Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Insights from Bob Roberts...Good stuff on what makes for a good church

The following Q&A a partial section of an interview found at http://www.christianvisionproject.com/2007/01/we_arent_about_weekends.html

I strongly encourage you to read the following interview, and copy/paste the link and read the rest. Roberts speaks clearly about where Anchor is shuffling towards.


Q. This is a different kind of mission from church planting.

A. In kingdom work, we make a mistake when we start with ecclesiology. We should start with Christology. Our first approach should be "How can we live out the love of Jesus in this society?" It's not "How can we start a church?"

People living like Jesus: that's what changes a society. Too often, we start with a preacher who tries to gather a church first, thinking that, in time they'll get around to engaging the world. That's backwards. It teaches people to think engaging the world is something we pay people to do after the church is built, or that it's an occasional trip we make.

No, we want people to understand the Great Commission is not the church's project, but it's something we all own personally. "You mean me go and use my job? What in the world can a plumber do over there?" Yes, we want everyone to think mission first. Mission doesn't mean multiplying churches, but finding ways to show God's love and greatness to the world.

If you focus on mission, churches will follow, but if you focus on churches, mission often gets lost.

Q. Is this true of individuals, too? Does focusing on my "standing" in Christ divert the focus from my "calling" in Christ?

A. It can. Our definition of disciple must move from the celebration of a moment of "conversion" to a focus on transformation over time, seeing that person and their community transformed. We have to move from an evangelism perspective that says, "Here's the prayer you need to pray. If you don't accept my gospel presentation, it's over. I've done my duty" to a radically different expression of faith, which is unabashedly proclaiming the gospel, and serving, and loving.

Q. How does evangelism fit into your understanding of mission?

A. I see evangelism as introducing a person to Jesus and getting that person to convert. Our mission is engaging the whole of society as agents of God's kingdom. For God's kingdom to be seen on earth, evangelism is a must.

But if we focus on evangelism only, then when we've done evangelism, congratulations, somebody got converted. End of story. But evangelism isn't the endgame. It's just a core competency. If we're trying to see a community transformed, evangelism is just part of it.

Q. Your church is helping internationally with clinics and schools in Afghanistan and Vietnam. You're working locally by tutoring in under-resourced schools and in correctional facilities. Your church specifically offers help to families of special needs children. Doesn't it take a large church to be missional in this way?

A. No. We started when we were a church of 300; a church of any size can do this. The key is to focus on one spot. Don't bebop everywhere. Find a place to serve and stay with it long term.

When I began to read the Bible and understand how societies were put together and what God's kingdom was all about, I thought, My goodness, everything a society needs is sitting in my pews. We just started applying the resources we had to the societal needs we became aware of.

If you have a hundred people, you can engage two or three domains of society all by yourself. Nothing will transform your church like building a $15,000 school in east Asia and sending four of your schoolteachers, who raise their own money, to go and help put it together. It will change the whole makeup of your church.

We've gained resources as we've grown, but mission is what Christians do in whatever size group they're in.

Q. Most churches that try to "find a need and fill it" fall exhausted just trying to meet the needs within the congregation. "We need more youth workers. We need more children's workers. We need more small group leaders." The "needs" within a congregation are never satisfied, and that can draw a church's focus inward. How do you break out of that to focus on touching the world outside?

A. You have to ask yourself, What kind of a church do we want to be? What is my definition of church? And what kind of disciples am I producing?

If my church is primarily about the Sunday event, then doing kingdom work is secondary and actually unnecessary. If the Sunday event and church programming is primary, then I'll spend all my time, money, and energy what happens inside the church.

For so many pastors, church is about what happens on Sunday. Well, I really disagree with that. Church is not supposed to be a Sunday event. It's supposed to be salt and light in the family, in the community, and around the world.

Our church is not about the weekend. I didn't understand this when we started. Many churches, like ours, start out with mass mailers, advertising, "show up on Sunday," we're starting "our thing."

But the best people to reach are those you connect with in your community involvement when you're engaging the culture. They're seeing the church in action, not just in its advertising.

Q. Doesn't every church believe in missions?

A. Lots of churches tack it on here and there. But it's an add-on. Missions isn't the core of what they do.

That's why I don't use the word missions. We talk about the kingdom. At our church we say, "Kingdom in, kingdom out." When the kingdom gets inside of you, then missions is not an occasional project you do; you live out your faith constantly for God's kingdom.

Q. You also ask, "What kind of disciples are we producing?"

A. That's huge. For years pastors have implied, "Come to church; come to small group; you'll be a disciple." It hasn't worked. That system's broke. We all know that. Even if we get people into small groups, how many groups are really turning people into disciples that engage the world for God's kingdom?

Discipleship is more than urging conversions, signing people up for Bible study, and recruiting workers for church programs. The greatest tool for making disciples is getting people to engage the world.

Q. What did this change of focus mean for you as a preacher?

A. Humility. Not trying to get people to come back to hear me. But to get them into the world.

Think about it. Why do people come to hear most preachers? Because they're great preachers. But some kinds of great preaching just anesthetize the church. People will tell their friends, "Oh, you've got to hear this." But that's the extent of their action. Listening to that kind of preaching leads only to more listening.

Part of the problem is the preacher's natural interpretation of certain passages. We preachers naturally tend to organize the church around our role. Take Ephesians 4. We'll preach about the leadership roles: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. But we concentrate on the roles of leading the church—we're focused on our gifts. We've neglected everyone else.

What are all those leadership functions for? "For works of service." We are to preach in such a way that leaders are in the background and we make the heroes the people doing the works of service.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These were great articles. His answers to the questions make you really dig deep to see what you are doing with your own faith.