Speaker Says More Obsession with Speculative Theology than God’s Kingdom Means Something Bad is Occurring
By Boaz Wadel
A dynamic and charismatic speaker at the third Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem, Pastor Bob Roberts energized delegates from his opening words on Friday morning.
Roberts is the founder and senior pastor of Northwood Church, near Dallas, TX.
Roberts covered a number of issues. Here are some of the highlights. He said, "We've got freedom of the press, but we own the press."
He added (tongue in cheek), "We don't go to the West Bank, because we've been told they'll blow you up. Well, come to Texas and we'll blow you up as well."
Roberts said while he loves his Jewish friends, he also loves Palestinians. When he asked conference delegates how many of them love Israel and pray for the peace of Jerusalem, there was loud applause.
Eschatology was next on the agenda. Roberts apologized to Palestinians here, saying his heart breaks for their suffering.
"The eschatology we grew up with, we've made it bad for you. When we're more obsessed with speculative eschatology than the Kingdom of God we've got something bad going on."
He added, "The Kingdom says that you matter to us and we love you."
Addressing Palestinian evangelicals present, Roberts said, "What if God has allowed your suffering for a reason? He wants you to take it (the gospel) to the ends of the earth."
Roberts said he isn't saying for Palestinians not to protest the way they've being treated.
He said, "Speak up and challenge the powers that be, but never forget that we belong to a King who sits at the right hand of the Father."
In a one on one interview with Roberts later Thursday, I asked if it was true that he'd rather preach in a mosque than a church.
He smiled and said it was true. "There are a whole lot of preachers preaching in a church, so why not be culturally different."
Roberts said there are unlimited opportunities and bridges to be built when you're asked to speak in a mosque.
Among other themes, Roberts said he's been asked to explain who Jesus is, and the Christian response to Muslims.
Roberts said that while Christians want to evangelize, they don't realize the importance of relationship and so they start with the head and not the heart.
The process of forming a relationship needs to start with serving and sweating, and that process will help to capture the heart, Roberts said. Once the relationship is there then we can talk about Christ, Roberts said.
I asked Roberts what he thought about some of the hate filled rhetoric that has been directed against CATC.
He didn't even blink before answering, saying "There have been conferences supporting the Jews for years. Why aren't we doing the same thing for Palestinians?"
Roberts said Palestinians have to answer for every bad thing that occurs in their land.
"The Jews don't have to answer for everything that goes on in Israel. That seems very one sided to me."
Roberts posed a question for the very vocal detractors of CATC.
He said, "Do Arabs matter to you? Did Jesus die on the cross for them? To share that news, you must have a relationship."
Roberts had a message for today's believers. "The world is connected like never before, so the opportunity to spread the gospel exists like never before. What's different is the whole world is listening. What you say, all hear, so be wise and kind."
I wondered what some conference attendees thought of Roberts.
Rev. Andrew Winchester and Jeremy Reynalds
Rev. Andrew Ashdown, a parish priest in Winchester, England and a conference delegate, said Roberts "kinda reflects the sort of Christian faith that maybe all of us hope we could reflect."
He added, "He was convicting, open, generous and Christ like in his expression of faith."
International activist Miranda Pinch also praised Roberts. She said, "I came not in a very good state but hearing (Bob) I was glad I made the effort to be there."
She said that after a while she started to listen more and say "'Amen.' He had me proverbially eating out of his hand."
Winchester also praised the entire conference. He told me, "The breadth of engagement is fantastic. There's an) ability to be open about the Christian faith without apology, and to be open and inclusive to God's presence within the other."