Bob Roberts Jr., Glocalization & the Global Faith Forum

by Rick Love

My mind was spinning with excitement as I read Glocalization: How Followers of Jesus Engage a Flat World by Bob Roberts Jr. Bob clearly understood the unique challenges of living out one’s faith in a post-9/11, interconnected, pluralistic world. I had found a soulmate – someone serious about following Jesus and someone who at the same time understood the tectonic communicational shifts impacting our world.

These far-reaching communicational changes have caused Bob to prefer using the term glocalization instead of globalization. The combination of the words global and local highlights the comprehensive connectedness of the world in which we live. What happens globally impacts us locally, and what happens locally impacts things globally. We in Peace Catalyst International describe it like this: "We seek to live out our faith with wisdom, integrity, and boldness in a 'glocalized' world."

One of the practical ways that Bob has sought to live out his faith in a glocalized world is by birthing the Global Faith Forum. Here’s how they describe it on their website:

We’re moving from a conversation about other faiths to a conversation with other faiths. At Global Faith Forum, we engage in conversation that allows us to hear from leaders with different faiths, different worldviews, and different ideas that will eventually shape the way we communicate in the 21st century.

Instead of putting on a “missions conference,” this Southern Baptist pastor is putting on the Global Faith Forum (GFF) this year. He has invited imams, rabbis, pastors, politicians, business leaders, journalists, socialists, and atheists, and at least twelve different nations will be represented: the US, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Portugal, South Africa, England, and Qatar. Wow! This will give every person attending an opportunity to learn how to live out their faith in the pluralistic world of the 21st century.

I realize some might feel that Bob is going soft on the Great Commission. But he’s not going soft. No, he is providing a safe space for followers of Jesus to engage with those outside their faith. The GFF equips people to learn how to obey both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. As Bob notes, “Evangelism is not something we do to people – it’s a relationship we have with people. Evangelism isn’t an industry, it’s a relationship.”

The GFF gives followers of Jesus a chance to obey two hugely important scriptures for life in a glocalized world:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (Col 4:45-6).

The GFF helps us learn to share our faith with gentleness and respect. It helps us communicate with grace. And it helps us walk in wisdom toward outsiders. What a great event! I feel privileged to be able to attend and speak at the GFF this year and encourage you to learn more about it. More information can be found at www.globalfaithforum.com.