Author: Dr Bob Roberts
To facilitate a truly global conversation, we ask Christian leaders from around the world to respond to the Global Conversation’s lead articles. These points of view do not necessarily represent the Lausanne Movement. They are designed to stimulate discussion from all points of the compass and from different segments of the Christian community. Please add your perspective by posting a comment so that we can learn and grow together in the unity of the Spirit.
A response to Sadiri Joy Tira’s "Regions Beyond"
There are two key things that have happened in the past thirty years that have changed the entire playing field of missions in the world. This is a radically new world that we live, but we are using an old model of global engagement in missions and the Great Commission. The first is the acceleration of connectedness that began through all the technology and travel. This drove the second, which is migration. Nothing has historically spread the Gospel like migration. I do not believe these issues are the results of the development of science or of exploding populations, but the result of God’s agenda for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. It will do us absolutely no good to study and recognize these trends if our methodology and response doesn’t change just as radically. I’m grateful for Dr. Tira and what he is helping us understand.
Dr. Tira identifies the first response that we must grapple with – there is no here and there. I call it “glocal.” I stole it from the Japanese. The whole world is connected. Everyone is everywhere. All religions are all places. No longer is faith tribal and/or geographical because people are not. National and international, global and local – those separations prevent us from seeing the world as the mixed pot of soup that it is. When we don’t see the whole, our message is incomplete if not clear, our reach is limited, and our view of “missionary” becomes to exalted and narrow simultaneously.
Because the global church is polycentric and populations are migrating this provides an opportunity like never before in the history of humanity in the spread of the Gospel. Our two biggest barriers are respect and collaboration. If we don’t have those two things, all the connectedness in the world won’t matter. I’m convinced there’s enough money and people to fulfill the Great Commission – but we will have to redefine the work force both in nationalities and perhaps even more important in the redefinition of “missionary” from professional global religious worker to everyday follower of Jesus who knows how to live and share the Gospel. They are doing it without us anyhow, we just need to catch up to what God is doing and help them be more effective.
A significant potential reality that I see, because of the Diaspora, is the future and hopefully soon emergence of global church planting movements. To this point, most church planting movements have been tribal and geographical. Right now, an Indonesian Chinese pastor is mentoring our church in the U.S. in various things. We are looking at starting a multi-national church with second-generation multinationals and even some first generation global young people. They are connected and think globally far more than us. These churches, unlike any other, hold the key to connecting the global church and expediting the spread of the Gospel like no other group that has ever existed. America is vastly unchurched nation, and we could use global leaders to come here, and not to reach their ethnicity that has moved here, but to reach everyday white Americans and other groups.
Dr. Bob Roberts is the founder and Senior Pastor of NorthWood Church. Through his leadership, NorthWood has planted 180 churches in the US. Bob is an international speaker and thinker in transforming people, churches, communities and the world. He has led NorthWood and other churches to provide international development projects which include building schools, clinics and hospitals, micro-businesses, water systems and exchange student programs. He frequently teaches courses on church planting, church growth, church multiplication, community transformation and international development at seminaries and universities around the globe and works with various state departments globally. Bob is a graduate of Baylor University (BA), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div), and Fuller Seminary (D.Min).