121 Forum- Bob Roberts (Session 1)

Let me throw out there that I do not intend this to be a “full” transcript of the sessions.  I believe that they are posting the sessions on Vimeo at some point for those who weren’t there, so check it out whenever that happens.  (www.121forum.com)  After you read some of the best of what was said, I’ll conclude with a couple sentences of my impressions of the talk.

Dr. Bob Roberts- “The Local Church/Living the Kingdom of God”

-He began by calling attention to the goal of the conference- 1-21 (1st century mission, 21st century methods) and stated, “Most of us are still in 1:19 mode.”

-His main idea was “What if the Great Commission was fulfilled in the next 10 years, what would that look like?”  “Most of us are still in 19th century mode and assume it would mean a need for lots of pastors and training centers.”  “However, the Great Commission wasn’t given to religious professionals, but to the whole body of Christ.”  “I’m convinced the next 10 years the GC will be fulfilled.  How?  (Describes the ubiquitous presence of Coca-cola…)  Coke is not spirit-filled!  We have the spirit, the word of God, the commandment, the body of Christ, why wouldn’t the GC be fulfilled?

-He spent some time recounting his roots in Texas where the end times was completely charted and how this really was an obstacle in doing missions, especially in the Middle East.  “When speculative theology starts getting in the way of the Great Commission, which isn’t speculative, we have a problem.” Adding, “I hate when people say “we want to reach muslims for Jesus” but talk about them like they’re all terrorists.”

-“I pastor a “Contemporary church”.  I thought we would change the world because we were thinking different and we just contemporized the worship service.  And then I thought the post-modern guys would do it because they like philosophy and theology, but instead they’ve internalized it.”

-He concluded with 4 models of thinking about this (I wish I could add my attempts to draw these on Microsoft Word notes!)

1st Model- Compares the Gospel of the kingdom vs. the Gospel of Salvation.

“Gospel of salvation says, “pray the prayer with them.”  Gospel of the kingdom is about seeing lives transformed.  “I believe the Sermon on the Mount is more than an ideal.”  The model was essentially a picture of the Kingdom attacking a separate culture vs. a picture of disciples being raised up within cultures. He describes the second picture as “God influencing the world through Christ by raising up disciples who meet together as the church.”

Within this model, he essentially points out that we are trying too hard to start “Church Planting Movements” instead of making disciples.  “Church Planting Movement’s are just recognition of God’s work.  YOU CANT START THEM.  (But essentially you can start new churches by making disciples) You (as a church) ought to be like an old dog with 15 puppies.  Churches need to plant churches!”  Instead we have focused on our own growth- “Our problem with church is we are big, but what you see is all you see.”

-2nd Model- Hebraic vs. Greek/Western Discipleship

“Greek/Western discipleship is characterized by knowledge/information transfer.  the Hebraic is about learning by doing.” The example of Jesus with the Twelve is obvious here. He said that because our models of this are wrong, we are not making disciples that impact their communities and the world (G-local impact, he calls it.)  “What if God gave people their jobs to make a difference?  We taught our members that their job is their NO. 1 Ministry, not starting a Bible study.

-3rd Model- Sectors of Society-  Essentially, he taught that rather than religion or the church being one sector of society, it should be present in all the other sectors as well.  This is done by making disciples in all sectors who will influence them.

-With regards to our views of church “success,” “the church is merely a reflection of the disciples that you’re making.

There were six steps he gave at the end regarding ways to put this stuff in practice.

  1. We will be moving from thinking in terms of inter-faith to “multi-faith.”  Historical religion as local and tribal is no longer.  How I share and talk about my faith is huge.  Inter-faith is dumbing down religion to agree.  We need to be honest about our beliefs, but LOVING.  Preach on hell but don’t be excited that people are going there.  If you think holding on the faithful means keeping them ignorant…
  2. Critique your own faith before you critique others.
    1. Examples:  don’t read apologetics works about other religions that aren’t accurate.
  3. Explain your belief in a way everyone can understand.
    1. Example: Knowing the doctrine of the Trinity intelligently if you want to talk to Muslims.  No dumb answers.
  4. Live your faith as its best.
  5. From competition of faiths to collaboration of faiths…
    1. Regarding charitable work essentially.
  6. Integrating our faith around our world.

Great ending quote regarding our need to learn from previous generations without imitating unhealthy aspects- “Instead of standing on William Carey’s shoulders, we keep trying to dig him up.”

My Two Cents…

-The most influential thing that has stuck with me is measuring the church by the disciples it makes.  Are we doing the Great Commission, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded?  Or are we just teaching them what he commanded like math facts?  I think that was a great point and I’m going to try to come across some of his books and see how his church puts that into practice.

-He made some very negative comments regarding missionaries using platforms and promoted the idea of fulfilling the Great Commission just through everyday Christians.  There were some good points, but I think his status as a very large church pastor with connections and resources worldwide has given him a myopic view that it is just as easy for everyone to get into difficult places (and meet with government officials, etc) and that short-term trips will get the job done.  I don’t know how he reconciles some it with the unreached people groups where long-term work of languages being learned and cultures being crossed takes people who will give their lives to that.  I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t downplaying that important role that still exists in missions, but simply couldn’t cover everything in one talk.  I just wonder how many other pastors/ministry people who don’t have the resources he might felt a disconnect there.

-I’m not a huge fan of business models, charts, etc. for promoting ideas.  I like to dive into source material and books with footnotes, so it’s always a challenge to hear and learn from people who are wired differently from me.  But it was beneficial and maybe I should stretch myself a little more in that direction.

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