Friday, December 07, 2012

"Bold as Love" is a Gift to the Church (book review)

I just finished reading Bold as Love by Bob Roberts, Jr. Wow. This quick-reading and engaging book both inspires and paints a picture of what could and should be in the church today. As a pastor myself, I am energized as I reflect on it!

What an impassioned plea to pastors, Christians and other ordinary people to love each other as Jesus did. But this isn't your ordinary "love your neighbor" book. This one is radical.

Roberts is an evangelical pastor in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. His church is heavily flavored by his passion to make disciples of Jesus Christ of all nations as described in the New Testament. And he has been. But the way has not always been popular in even his own church.

Roberts has been swimming against the American evangelical stream for quite some time. A stream that makes it hard to love people who believe differently than you do. It's not just American Christianity--it's just American to keep your distance from others who believe differently than you do. 

Roberts points to Jesus' example as the better alternative. Jesus taught and modeled loving all people of all ethnicities no matter what they believe. And he called his followers to do the same. All of them.

Roberts shares story after story of both his local and global activities to make disciples. At one point he even says that while he still believes in planting churches he has turned his emphasis to making disciples. 

His local and global activities are both personal and strategic. They are personal in that he is literally befriending Muslim Imams, Jewish Rabbis and other religious leaders. Strategic in that he wants his church to do the same. 

He also talks about the important differences between interfaith and multi-faith initiatives. Interfaith, which he doesn't like, seeks to bring various faiths together under a watered-down set of agreeable beliefs that takes the teeth out of all of them. Multi-faith is what he embraces. People from various faiths openly and honestly transparent about their key differences but doing so in a respectful, peaceful and friendly way. 

He spends time sharing how he shares Jesus with these new friends of his too. It starts with serving them. They have a saying at his church. "Don't serve to convert. Serve because you've been converted." This sounds like Jesus! He clarifies that this isn't serving instead of witnessing (he doesn't like witnessing without serving either). He believes we "show and tell" God's love. That leads to conversations about Jesus that are genuine, rich and transforming. 

But sometimes they don't lead to converts. Roberts doesn't lose (much) sleep over that. He knows that God is in control of salvation. He reminds his readers that it's not them but God who saves people. 

Roberts does a tremendous service to the (universal) church in writing this book. He throws down the gauntlet to pastors to love those in other religions (whether they convert or not) and to lead their congregations to do the same. He acknowledges that it will likely get you into hot water with your own tribe. But I think he smiled as he wrote that you'd be in good company (Jesus) if that happened. 

This book is also unique (to me) in that while it's written primarily to Christians, it could easily (and inoffensively) be read by Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists and those of other religions. His humility, stories, humor and honesty is totally disarming.

Read this one and then hand it to someone else. Then go make a friend who isn't a Christian. Highly recommended!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to give it a positive review. I did choose it to review as I love what Roberts is doing and read his previous book Glocalization and liked it. So I was eager to read it!