Throughout 2007, Leadership and sister publications Christianity Today and Books & Culture will be exploring the theme of "The Church and Mission," specifically addressing the question: "What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world?"
One Sunday Pastor Bob Roberts asked everyone in the congregation at NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, to invert the collar of the person in front of them, find the label, and call out the nation where the shirt was made. China, India, Vietnam, Mexico, Chile, Kenya, Dominican Republic, and Spain were all mentioned before someone finally said "USA."
The shirts on their backs came from all over the world. It was Bob's way of reinforcing his recurring theme of glocalization, synonymous with Thomas Friedman's "the earth is flat." It describes today's seamless integration between the local and global, a comprehensive connectedness produced by travel, business, and communications.
"Glocal is as important a term to the 21st century as postmodern and seeker were to the 20th century," says Roberts, who has written two books, Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World (Zondervan, 2006) and Glocalization: How Followers of Jesus Engage a Flat World (Zondervan, 2007).
He has applied the concept in quiet but effective ways at NorthWood, a church of 2,000 in suburban Fort Worth that has helped plant some 89 other churches in the last 15 years. The focus of NorthWood and all the daughter churches is not gathering people inside the sanctuary; it's clearly missional.
"We aren't about weekends," Bob says. "We aren't just trying to get people into church. It's 'kingdom in, kingdom out.'"
This means each church emphasizes weekday ministry in local neighborhoods as well as ongoing ministry with a particular nation overseas. NorthWood, for instance, has continuing ministries in Puebla, Mexico, and sends people several times a year to both Vietnam and Afghanistan to help with orphans, education, clinics, small businesses, water purification, and more.
Over three days, including both a weekend and a weekday, Leadership interviewed Bob about life in a glocal church.
What is the mission of NorthWood Church?
You mean transformation of individuals or of communities or what?
All of it. It starts with individuals. But it can't stop there.
Societies are built on several domains:
The family, from which we get our values.
The tribe, from which we get our culture.
The city, from which we get our livelihood.
The nation, from which we get our security and our trade.
Finally, the world. And all of that is within the realm of the kingdom of God. We use the word glocal, meaning the kingdom encompasses all of this, local and global.
The number one result of God's kingdom is transformation of all the sectors.
Wow. That's some purpose
No, that's our mission. Our purpose is to glorify God. I'm still Augustinian in my theology.