The Virtual Extension to Faith Forward Forum | Jan 22-24, 2007

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Faith Forward – Faith Future:

By Bob Roberts [bio for event]

To try to be a “prophet” in today’s world is nearly impossible. With the speed of change and the introduction of continuously new technology and information – predicting the future for us is like Noah telling people a flood is coming! What’s a flood? They had never seen a flood and didn’t know what one was. But, even in Noah’s day, something was up. People had moved away from God and everyone was on edge. Noah’s building this ark for something he’s never seen. I can’t tell you for sure this is what the future will be. I can tell you this is how we are positioning our church and ministry because it is what we see emerging. My book Transformation gives an overview of how we “do” church with these things in mind. I could list 15 things – but will focus on just three:

1.GLOBALIZATION is and will continue to dramatically change the faith of Christianity in positive and healthy ways. The church is starting to engage the world and many people say it’s because the church is becoming more mission-minded. I disagree. What is happening is – our church members are involved in global business and marketplace on a daily basis. They travel to nations and do work, like people traveled to different states 25 years ago. As people see more of the world, recognize the needs, they feel ownership and a sense of responsibility to do something about it. For the first time we are connected globally in very intricate and strategic ways – from business to tourism. The forward drive for engaging the world in many churches is coming not from the pastors but from the laymen who are discovering the world like never before. I’m convinced globalization is not the result of technology but the passion of God to connect the entire world so His message of hope and meaning can change people and nations. This is what my book GLOCALIZATION deals with – how do we engage this emerging new world.

Our church adopted the northern part of Vietnam starting in Hanoi over ten years ago to work. It has been incredible. Both for the Vietnamese and us. Sometimes we think we are going to give – failing to realize all we are going to receive from others. Schools, clinics, universities, government issues, micro-business and hundreds of people a year at NorthWood are engaged there.

2.THE FIRST GLOBAL CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENTS (CPM) will emerge from the East and impact the West thus changing the flow of faith in America. For the first time in the history of the church in the West we are using terminology, and desire something that has been happening in Africa and Asia – church planting movements. To date – I would say there is a lot of church planting taking place – but no legitimate church planting movements in the U.S.. The response and responsibility of the church is multiplication –that’s an obedience issue. Movement is a Holy Spirit issue. We should multiply – and when enough multiplication begins to happen, movements emerge. Multiplication is like tithing – when churches multiply God blesses. Movement is the blessing of the Spirit that comes from giving. For the most part – in the West, church planting is something young guys do – but also something very few churches do in terms of starting churches every year. The action is forgotten – we’ve become more like mules that race horses – even though we have big barns! Currently, we see church planting movements that are tied to specific tribes and nations. In the early Great Awakening they moved as far as the roads and English language would allow. Think about it – we are connected by planes and the internet and English is the global language for the time being – “Chinglish” is being predicted as the new language in 20 years. Once a movement uses these tools watch out! Currently NorthWood plants about 12 churches a year – we long for the day we are planting 50 a year. I’m in the middle of writing a book right now on how to multiply churches out of your local church.

3. THE WORK OF THE CHURCH WILL MOVE FROM THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION TO THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM. If my focus is on salvation – then for the most part my job is complete when someone accepts Christ and all I need to do is get them in my building and listening to my sermon and involved in our programs. If, however, it’s the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is what Jesus, Paul, and the other New Testament writers wrote that’s different. The biggest difference could be seen as this. Most Christians start with Matthew 28 in the Great Commission. They should start with Matthew 5-7 in the Great Sermon on the Mount that describes what a disciple looks like. They should then read Matthew 25 that shows how we’ll be judged by God. Once they get that – then Matthew 28 makes sense. The desire of God is that the whole of society is redeemed. Thus, the implication is we are truly ministers of reconciliation. This means I must be concerned about a persons eternal destiny – BUT – I must also be concerned about poverty, justice, abuse, and anything that is broken in this world. In my early years of ministry – I viewed the focal point of my ministry as the pulpit. I’ve come to see the focal point of my ministry as the society. This is in keeping with Deuteronomy and how Israel was put together, the whole Old Testament, and even the judgment we face from God in Matthew 25. As a result we look at the domains of society as the way of engagement be it education, economics, governance, health, communication, etc. As believers work in those domains faith lays across the society.

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