Category Archives: Our Values

With Jesus into the fray

There’s nothing better than getting spiritually jazzed when speaking with your board chair person. But I just got off Skype with Ray Sanford and have a few thoughts from our conversation to share with you.

Near Frontiers is a group of bridge-builders, connecting our good news Savior with needy people in the cities where God has placed us. There are areas of American cities where you don’t see banks or grocery stores. Police rarely venture into those neighborhoods. Instead you see potholed streets, boarded up shops, and schools so poor the parents don’t see the value of sending their kids.

Yet there are Jesus followers who move into the fray and represent Him in these places. Ray shared about his adult children, Ray and Mel, who live in West Philly. They invited students from Mel’s university cohort for Thanksgiving, and had Chinese, Indonesians, and an African for dinner.

There is a current in America (in fact globally) that is isolationist.  It would pull up the bridge to keep newcomers out. It would send immigrants back “home.”  That current will kill churches, and stifle Christian maturity.  That is the wrong response to the unprecedented scattering (diaspora) of our time.  Jesus said that it is unwise to pay more attention to the weather forecast than to understand the signs of the times.  Look at what God is doing among the nations and be amazed at the Great Commission mandate.

The Kingdom of God is going to advance by moving into the fray, not by avoiding it. Christ came for the sick not the healthy. In Near Frontiers we are bridge-builders, but we also call on believers everywhere to join the project and build with us. Don’t miss out on this gloriously messy time.




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Intercultural unity, good for church health

Intercultural unity — when people of different cultures fellowship deeply together in unity — is good for the health of the Christian community. Let me share some of my thinking:

  • Intercultural unity can expose unhealthy ways in which our culture can become one and the same with our faith — as if there is no other valid way of worship that pleases God other than our way.
  • Intercultural unity can expose ethnocentrism, a cultural arrogance that assumes our way is the right way.
  • Intercultural unity can expose syncretism, the merging of absolute truth with optional cultural practices.

This is what the Jerusalem Council (in Acts 15) accomplished. The Jewish leaders, under direction of the Holy Spirit an at the uncomfortable assistance of those ministering to Gentiles, realized that their customs were not essential for pleasing God.

When you think of all that the Jewish leaders laid down at the foot of the cross, and what little they retained, you have to admire their sacrificial obedience. But what a benefit for the kingdom of God! Their gracious conclusion (Acts 15:28-29) unleashed exponential growth among the Gentiles for centuries to come.

jerusalem councilBut the tipping point had to come. The weight of Gentile acceptance of the gospel had to, at some point, overpower culturally Jewish dominance of the Way. So it was to their credit that the pillars of the Jerusalem church saw the inevitability of change and cooperated with the Spirit’s new wine skins.

Such changes have continually happened ever since, and in our day the rising tide of immigration is pressuring the dominant church to yield. If leaders will take a lesson from Peter and James, we will see what the Spirit is doing in our generation, one in which no ethnic group will hold a majority, one in which people from all nations now call the U.S. home.festival

Like the founding Jewish apostles, we can view this as an opportunity to be seized. Rather than retrenching in the fortress of cultural Christianity, we can take an honest look at our syncretism and take gradual but courageous steps to pare down the things that are “essential” and welcome into the fold a broad spectrum of expressions of following Jesus.





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Value 2: Multiplication

Tweet This  We embrace Jesus’ method of passing truth onto succeeding generations.

Bob’s comments: It should be a no-brainer to be committed to empowering the next generation. But it is amazing how much ministry is done for those in control now.

Some leaders hold on to their positions beyond the time when there are younger ones capable and willing to lead.

We want our mentality and methodology to favor the development of younger believers and leaders.

The church throughout history has grown through multiplication. We value the multiplication of disciple-making churches and ministries.

Tweet This  We believe every disciple should prayerfully work to make other disciples, who in turn make other disciples.

We delight to see when God breathes on such obedience and creates movements of multiplying disciples and churches!

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Value 1. Biblical Commitment

 We base our lives and ministry on the Bible. We hold to the fundamental values that we are to love God, love our neighbor as ourselves, and make disciples of all peoples. While we come with different perspectives and traditions, we are careful not to be dogmatic about minor points. (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16)

Bob’s comment: The day in America has passed when we can assume people have a basic respect for the Bible. The inspired word of God is, to us, not merely a token allegiance. It is foundational to who we are as people. We study it personally, and discuss it when together.

Peter the fisherman turned apostle gave leaders a timeless reminder to stay in the word. “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables” (Acts 6:2). So they kept their ministry focused on prayer and the ministry of the word (v.4).
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