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Discovering The Power Of Praying With People Not Like You

By Bob Roberts, Jr.

I’ve always believed in the power of prayer.  Prayer is a part of my life.  It’s a rare day, and there are rare days, when I don’t begin my day with prayer.  I teach new Northwood Church members and new Christians that it is critical to begin your day with prayer.  Prayer is breath.  Prayer is talking and listening.  Prayer is worship.  For more than 25 years I’ve begun my days journaling what’s going on, good and bad, decisions needing to be made, etc. then I write them in my journal and I read slowly 3 chapters from the Old Testament, 1 from the wisdom literature, and 1 from the New Testament.  Then as I read I write, what I sense God saying to me.  I sing. I reflect.  I worship.  I believe it’s critical to do that first thing because it prepares me for the rest of the day.  I pray throughout the day, I pray before meetings, during meetings, after meetings.  I pray while driving, I pray while talking sometimes – “God guide my words carefully.”  “God be present in this decision give clarity.”  I’m praying non-stop no matter who is there or what is going on and I believe God hears all those prayers.  There are so many dimensions to prayer – it’s bigger than a form, a set time, a moment – it’s a life.

Many years ago when I was in Afghanistan in the desert, I was with my Muslim friends and they would stop and pray.  They would lay out their rugs on the sand, and I waited in the SUV.  But I thought, I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I’m praying.  So I asked them at their next stop would it offend them if I knelt down beside them and prayed as they prayed.   They loved it – and I did to.  It lead us to a whole conversation about what prayer was about and how God guides us in our life.

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The Power of Working with College Students in the World

by Mitch Jolly, Pastor of Three Rivers Community Church, Rome, Georgia

Guest Blogger

College students are a powerful asset in our world. However, it’s possible to overlook the impact they can have while in their college years because of the transient nature of college life and sometimes seeming lack of focus.

Some see college students as older kids who just need to be fed and entertained until they graduate and get a real job. I don’t quite see them that way. I believe they are valuable now, and they need to be engaged in the world now.

The truth is that many college students are ambitiously looking to invest their time and energy all over the world and they are focused when engaged about what makes them passionate. The students I work with don’t want to be entertained. They want to give their lives to something that matters.

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What I’ve Learned by Working in Nigeria

by Kevin Cox,  Pastor, Vista Church

Guest Blogger

December 2008 marked a pivotal moment in the life of our church. A month prior we had held the grand opening of Vista Church and now I was boarding a plane for Abuja, Nigeria on a vision trip to evaluate whether or not we as a church would work in this burgeoning country. Nigeria’s population was exploding. Though rich with natural resources such as oil, there was a significant divide between the ultra-rich and the abject poor. Corruption was pervasive. The countless people groups, languages, religions and cultures fostered a simmering distrust between people. Boko Haram, the al Qaeda affiliate, was in the initial stages of solidifying a foothold in the far northeastern states of Nigeria. It was into this “powder keg” of an environment that Jesus said to us “go.”

Over the next seven years we took eight trips to Nigeria. We worked with and alongside of the Yoruba Christians, the Hausa Muslims and the Fulani Muslims. We took teams of teachers, nurses, doctors, pastors, small business owners and “handymen” with us to work in their respective domains of society. Reflecting back now I believe that we learned and received more from Nigeria than Nigeria learned or received from us. We are a better church because of our engagement in Nigeria. Here are some of the valuable and lasting lessons that I’ve learned by working in Nigeria:

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“I Can’t Believe I’m Talking to You”

by Kevin Brown, Pastor, The Perfecting Church

Guest Blogger

In a world overwhelmed by hatred and conflict, it was refreshing to gather in Elkins Park, PA this week with Rabbi Howard A. Addison and the congregation of Melrose B’Nai Israel Emanu-El.  The synagogue was filled with a cast of unlikely characters including Blacks, Whites, Jews, Christians, at least one Muslim and several different faith traditions.  The occasion was, “A Conversation for Peace” led by Ali Abu Awad and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, two men from the West Bank that I call friends.

These two men live in the epicenter of a conflict that the whole world is watching.  Serving alongside, exchanging stories, and learning from men like these in the West Bank has radically changed the way I see myself as pastor, the world and the Church. Read more

Way To Love Muslims! Jesus Followers of Phoenix & Churches Like Redemption Church

By Bob Roberts, Jr.

It’s sad to me, that people, many of whom would call themselves Christians, will be picketing outside a mosque, and performing behaviors that are offensive to Islam and the worshippers in the mosque.  For them to picket and draw cartoons is their right whether I agree with it or not, but to do it in front of a mosque, a place of worship to dishonor and disrespect them is not right.

Do we really want a country that heckles worshippers?  Is that the “free exercise” thereof?

I love freedom of religion.  It is in our first amendment.  It applies to everyone, not just Christians.  I’m a passionate evangelical.  I believe the Bible is God’s inspired word like no other book.  I believe Jesus is God.  I believe what Jesus did on the cross is how all men get to know God.  So, I don’t agree with Muslims that Jesus was only a prophet.  I don’t agree with Jews that he wasn’t God, I believe that he was.  I don’t agree with polytheist, I believe God is one.  BUT, I strongly believe they have the right to choose their belief.

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My Journey Into A Multi-Ethnic Church Community

By Sam Chacko, Pastor, LOFT City Church

My parents migrated to the United States when I was just three years old.  When they first arrived in Philadelphia, they were part of a church plant that was just a few years old and primarily focused on the immigrant Indian community.  I grew up in that church and saw her grow from a handful of blue-collar immigrant workers to a fairly large congregation.  I have been incredibly blessed by the passion of the Indian Christian community in which I was raised, and their faith and risk-taking challenged me as I grew up and began to pursue ministry.  When I entered seminary, my dream was to go back to the Indian community and work with the second and third generation community – a community raised and educated in the United States. They spoke English fluently (often instead of our native language) and obtained degrees from the finest of universities as well as great jobs. They love baseball, basketball and football.  Their kids are actively involved in sports leagues and school activities.  One could argue they were more American than Indian.  Read more

SPARK – HOW TO IGNITE A CULTURE OF MULTIPLICATION AS A LOCAL CHURCH

by Bob Roberts, Jr.

There are three options:  a shrub, a tree, or a forest.  A church planting church is a forest.

1.     Get the BIG PICTURE of the KINGDOM OF GOD.  We get the Gospel of salvation, but do we get the Gospel of the Kingdom?

Transformation / Reconciliation / Restoration / Comprehensive / Multiplying

2.    Learn from the GLOBAL CHURCH.  We don’t have movements – they do.  Our only hope is a global church planting movement – and if that happens, we have to join as pupils and students, not as leaders.  It requires humility, the Holy Spirit, and love of the entire body of Christ. Read more

WHAT MAKES NORTHWOOD CHURCH PLANTING UNIQUE

by Bob Roberts, Jr.

Many of the things we do at Northwood Church in training our planters involve working with others including coaching, assessing, funding, preparing a prospectus, working on a vision, missional development, value reviews, strategizing, and leadership development. But, there are some things that we do very uniquely in our training that sets us apart and enables us to work in many different contexts in training young pastors as they start churches  . . . . . and beyond.  Read more

HOW NORTHWOOD CONTINUES DIVERSIFYING

by Bob Roberts, Jr.

This past week I wanted so badly to go to the Kainos Conference in Memphis but simply was not able.  Efrem Smith, Mark Deymaz, John Jenkins, Derwin Gray and Brian Loritts have helped me so much the past two years through their lectures, books, and conferences.  It’s funny; I didn’t think it would be that hard given how our church reaches other religions and other nations.  Man was I wrong. Our church has been in the midst of transition to diversity and it’s been both exciting and difficult.  Diversity really is about simply loving people like Jesus does.  Do you realize Jesus says we are to love God, love one another, love your neighbors, love your enemies – is there anyone outside of God’s love?  I’m learning the more radical we are with the love of God the more people are receptive to the gospel.  The biggest challenge is we don’t love like God.  Loving gays, Muslims, and different races can get you in trouble with your own religious tribe, not loving them can get you in trouble with Jesus if you are really his!  Can you be his and hate others?  I don’t think so.

As we began to diversify I was hearing stuff behind the scenes at Northwood so I went out of my way to push things from the pulpit.  People would say, “Racial issues are over, don’t say much about it.”  Of course, they were all white.  The African Americans and Latinos would come up and say, “We love it – keep pushing it – that’s why we’re here.”  I assumed this would be a piece of cake for young people given they grew up in desegregated schools.  Not so – just having one person around you who is a minority growing up doesn’t get you in their culture – it only lets them in yours!  I’ve watched young people grapple with it.

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We Call this the Kingdom of God

by Daniel Yang, Trinity Life Church
Guest Blogger

In January 2010, I came on staff at Northwood Church with no clue as to what would be the future of my ministry and family life. I left Detroit where I had a 9 year career in technology and 22 years of history. I gave it all up and came to the strange land they call Texas. You see, I’m Hmong and grew up in the inner-city streets of Detroit. (See Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino.) Texas was a very scary place for me! That year I found myself way outside of my element with people that I would’ve never imagined doing life with. But it was during those years that God began opening my eyes to see that the story of my upbringing as a second generation immigrant whose family landed in the US as refugees was a strength in the Kingdom of God and not a weakness. I’ll never forget having lunch with Bob Roberts and hearing him say, “You were given an advantage to do global ministry because of who you are. But you have to stop thinking like a minority. God made you for the world.”
I don’t think either Bob or I knew how prophetic those words were at the time. Maybe Bob did, but I sure didn’t. Read more