A thought-provoking read. Author Bob Roberts challenges us to rethink what the church is called to do. He shifts the focus from what happens inside church walls to what God wants us to accomplish outside church walls. “The message of Christ is far more than ‘ask Jesus into your heart, go to church, be a good person, and you’ll go to heaven when you die.’ It’s about being radically transformed so that we profoundly impact our communities.”
Roberts, a church planter, participates in a gathering known as the Global Collaborative Community. What he has learned from pastors around the world has motivated him to change his approach to ministry. According to Roberts, the American church is missing out on the reality of the power to Christ to change lives and communities. “Great worship services don’t change the world; empowered, impassioned disciples do.”
So he calls on Christians to follow the example of Paul as a tentmaker. Roberts sees that occupation not so much as a way to make a living but as a strategic way to impact the Roman military, sailors who needed fabric for sails, etc. So we too should be impacting others through our secular occupations.
In the global church, worshippers gather in small neighborhood cells, which Roberts calls “hot houses for discipleship.” As believers mature, they are urged to start their own cells. The question asked cell members is, “What do you hear the Spirit saying to you or to us?” The emphasis of these gatherings is on discipleship rather than fellowship.
Roberts addresses crossing the divide that separates us from other religions. He writes: “Treat (enemies) like friends, and they just might become your friends.” He recognizes three barriers that fall by the grace of God where the gospel takes root: “Races are learning to love one another, the poor are valued, and women are elevated as equals.”
Each chapter ends with “Consider This,” questions to stimulate our thinking about our own church and community, and through these questions Roberts challenges us to move from self indulgence to self sacrifice. He views each moment as a gift from God to be recognized as an opportunity to reach out. His questions would make great topics for small group discussion.
Roberts challenges readers to seek and heed the Spirit’s direction, and he ends the book with a chapter on effective prayer. End notes document his sources. Buy the book for pastors, church leaders and any Christians seeking to mature in the faith. Lessons from the East will make you think less about going to church and more about what you do when you’re going from church.