by Bob Roberts Jr
I am really excited about how the www.globalfaithforum.com is shaping up. What is very different about this one, as opposed to the one three years ago, is that there are now more people and evangelical pastors that are openly stepping up and reaching out to people of other faiths and building relationships and friendships. Vance Pittman, Brian Bloye, Kevin Cox, Scott Venable, Kevin Brown, Joel Rainey, Dave Gibbons, Gabe Lyons, Aaron Niequist, Lynn Hybels, Rick Warren, Geoff Surrat, Rich Nathan, Rick Fietcher, and on and on and on, are all involved in global work serving cities beyond traditional religious work. Today I’m even praying for a young evangelical leader who was the first evangelical leader to be interviewed on Al Jazeera America and the interview is being played today!
Pastors, register today and bring as many of your members as possible. This is a very rare opportunity. Start now to bring your leadership, your global teams, your staff, your leaders; this is going to be quite an event.
At the www.globalfaithforum.com we will have panel discussions on things like what different religions believe, how women are treated, war, who is Jesus, how do we relate to one another, understanding the other persons perspective, etc. Speaking there will be at least four evangelical pastors, Mark Galli – the head editor of Christianity Today, along with two imams and two rabbis – but beyond religious figures there will be royalty, socialists, journalists, government leaders, diplomats, business leaders, several women, agnostics, atheists, politicians, etc. Nations including the US, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Portugal, South Africa, England, Doha . . . etc. will be represented. You will hang out with these people. Build friendships. Come up with your own projects, working together globally if you want. You can start your journey with the world here if you like or learn better how to continue in your journey.
Evangelism is not something we do to people – it’s a relationship we have with people. Evangelism isn’t an industry, it’s a relationship. I once had someone of another faith in a not so Christian nation tell me, “Bob you can’t come here and preach to promote your religion – but you can come here and be our friend and talk to us about your Jesus and we and those you become friends with will listen – and that is fine because it’s friends talking.” He was right. There’s not a place in the world you can’t do that in.
Northwood didn’t start working globally by knowing leaders – we started by mobilizing our members to use their jobs to serve others and over time the impact grew and as a result, unexpectedly, it caught the attention of gatekeepers where we worked and the rest is history. Often people say we can do these things because our church is so large. We began doing these things when we were small and as we grew things grew. Had we waited until we were large and had volunteers and money we would never have done it.
The best size church to engage the world is 150 to 500. I’ve taken churches of thousands with me globally to engage and not always, but generally, it’s just an “add on”. It isn’t in the DNA of those churches – they believe in “missions” but in reality it’s more funding of “religious workers” and projects. If your global engagement doesn’t involve your everyday members you hinder the Great Commission – and I’m not talking about doing “mission trips” – I’m talking about releasing people through their jobs and domains to serve the city and build relationships. I’m talking about being viral by getting on the grid of the city. A church of 150-500 is small enough when a church focuses on a single city it requires all of them to help out – even the ones who can’t go. My wife’s education project in Vietnam will have only six to eight travelers go, but requires over 30 workers during the year to put that week long training event for public teachers in Vietnam together. A church of 150-500 is small enough yet has enough members to do some significant projects. When that happens, everyone in that church winds up loving that city or people group and God works in ways you simply cannot predict, control, or even expect.
You can’t imagine the impact of everyday followers of Jesus becoming friends with people in another city. Northwood has now had close to 100 exchange students from Vietnam. We have an education delegation coming next week and we will be taking them to universities. I’m meeting with a diplomatic delegation from Vietnam in DC taking them to meet leaders and then an event with significant African American pastors – it’s gonna be a hoot! We have doctors heading over on a project together and people teaching baseball – its all over the page and never ending – it’s gone viral. Northwood loves PHO!
You have no credibility to reach out globally when you ignore the people right in front of your face at home. You aren’t Biblical if you focus just on the people at home and ignore the world. You are in denial of Jesus’ Great Commission. But how do we do that? Who you touch locally impacts everything globally. It’s not either or – it’s both and – it’s GLOCAL! It’s also everyone – not just working with your tribe globally, but everyone! How can we live isolated lives at home and expect our Good News to be heard? I’m an evangelical – a conservative evangelical at that. I believe the Bible is God’s Word and Jesus is God in the flesh and the way to God. I don’t know how to be clearer than that. I preached youth revivals growing up, I’ve lived my life as a “personal” evangelist since I was eight–years-old, even before I accepted Christ! Go figure.
I wanted to be a missionary but was rejected three times! God had a different plan I didn’t see at the time. He wanted me to have a global heart – but a different way of engaging the world. As a result of a heart that wanted to engage the world as a follower of Jesus but the “traditional” Christian means of engaging it were not open, God took me on a different path to the world. Our church wound up working in Vietnam and instead of doing religious work, everyday disciples used their jobs to serve Hanoi and a couple of mountainous areas and lived out their faith. The same thing was repeated in Afghanistan. What I didn’t realize is how much impact our people would have serving a nation and living out their faith naturally and virally on the grid of domains of society: health, education, communication, science, government, economics, etc. Then the churches we started in America began to do the same thing, globally engaging cities through the jobs of their members.
It didn’t just change “what” we did – it changed “who” we did it with. If everyday disciples were going and using their jobs versus going to do religious work – that meant we would work on the grid of the city or society – not the church grid. That meant we went into challenging places through the needs of the city with the gatekeepers of particular domains of the city. That’s a massive game changer.
You are going to learn how Northwood and other churches are working in the world in an open transparent way with everyday citizens and followers of Jesus. You are going to get to hear leaders from other parts of the world who are not Jesus followers but still want to have a relationship with you. You are going to be able to ask questions and build relationships with others. Most importantly – LIKE JESUS AND LIKE PAUL AND LIKE THE EARLY CHURCH – you are going to get to see what it’s like for faith to be lived out in the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. How we treat people of other faiths here has a HUGE impact on how people of our faith are treated around the world. We simply don’t realize the impact of that. Global & local are connected – we need a consistent, clear, open, and honest way of relating if we expect our message to be heard. It’s a new day – It’s a new century – It’s the same God – loving us, loving all people’s – let’s join him! It’s not about methodology anymore – it’s about life and living openly and lovingly right where you are.