It wasn’t an easy sell when Northwood Church first began its “glocal” ministry — as it came to be known — to Vietnam, recalls Mike Reed, executive pastor. “About a dozen years ago Northwood started going to Vietnam and looking at how we could end up serving the people of Vietnam, and Bob really did not want to go to Vietnam,” Reed says of his senior pastor, Bob Roberts Jr.
“There was a former Air Force bomber pilot in our church who God laid on his heart, ‘You’ve bombed the people of Vietnam, I want you to go back and serve the people of Vietnam.’ He had been back over and really had this passion. Not quite kicking and screaming, but against Bob’s nature, he did not want to go over there.
“Because Bob had grown up in east Texas and had seen a lot of the military personnel come back in caskets or come back with limbs missing from their stint in Vietnam. And when Bob went over on this trip God captured his heart too,” Reed says.
During the next several years the church started looking at how it could serve the people of Vietnam. “But uniquely,” Reed says, “we didn’t do it underground. We did it above ground, through the government and bit by bit. Just by being faithful, more and more people in Vietnam started hearing about this group of Christians who were there serving in Vietnam and serving their people.
How did it develop over the years?
Relationships with some of the government leaders began, and as a result we have exchange students who come from the government families in Hanoi who live with our families at Northwood and go to school right here in the area. We now have seen several of them who have accepted Christ. And these kids will probably become the government leaders in Vietnam down the road; they go on to colleges here in the U.S. Most of them go back and it has a tremendous impact on our congregation, we see an impact on them.
Any impact on your family personally?
I have a senior in high school and last year two of the exchange students happened to be in his student ministry small group at our church. He really got to be good friends with them. They got him hooked on Vietnamese food. He’s a basketball player and now he’s got the whole basketball team hooked on Vietnamese food — but it was because of that relationship with these two young men from Vietnam. It just expanded his horizons and gave him a cross-cultural experience too.
Bob’s something of a mover and shaker, isn’t he?
Bob’s got a very unique ministry; he is constantly talking to government leaders and diplomats and NGO leaders. He was just in Gaza about two weeks ago [in February] working on some Palestinian-Israeli issues; he was at the White House last week, and had meetings with some of the White House staff as part of a evangelical leaders delegation that the White House had asked to come in and talk about various issues. He was on Capitol Hill with that trip, meeting with some of the Congressional leaders there.
Is Bob a pretty easy guy to work with?
Bob is your classic visionary and he is at no loss for ideas. One of the things I’ve told Bob, if you can clearly define the bull’s eye for me, then I can hit it for you. The biggest challenge that I run in to at times is making sure that I clearly understand the picture of success in his mind. Bob’s like a Picasso — and he’s flying at 50,000 feet, and so it took us awhile to understand each other, to be able to understand and interpret what he is saying and make it so I clearly understand.
I think the biggest thing for us is staying focused on the basics, and one of the basics is we’ve got to slow down long enough to insure he and I have the time where I can clearly understand what’s in his mind. If I understvand that, I am pretty good about being able to garner the resources and pull the right people into the mix so that we accomplish what we need to accomplish.
But I would say that’s a big key for any senior pastor and executive pastor. I will get new executive pastors once in awhile who will call me and ask what’s your biggest challenge, and I’ll say making sure you and senior pastor are on the same page. Because you are there to serve your senior pastor and your church, you’re not to create a counter agenda or come up with your own ideas. It doesn’t mean you can’t suggest the ideas, but you’re there to implement and serve the senior pastor and your church.
Communication is key?
I think any wise leader has to have a group of people around him that he can absolutely trust. One of the Christian leaders that I admire most is Billy Graham. One of the things that you see is his core inner circle, who stayed with him for years and years. You see that there had to be some real, honest and yet loyal allegiance there with that team.
What it means to me is that the people who love you the most and are going to be honest with you the most and you trust the most can get in your office, shut the door, and say, listen, this is how that was viewed or perceived. And they have to end up going okay I appreciate that. Sometimes maybe your perception of it is wrong but you’ve got to be able to close that door and talk, and when that door opens up you’re all on the same page.
Have there been times when Bob has taken your advice and backed off an idea?
One of Bob’s greatest strengths is he sees things before anybody else sees them, and like most visionaries, that’s the way they are.
Well, I would not bet against him very often, because I’ve watched his track record. That’s where his responsibility is: to make sure he is clearly hearing from God. My responsibility is to end up following him and coming underneath his authority. So that’s how we end up operating and that’s the advice I would give to those executive pastors.
Do you have a good example where Bob is going that way and you’re going this way?
Nothing major. If anything he probably has given me even more freedom to fail at times. If I am the least bit unsure I am going to go to him and I’m going to end up saying, well, this morning there was something we were dealing with. When we met yesterday, we said we need to pray about this. Early this morning God woke me up and there was this thought on my mind. So at 8:30 this morning I sent an email and I said this is the word I want to give you based on last night; he shoots back and goes “I totally agree; that’s the way we should have gone.”
For the executive pastor, it is a matter of asking how does the Holy Spirit play into my role? Well, if you look at my journal it’s got the things I am wrestling with, trying to think through decisions, because I can’t separate my personal life and what I do at Northwood.
When I was in broadcasting, it wasn’t any different. If you looked at my journals back from 10 years ago when I was in a different career, it was the same thing. I think that’s how God wants us to end up living our lives. You don’t separate your business life and your ministry life and your personal life. I don’t think you can separate them. It can’t be all consuming. I think the best human resources manual in the world is the book of Proverbs. You look at all the interpersonal verses in there; I tell business leaders all the time, that’s the best HR manual that I have had.
What adjustments have you had to make working with Bob?
I am much more a goal oriented 1-2-3 kind of person. I’ve grown up playing golf. I realize now why I was a good golfer and was able to play in college. It was the fact that you can’t blame golf on anyone else, you can’t blame it on a team mate. It is you against the course. What I loved about it, I could set personal goals for myself, just work at it, and watch my scores drop and continue to get better.
So if you have someone who is a creative thinker over here and someone who is a 1-2-3 linear guy, they’re different. The key is whether you can learn how you can put those complementary gifts together. Then you’ve got a great team.
So where do you fit in on the Northwood team?
I basically serve as chief of staff and chief operating officer, so I work with the staff. I’ll spend most of my day with various department heads talking with them, looking at how we’ll doing as compared to the annual goals we’ve established for >> that department.
I’m not a student ministry expert, I’m not a children’s ministry expert. I believe in hiring people who are much brighter than I am, and who are passionate about specific areas. My strength is in asking them those probing, at times challenging, questions just to try to get them to think differently than what they may have thought. Some of that comes from my background in radio, working with very creative people in the media industry [with Salem Communications].
The church had an inter-faith weekend recently. How did that work out?
We decided to do a multi-faith weekend because we felt that Muslims, Christians and Jews do not really understand each other and it was very interesting. The press picked up on it and was framing the weekend as an inter-faith — but it wasn’t inter-faith. I mean if you sat through the Q&A of the imam, the rabbi, and Bob, all three were asked some pointed questions.
One of the first ones out of the gate for all three of them was do you believe there is life after death and after you die how do you achieve that life? Obviously Bob took it right from the start and said I believe what Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no man comes unto the Father but by me.” So that kind of set the tone that they were very distinctive differences in each person’s faith.
That weekend we had about 200 of our members who signed up to go to the Jewish synagogue on Friday night [in special services, due to space constraints] and then on Saturday we went to the largest Muslim mosque here in the metroplex and then on Sunday they came to our place. There were probably 75 to 80 Muslims and Jews that came to our church to experience our service. And after each one of those services there was a Q&A session with the rabbi, the imam and Bob.
It was a fascinating weekend and I think it really helped our people understand the differences in the three faiths that also challenged them to understand their faith better and how they can articulate what we believe. We live in a global world today and American is becoming even more diverse and we’re still charged with sharing the Gospel, but if you don’t know how to share the Gospel with a Muslim or a Jew or a Hindu or a Buddhist, you’re going to have an increasing challenging time to be able to try to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with people. [ www.NorthwoodChurch.org ]
RADIO — DONE WELL — REMAINS EFFECTIVE TOOL
Radio remains an effective communication tool for spreading Christian ministry, and before joining Northwood Church, Mike Reed was vice president/general manager of Salem Radio Representatives. Today he serves as a consultant with Advocace Media, LLC. He has worked with Zondervan, Tyndale House Publishers, World Vision, The Bible League, Food for the Poor, and Procter & Gamble, among others, to develop successful campaigns through Christian and secular radio formats.
Church Executive asked him how churches can effectively use radio ministry today:
First of all, the pastor and the leadership team must clearly determine what success looks like if they are going to go into a media ministry. When I worked with ministries from the other side of the desk [as a broadcaster], often they would tell me that they wanted to do a certain strategy and they were really committed to that strategy. But when I would start probing what success looked like for them, their strategy wasn’t going to achieve success.
The second thing is you need to understand that success is not going to come overnight. Anything of real value takes time to develop. If one of your goals is to have a self-sustaining media ministry, it’s probably going to take at least two years to stand on its own financially. Don’t begin by marrying yourself to a strategy. Begin with clearly defining what God wants you to achieve through a media ministry. Then find an experienced media professional who can help you design a strategy to achieve what God is calling you to achieve.
Before embarking on any media initiative, I would invest in an interactive website. Ninety percent of the people who initially learn about your ministry will immediately go to your website. Your website is your first impression. What questions do they have about you? What is important to them? Begin by answering the questions they have.
Your website will build or tear down your credibility. How are you using your website right now with podcasting? You might be considering running your church’s weekly messages on a radio station. The station is going to put you in a certain time slot and you may not have one of the prime time slots. People have to know when to tune in and listen to you. If you’re on your own website, the consumers listen to you when it is convenient for them. Consider running 30 or 60 second radio spots during prime times that drive people to your site to hear more about your church or ministry. Now you are using the intrusive power of radio with the power of a great website. [ www.Advocace.com ]