The Church (with Bob Roberts Jr)

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  • God created the world.
  • The church in the West hasn’t done a good job at making the link between the kingdom and the world.
  • We have created the sacred/secular divide. We tend to work at the ‘sacred’ corners of society, but most of what Paul did was in the public sphere.
  • You can’t understand ministry or the church without first understanding the church.
  • We ignore the world and try to bring them into the church and congregationalise them.
  • It is not enough to only read theologians and church leaders. Read the writings of people on the outside who understand the world.
  • A lot of Christians travel all over the world and yet never see the world.
  • We only view the world as what we were saved from.
  • Jesus understood the world. So did Paul, Augustine and St. Francis. They were effective and respected by the world because they understood and engaged the world without compromising their faith. Their faith brought value to the world.


  • The kingdom is the rule and reign of God.
  • The kingdom is now and not yet. You can have the kingdom without a traditional expression of church (though the church will always be there). You can have churches without the kingdom being there at all.
  • The kingdom is more of a culture than a formal definition. It is more a way of life than an idealised way of life.
  • The Kingdom is about transformation, reconciliation and engagement and is holistic.
  • A lot of churches have the model of bringing people in and getting them saved, and then assume that the world will get changed. But it doesn’t work like this.
  • It is more than just a gospel of salvation (about me going to heaven when I die and having large church meetings). It is the gospel of the kingdom (values people and society, wants to see transformations throughout, makes disciples to this end).
  • If you don’t get the kingdom right, you won’t get the church.
  • We start a lot of ‘churches’, but a lot of the time we are just starting worship services.
  • It is possible to grow the church without growing the kingdom. Sometimes we are just growing our tribe (for example, when churches are divided along racial lines).
  • A key passage to think about is Colossians 1, verse 15 onwards.
  • The passage emphasises the Trinity. There is no more critical question for Christianity in the 21st century than the Trinity. This should form an integral part of our worship and the way we share the gospel with others.
  • The passage uses the phrase ‘all things’ on six occasions, and refers to powers, dominions and authorities. We shouldn’t spiritualise this, we should take it for what it says.
  • Understanding the kingdom makes a difference to the way we pray for other nations.
  • There are the kingdoms of the world, the Kingdom of God, and unfortunately there is often also the kingdom of the church.


  • We are looking to make disciples to go out into the world, not just to take notes on our sermons.
  • The definition of a disciple is someone who hears God and obeys.
  • We sometimes talk in terms of ‘learn, grow and go’, but this implies that we can’t go out and do things until we have first been trained.
  • In the New Testament and in the early church, the disciples learned as they went.
  • This understanding makes the spiritual disciplines even more important.
  • Disciples should be focussed up(a dynamic relationship with God), in (relationships with the body of Christ) and out (glocal impact – the great commission is both local and global).


  • The purpose of making disciples and understanding the kingdom is to see the body of Christ present in society.
  • There are eight domains of society – economics, agriculture, medical, governance, education, communication, science and technology and civil society.
  • The church should not be thought of as an additional domain but should be present as disciples in every domain.
  • Then the church can add value to society.
  • These same societal structures exist in cities and societies all over the world.
  • The goal is to help the church to engage society as disciples of Christ.


  • The church is to be global and apostolic.
  • It is wrong to say that ‘the new going is staying’.
  • We should be preaching the gospel wherever we are, but the church was created with global DNA.
  • If the church is to be apostolic it means sending.
  • The church is not the end goal – the body of Christ  The purpose of the church is the great commission.
  • There are different expressions of the church – house churches, congregations and the universal church.
  • Each of these gives us an understanding of the purpose of the church.
  • The house church is a place for the expression of the five-fold ministries, but a house church on its own can’t change the world. As house churches come together they can be something bigger.
  • A congregation can have a strategic impact on the city and can do things that house churches can’t do alone.
  • To see what God is doing around the world, look at the universal church – and particularly at the fringe edges of it.
  • We often judge churches on the preaching and the worship, but being apostlolic is more crucial.
  • Apostolic churches are entrepreneurial, multiplying, connecting, releasing, big-picture, have blueprints, and have influence beyond themselves.


  1. In my experience, hospitality is a great way of engaging with people of any culture. What other things would you suggest?
  • Hospitality is the big one.
  • Warmth is important. Being polite and friendly with people goes a long way. Evangelicals are sometimes so dogmatic that they come across as rude. Complement people.
  • Ask people their opinion about things.
  • You don’t need to be politically correct as long as your are polite.
  • Lay hands on cities. We can all be servants to broader societies.
  1. How do we get the Trinity into our evangelism?
  • Don’t ever say that the Trinity is a mystery that we can’t understand.
  • God is holy. For him to touch anything sinful violates his nature.
  • God loves us. He is the great creator and he wants a relationship with us.
  • What the world teaches is that you have to be good enough before God will let you in.
  • God the Father sent his Son. He lived a perfect life. He incarnated and became one of us. He is both divine and human. Because he is human, he can touch sinful man. When he lives a perfect life, the grave cannot hold him so the Spirit raises him up.
  • We can’t live up to the Sermon on the Mount, so God sends the Spirit to dwell in us and to live the life of Christ in us.
  • It is not that there are three gods. There is one God, with three persons fulfilling different roles.
  1. What do you teach church planters before you send them out?
  • The framework of this hangout – world, kingdom, disciple, society and church.
  • How to think. How the contextualise the place they are going to plant.
  • Get them to make a prospectus of how they are going to grow and multiply cells.
  • Don’t go public until you have several cells.

“A church planter is someone who can grow grass on rocks.” (Bob Roberts Jr.)

  1. What advice would you have for starting a work in another part of the world?
  • Start slow.
  • Work on building your credibility. This takes time (a lot of people do dine and dash). Character is a large part of this. You need to get some results and bring some value to the society.
  • Keep going back to the place and get to know people.
  • Pick a place (a specific city) and work there long term.
  • Don’t go to the mayor and ask how you can help because then you have set yourself up to do whatever they say. Instead, do your own homework and find a need.
  • Start by meeting lower ranking officials and eventually you will work your way up to seeing people of influence.
  • There are two ways to stand before a king. Either someone wants to introduce you (this is the worst way) or you are serving the subjects and the king wants to meet you (this is the best way).
  • Go somewhere hard.
  • Don’t go in stupidly.

“I don’t mind dying for the gospel, but I don’t want to die for the gospel in a stupid way.” (Bob Roberts)

  • The people who change the world are usually either people in their twenties (enthusiastic and believe that God can do the impossible) or people in their fifties (gained expertise in how to do things).
  1. What are the things that stop the church in the West from engaging the world?
  • We don’t understand the world. We don’t read about it enough.
  • We don’t respect cultures (remember that God created them).
  • We tend to look at the world in missiological terms rather than societal terms (we are only looking through the lens of the spread of the gospel and this prevents us looking at societies as the people themselves see them).
  • Read world news, such as the BBC and the Economist.
  • Learn to speak to people with respect.
  1. Are we too Sunday-centric in our approach to church?
  • We are way too Sunday-centric.
  • Go slow before you go public. Give yourself 9-12 months to build the discipleship DNA.
  • When you go public, it is much easier to do the worship service than it is to make disciples. Focus on making disciples first.
  1. How do we equip people to be disciples in the different aspects of society?
  • Keep it simple.
  • As church plants, you have the opportunity to build a truly healthy church.
  • The three things Bob Roberts expects of disciples are to worship with God daily, meet in a group weekly and view thier job as their primary ministry and think about how they can use that job to serve other people.
  • We tend to put our program forward and then ask people to go through all of our training.
  1. In westernised North African Muslim culture, what is the best way to make disciples?
  • Build friendships and get to know them.
  • Build it around some domain. Don’t go in as a ‘missionary’ but do some humanitarian work.
  • Over time, talk to people and share thoughts.
  • It may take a while.
  • When they become a Christian teach them to be a disciple (as above – worship God daily, meet with others weekly and make a difference through their work).