Glocal Church Ministry
Forgive the cliché, but Bob Roberts is a revolutionary. Really. Roberts's simple but powerful idea may get the church to revolve, turn around, and carry out its ministry in a fundamentally different way.
The idea is outlined in two of his books, both published by Zondervan: Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World and Glocalization: How Followers of Christ Engage the New Flat Earth.
Roberts's idea (that a local church must be a global churchthus "glocal") may indeed transform American church life, because it is timely: We live in the age of the flat earth, when we can not only communicate around the world, but more Americans than ever have enough disposable income to travel the world. His idea is also simple: It assumes that the main players in overseas kingdom work are not trained cross-cultural missionaries or NGO professionals, but laypeople who take their current expertise (whether it be teaching, plumbing, electronics, or so forth) and use it to serve people in other nations.
This revolutionary idea is something Roberts's church, and a number of others, have started to live out. I traveled with him to Vietnam last year and saw a water project, a clinic, and a school for the mentally disabled that laypeople from his church had helped start. While there, I interviewed him. The best way to introduce Roberts and his ideas is to let him speak for himself.
Roberts is the pastor of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, a congregation with a weekly attendance of more than 2,000. He has a reputation for being a prolific church planter (more than 100 congregations planted out of his church), but his church-planting work in America is very much connected to his global vision. So we start there.
How did church planting become important to you?
Years ago, I was at a point of growing our church big. I was concerned about how fast we could get there. We relocated, and the church started going to pot; it was doing badly. I was embarrassed; I was humiliated. But I'd made a public commitment that I would stay at the church forever, because I heard Rick Warren say that! That's a fun thing to say when things are going good. But when the church is going in the crapper, when you've got First Baptist of Israel in the middle of the desert, you want out of there. And I wanted out bad.
I was walking in a pasture behind my house one day. A pastor not far from me had had affairs with five women; he crashed and burned. Another guy north of me had a megachurch, but he was going to the pen for embezzlement. I told God, "God, I've got my pants on. I've got my hands out of the offering plate. You've got these guys over here doing all this stuff. Why aren't you blessing me?"
All of a sudden this little question came to my mind: When will Jesus be enough for you? Sometimes, I think that's when I became a Christian. I just began to weep, because I realized he wasn't. I was miserable because of our attendance the day before. That's wrong. I mean, if I've got the Holy Spirit, if I've got the Word of God, why can't I be content? Why is my joy based on having to grow my church as big as Rick Warren's or Bill Hybels's?
So I began to think: What does it mean for Christ to be enough? From this point forward, instead of seeking to be the biggest church in the area, we decided we were going to church the area. That's when we started planting churches.
But your vision for planting local churches is hardly local.
We used to start churches to reach the lost in local communities. We don't anymore. We start churches for the world.