Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Transformation – Bob Roberts Jr

Some time ago my good friend, Brian Mosell, informed me about a book of Bob Roberts that he was busy reading, called Glocalization (Local & Global – Get it?). This is actually the second book that Roberts wrote about the topic, the first one being Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World. I ordered both books and started with the first one.
I can still remember the tingling feeling of excitement that went through my body when I read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church a number of years ago. As I read it, I said to myself, over and over again: This can work! As our church in Swaziland started the process of moving from merely existing to a church existing for a purpose (we’re not there yet, but we’re moving in the right direction) we also experienced that it works.
As I read Roberts’ Transformation, I had the same feeling: This can work! In a nutshell, what Roberts is saying, is that the first church was not satisfied with people who were believers. They wanted disciples. (When giving training in Evangelism, I always say to the trainees: God doesn’t want decisions. He wants disciples!) These disciples, living under the control of the Holy Spirit, then need to infiltrate the world where they live and work on both a local and global (= glocal) scale in order to bring about transformation within their communities.
The model which Roberts presents in this book and which he calls T-Life, has three core elements:

  1. Interactive relationship with God, which focusses on the relationship between the believer and God
  2. Transparent connections, which focusses on authentic relationships between believers
  3. Glocal impact which is the convergence of life, ministry and vocation of every believer

At one point he refers to Acts 17:6 which reads in the RSV: These men (referring to the disciples – AvW) who have turned the world upside down have come here also. Roberts then asks the question: What if a church turned the world upside down? What he refers to is the possibility of churches truly transforming entire communities. But what the church needs in order to do this, are members who themselves have been transformed and who have a vision of a transformed community.
The one reservation I have with this book is his almost extreme emphasis on church-planting. For example he writes in one place: I have no interest in helping start a church – it’s a waste of time and money. I have much interest in starting church-starting churches. Within the context of the book I fully understand why he says this and in fact I think he has a strong point. However, I’m not quite convinced that this principle is universally true. In Swaziland, for example, we don’t really need more churches. Churches abound! What we need are churches where members are truly transformed and which also transform the community.
But this is a minor point. Not only do I think that what he says can work, but I asked myself the question what would happen if this should work? Will we see something of what happened in the early years of the church? Isn’t this an exciting possibility to dream about?
I’ve decided to put off reading Roberts’ second book for a week or two. I’ve started now on Bill Hybels’ Courageous Leadership and in the meantime I’m looking forward to the December holidays to start on Tolstoy’s second part of War and Peace. So, for those of you who look at what I’m reading and wonder why it’s taking me so long to get through Tolstoy – I just have too many other books I’m reading at the moment. To paraphrase whoever said it: So much to read, so little time to read it in! 😉


Wednesday, September 19, 2007 - Posted by | Church, Evangelism, Mission, Prayer, Swaziland


  1. Glad you liked the book – if you live overseas you would – that’s where I learned all this stuff from! Church planting – believe it or not, I’m more concerned about engagement in society. That’s what Glocalization is about. It will be 6 mos. before it’s out but in my coming book The Multiplying Church – I deal with churches that start with the disciple versus the preacher – and start with the society instead of the church – I love the other side of the world – keep it up!

    Comment by Bob Roberts | Thursday, September 20, 2007 | Reply

  2. Well, what a great surprise and honour to have Bob respond on my blog. I really appreciate this. I think what really encouraged me was to see that in our ignorance we had done s few things right in Swaziland. But I’m still looking forward to read the second book. Probably then we’ll realise all the mistakes we made 😉

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, September 20, 2007 | Reply

  3. Arnau, you’ve already engaged “Glocally” evidenced by Bob Roberts’ comments. Bob, if you read this, I can’t wait to read your latest. I love the newsletters too! One of the things I liked to tell myself, and sometimes others, is that if you are a serious Christian and you have contact with at least one other human being, then you are a missionary. Not in the traditional sense, but who says the traditional sense had the complete picture. Whether we like it or not, people are watching us carefully-how we live are lives, paying close attention to examine our belief so they can rationalize or even justify their current belief over Christianity. A radically transformed life will inevitably aid in the transformation of the surrounding people/society. As Christians who are engaged with people to people interaction everyday, we are making disciples, some good and others worse based on how we live.

    Comment by Bryan | Thursday, September 20, 2007 | Reply

  4. I think this is more or less what I also tried to say today in my short exegesis on Matthew 28:18-20, which I hope to continue tomorrow. Strangely, as I was reading Roberts’ book, it wasn’t something that was earth-shattering to me. In fact, it shouldn’t be earth-shattering to any Christian, because this was how God intended it right from the start, isn’t it?

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, September 20, 2007 | Reply

  5. […] still going to…. And when that happens, will they still be able to believe? I read through my post again which I wrote after reading Bob Roberts’ Transformation where I referred to the emphasis […]

    Pingback by True hope for the world « Mission Issues | Friday, October 26, 2007 | Reply

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