Some books are timely; others are timeless. We’ve probably all read a few we considered a waste of time. Bob Roberts, pastor of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, has written Bold as Love: What can happen when we see people the way God does. This book is both timely and timeless. It is timely because our staff attended training last week related to identifying and understanding the unreached people groups here in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Over 250 unique ethnic groups have been identified so far.
This book is timeless because it is based on our mission mandate to take the good news of Jesus Christ to all people groups everywhere. This book is not a collection of sermons dressed up as a How-To book. This is a book that will lead you to become a world-changing Christian like the author. You will learn how to identify, understand, and relate the gospel to people groups different from your own.
Roberts begins with a chapter called Boldly Loving All My Neighbors. He asks, “How do we speak in a globalized world with everyone listening? More importantly, How is it heard by people not in our tribe?” He discusses the fact that this new reality is both an opportunity and a nightmare. We can live as missionaries right where we are and we can also offend entire people groups with our fears and hate speech.
Roberts says “Everything is everywhere like never before in the history of humanity. . . . For the first time in history, the whole world is showing up everywhere and changing the neighborhood.” People are bypassing governments to communicate with one another. We no longer have to wait for diplomats and religious leaders to interpret for us what is being said.
Roberts acknowledges that “Loving others isn’t something we do when we agree with them, or when they’re like us, or even when we like them. Loving others was made for when it’s hard, scary, and near impossible.” Christians are to love to the extreme. “I must love in extremes, with respect and kindness, or others may never get to hear this gospel that is found only through Jesus.”
Confronting All My Fears is the second chapter. To be bold as love involves overcoming five fears: 1) Physical harm, 2) Hostility from “enemies”, 3) Hostility from “friends”, 4) Losing one’s faith, and 5) Fear itself. Roberts responds to these fears with this: “Only the promises of God, and the power that comes from him, can enable us to reach out to those who may intimidate us.”
Roberts says that the people he fears the most invariably become the people he loves the most. He says Christians have no enemies because it is impossible to love someone and still be his or her enemy. He notes that God loves even the most extreme sinners. He encourages us with the insight that “when we reach out to someone of another faith, chances are nothing bad is going to happen.”
The third chapter is Using All My Faith to Get Out on the Edge. Roberts tells about events his church helped plan that involved bringing together Islamic and Christian congregations to get to know one another. There was opposition within the congregations and from outside groups with their own agendas. Roberts states his core convictions regarding such events.
Christians are discovering that moving from isolation to conversation doesn’t mean we have to syncretize our faith or compromise what we believe at all. Truth is not relative. My experience is very common: I have relationships with neighbors and others who are not religious or who come from a different denomination, and I’m able to be their friend without changing my beliefs. People are discovering that it’s no different with people who wear a hijab.
Serving Others with All My Might is the title of chapter four. Roberts discusses using one’s vocation to serve humanity while serving Jesus. He says, “We shouldn’t do church; we should be the church on the grid of society. The Great Commission will not be fulfilled because we raise up more preachers and missionaries like me, but because we raise up disciples who are willing to be the church every day.”
He says the way to build relationships with people is to start with the hand, that is, serve them. That engages the heart and opens up opportunities for conversations about God. He notes that, “When we start with the head and have a conversation about God too quickly, it becomes an argument.”
This chapter provides clear guidelines for how to engage other people groups locally and globally. Roberts says, “The most important thing to do is not look at the mass of people, but see the person. The person will help us understand the masses.” Northwood Church has a saying, “Serve not to convert, but serve because you’re converted.” He says that serving provides plenty of chances to share our faith.
Chapter five is titled Requiring All My Faith. Roberts explains his growth into global theology. Global theology deals with the core issues of who God is, who man is, how man finds God, and how he relates to him, among others. He provides an excellent primer for discussing the core beliefs of Christianity. He points toward other resources that help Christians explain their faith confidently and simply.
With All Our Faiths Present is the next chapter. Roberts explains why multifaith is the best word “to carry the idea that we all had unique faiths that we wouldn’t compromise, but that we could still get together and get along.” He discusses the six dimensions of what multifaith means. He says, “Multifaith moves beyond tolerance and respect to action and collaboration to serve the good of the city and of your neighborhood.” It requires learning and involves making mistakes.
Chapter seven is Challenging All My Tribe. One of the best quotes of the book is found in this chapter. Roberts says, “You don’t have to trash another religion to promote Jesus.” The main subheads in the chapter demonstrate the wisdom of this section of material: Listen—Don’t Fix; Witness—Don’t Manipulate; Take Courage—Do Not Fear.
Chapter Eight provides a fitting close to the book. Forgiving with All My Heart is summarized best by this sentence: “Someone has to be the first to forgive the other and to ask forgiveness.” People from different ethnic and faith groups have long harmed one another. We all need justice and peace.
Roberts reports a conversation he had with a man who asked if there could ever be peace without justice. He replied, “No justice, no peace. But the truth is there will never be enough justice to satisfy all the pain and hurt in this world.”
He states a truth that is becoming more evident in often surprising ways: “Faith in the twenty-first century will move from a focus on religious leaders to a focus on the followers of various faiths.” There is evidence of this in what is happening in the news today.
The last sentences of the book provide a fitting end: “Where is Jesus? He is where we take him. Where are we taking him? He didn’t enter us to stay cooped up, but to be bold as love.”
What people groups are within your sphere of influence? How can you go about understanding them and their culture? How can you most clearly communicate the good news of Jesus Christ to them? How can you reach the part of the world their people group comes from? Bold as Love will help you create a personal and church strategy for reaching those people groups.