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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

— CLICK TITLE TO SEE ARTICLE —

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

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

Evangelicals join interfaith leaders in Washington to promote religious tolerance

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

 

JOURNALING

THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE THAT CREATES DEPTH

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

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

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

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

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Global Pastors Speak About Global Trends

 

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

Media/Social/Tech

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

Rise of Radicalism & Grassroots Religious Persecution

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

Growth in Islam & Christianity

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

Young People

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

Broken Families

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

Nationalism/Tribalism

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

Terrorism/Violence

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

Refugees

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

Decline of Religion

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

Sex/LGBTQ

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

 

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

Religious Leaders As 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. 

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!

My Most Important Discipleship Lessons

There is so much about discipleship that I don’t know.  There is a lot I learned that was wrong.  There was a lot I stumbled into that was right.  I went from a discipleship that focused on learn, grow, and go – to hear and obey.   Had the early church made learn, grow, and go disciples it never would have gotten off the ground because at what point did you know enough?  When were you ready to leave?  Who determined all of that?  But, if discipleship is hear and obey, the primary focus is not what I know but instead my ability to hear God’s voice and then follow it.  The most important thing I’m now going to teach someone isn’t a book study, doctrine series, or information – but it’s how to hear God’s voice.  To do that I have to know how to pray, how to hear God speak when I’m reading his word, how to live in community and hear God speak through other disciples.  Spiritual disciplines are everything.  This discipleship goes through a very different door and produces a very different disciple.  It’s a lot easier to read a book and jump through hoops than it is hear God’s voice and follow it. 

First, I’m always being discipled. 

Many people feel bad that no one ever “discipled” them – but I’m not sure this is as true as it sounds.  One of my Spiritual Fathers, Doug Coe, said that we first have to disciple ourselves.  What he meant by that is that we have to love Jesus so much that we do whatever he says.  No amount of classes or courses can make us do that.  He was right.  Every time I’m in a worship service, I’m being discipled.  Every time I’m listening to someone teach I’m being discipled.  Every time I’m following the Holy Spirit I’m being discipled.  Every time I’m in a prayer meeting I’m being discipled.  For the follower of Jesus all of life is discipleship.  When I’m reading a biography on Washington to learn how he led – Washington is discipling me.  When I’m reading Fareed Zacharias to understand the world, he’s discipling me.  When I read a Rabbi Jonathan Sacks book on relating to other religions – he’s discipling me.  YES, non-Chrisitans can disciple us, too, and often even better than Christians.  When I watch someone serve Jesus like Dan Dubois or Bryan Stockton who worked beside me at Steve Bezner’s church after Hurricane Harvey or watch them at an inner-city festival for poor children  – I’m being discipled by those that I would disciple.  If you see life as one big discipleship opportunity you’ll grow a lot more.  If you see it as a single person pouring into you, you’ll be a spiritual shrimp.  YES, it’s great to have some one on one, but it isn’t the end of the world.  After all, the goal of discipleship is to be a self-feeder that follows Jesus.

Second, the best disciplers in my life don’t give me information but provide me a model. 

A man named Jim Hylton has impacted my life profoundly.  He’s in his 80’s.  Yes, he’s taught me a lot of stuff – but it’s his model of life that has taught me the most.  I’m watching him, a strong follower of Jesus, so I can know how to grow old in grace and bless others.  He models how to stay tender as you get older.  He’s not perfect – he has his flaws and I’ve seen them.  I’m not looking for someone to be Jesus, I’m looking for someone to let Jesus be Jesus in them in spite of their faults. 

Third, the best disciplers walk through tough times with you. 

They listen, they pray, they challenge you, they love you regardless.  Who ever thinks of discipleship as presence?  But you can’t be to others  what someone hasn’t first been to you.  Everyone hurts, everyone hits walls, everyone has struggles, everyone wants to hang it up at times – Jim has sat patiently with me at times and listened to me and loved me.  I’m often asked how did I handle the stress and not give up from taking a white church and transitioning it to multi-ethnic and also a church that has reached deep into other religions to build bridges.  We love everybody at Northwood and that makes for some challenging things at times.  Jim is one of those key reasons I haven’t quit.  I told him one day “maybe I just need to get out of the way” and let someone else do this.  He said “Bob, I want to ask you a question Jesus asked.”  Okay Jim.  “Bob, will you leave me too.”  That question convicted me and bought me another six months!  It took another conversation to make it another 6 months! 

Fourth, the best disciplers make you think for yourself and cause you to learn for yourself. 

Jim has never taken me through a book study – but he’s told me about this book or that book that I’ve read that has caused us to have some deep conversations.  I love the fact he doesn’t just read “religious” books but many kinds of books be they science, psychology, or philosophy.  If he was just teaching me “his” stuff then my growth would be limited to him – but he models learning which enables me to travel my own unique paths of learning and growth.

Fifth, the most important discipleship lesson I can provide is . . . . well, I’ve said enough – I’ll save that for another blog – but it’s really really really BIG!   

Bless the World & the World will Bless You

In this blog, Pastor Mitch Jolly of Three Rivers Church in Rome, Georgia shares five ways the world has impacted him and his church through years of global engagement and blessing.  It really is true — if you bless the world, the world will bless you!  This is what can happen with you and your church. Read on!

A Deeper Discipleship

A focus on the world delineates between the cross and the consumer. He who loses his life for my sake finds it. Losing my life could be actually dying. Losing my life could also mean giving up “stuff” I think is important but actually is not all that important. Here’s the good news, Jesus’ promise is that in the Kingdom when we lose for his sake we actually gain. That’s a whole different level of following Jesus. We have found that walking with Jesus as we engage globally is the most rewarding and joyful experience we’ve experienced. We get to walk with God as sons and daughters. We get to know God and be known by God. We get real supernatural life. That’s even better than Georgia football in the fall.

 

An increased desire for God’s glory globally through domains

As we’ve focused on the world, we’ve come to see that the best way to do this work is through God’s created domains of society. As we have learned that our vocations are holy and that our skill sets have been given by God to bring all things back under Christ’s rule through the gospel, we have seen more people willing to engage globally. The more we teach the concept of domains, the more the world opens up to us. We have people serving and blessing others from Brazil to India. Those are our people. Our collective work allows us to see God’s glory everywhere.

One important question to consider: “How do you care for your people all over the world?” Good question!  We have to be intentional about life in the body of Christ. Our small groups have to care for their members. So, we have small groups that take the lead in caring for their people who they send all over the world. Therefore, our people know, care for and serve each other. They are aware of the work, they pray for the work and they look for ways to go and serve alongside their friends using their domain. It is a constant work to keep these relationships going, but you must care for them.  This is also for the glory of God.

 

A Greater Output

The harder we try to “focus” the more God opens opportunities with our people everywhere. We used to think one single location. The harder we tried to do that the more world opened up. Why? Because domains are global and not isolated to one location. If the world is the goal, then the whole church is likely to be mobilized to the whole world. Domains are about every Christian everywhere all the time. That is a huge paradigm shift, and we are simply figuring it out as we go. We can’t answer many “how” questions as static realities, but that’s simply what we are doing. 

 

World Class Leadership

The more we focus on the world, better leadership is required. The better the leadership required the better leaders we raise up and attract. This allows us to release to the world the very best people. This also weeds out hirelings who just want to be known or get a job. We have world class doctors, restaurant owners, business leaders, farmers and teachers who lead local and global work. That does not happen by simply being a local church that tries to attract people to a Sunday service. The challenge of the world being our end brings out the best and attracts the best. To tell the truth, it also repels some. That’s not all bad. 

 

Holy Busy-ness

As I’m writing this, I’m chatting on line with two workers from our church simultaneously. Neither of them know that the other is talking with me. At the same time, I’m coordinating with our administrative assistant on travel for our teams going to visit one of these people I’m chatting with…via text. At the same time, I’m coordinating with our global engagement pastor about changing travel dates for one of our teams due to the reality of working half way around the world…via text. At the same time, I’m chatting…via text… with one of our spiritual sons who is part of one of our church plants who is coming to the GlocalNet Family Gathering next week since he works for Enterprise and is setting up our rentals for next week. At the same time, I’m chatting with a ministry leader, Jeff, who runs Restoration Rome (our work in foster care/adoption) about staying in Fort Worth after the GlocalNet Family Gathering to visit with his daughter as he’s leading a movement that’s changing the way the state of Georgia does foster/adoptive care and which leads to our NGO’s emphasis on the global orphan crisis. At the same time, I’m trying to write a biography sermon on Martin Luther and Romans 1:17. WHEW!!! But then again, how awesome is that?! That’s busy, but it’s a holy busy. It’s us (the church) together engaging the world and telling Jesus’ message. Nothing is more fun!

The world has changed me and my church and I could never go back to “normal” church. We are ruined for the ordinary. 

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]

START FOR THE WORLD

Recently, one of the churches in our family of churches, took center stage in the natural disaster of Hurricane Harvey. Houston Northwest Church and its pastor, Steve Bezner, found themselves facing a legacy-defining moment: do they focus their energies on their building that had been flooded and the people within their church or do they turn their attention to the neighborhoods surrounding their building and the thousands of people hopelessly watching the floodwaters inundate their homes, destroying all of their earthly belongings? For five years Steve had been exhorting his 40-year old congregation to engage and serve and love the people of northwest Houston regardless of their race or religion. So, when the God-moment arrived in Harvey, there was no decision to be made. Houston Northwest would don their #WELOVEHOU t-shirts and head to the neighborhoods. As a result of their response, they have raised over $400,000 to help in relief, mudded out hundreds of homes, provided essentials to thousands, Steve has been on local television and Headline News, established a partnership with WorldVision, and last but certainly not least, received several shout outs through Twitter from none other than Beth Moore herself!

Why would Steve lead his church to begin with serving its community? Because he has taught his church the four values of our family of churches: Kingdom, Disciple, Society, Church. It is these four values that we instill in our church planters through our Release training for church planters with the hope that they will start right—that they will start a church for the world.

Without divulging too much from our Release training, what do we mean when we desire to start a church for the world and not just for a community? Here are a few thoughts:

Starting a church for the world means serving the poor around us.

This was Jesus’ calling. It is a Kingdom calling. It is our calling.

17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:17-19 (ESV)

Starting a church for the world means planting churches locally and globally at the same time.

However, to accomplish this, planting methodologies and approaches need to be driven from the field—not from the West! Frankly, we have more to learn from the church in the East than they do from us in the West. The popular statistic is that only 4% of churches in the US ever help start another church. We challenge our church planters through our Release training to help another church start within their first 12 months of existence.

Starting a church for the world means working in a “hard place” in the world.

We challenge our church planters to go where no one else dares to go. We train them to go to a “hard place” in the world and make a long-term transformational commitment to that place in the world until that specific place also becomes a sending place. It will take courage and wisdom to engage in hard places, but we will never fulfill the Great Commission if we don’t.

We fully recognize that this type of church planter training is not for everyone. But, if it is speaking your language, then you have two options. One, join us November 8-9, 2017 for our first-ever GlocalNet Family Gathering. At this gathering, you will learn in greater detail why starting churches for the world is such an integral part of who we are as a family of churches. You can register here:  GlocalNet Family Gathering Registration. We would love to have you join us. Or, join us at our next Release training near you. You can find out the one nearest you here:  Release Initiative.

You may never have to lead a relief effort after a hurricane, but if you start a church that serves the poor, multiplies churches and engages in a hard place in the world, you will find yourself on the adventure of a lifetime. Oh, by the way, you will not be doing this alone. You will have a family beside you, so go start a church for the world!