two groups continue to meet quarterly. We see walls of suspicions come down and new relationships formed after these retreats. Our goal is to build upon these relationships and create a network of religious leaders across cities and the nation who will be there to respond in emergency situations.

 

 

Global Collaboration Communities (GCC)

Glocalnet brings together apostolic leaders globally every year to build relationships and to learn from the global church.  In 2016 we met in India hosted by an exceptional leader who has a movement in that country. 20 global leaders came together to build relationship and to learn from each other, share best practices in area of engaging the public square, pluralism and church planting. The takeaways were incredible as we leveraged relationships, knowledge and learning from each other. There were visit to sikh temples, meetings with religious and government leaders to learn about religious freedom issues and how the church can play a role in creating better citizens that help build great nations.

 

Nation & City Engagement

The way churches engage the world is changing radically.  It’s a new world, the whole world is connected.  In the past global and city engagement was about doing religious stuff in a geographical context.  Today, the church must be presently bringing value to a city and nation beyond just a worship service on Sunday.  How we make disciples and engage the domains of society are critical.  That leads to natural conversations about faith and life.  We continue to help churches and people engage through the natural infrastructure of society in places that would be considered difficult for most.  

 

Hosted Mosaic Conference

Glocalnet in partnership with Northwood Church hosted Mosaic’s multi-ethnic conference. About 1200 multi-ethnic leaders from across the nation came to celebrate and champion this vision, and challenge the American Church to get beyond systemic segregation to advance a credible gospel witness in an increasingly diverse and cynical society. To bring peace and reconciliation among the races in our country.

 

So as you can see these are just small glances at the work Glocalnet did in 2016. We are committed to being relentless peacemakers and work tirelessly to move humanity beyond tolerance to reconciliation and celebration of each other.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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