AVAIL Media Host, Virgil Sierra, recently sat down with Robert Barringer for the AVAIL Leadership Podcast. Robert and his wife, Karyn, arrived in Peru 38 years ago as missionaries and planted a church in Lima. Camino de Vida is now a multisite congregation with more than 20,000 members and has influenced church planters and leaders throughout Latin America. In this episode, Virgil and Robert discussed Robert’s latest book, Filtros: Criterios Para Decidir Mejor. To listen to the entire conversation—and others like it—subscribe to the AVAIL Leadership Podcast.
Virgil: Robert, can you share a little bit about your story?
Robert: I grew up surfing on the beaches of Southern California. God did a miraculous move in some garages that we lived in, in Santa Monica, during the Jesus movement, and I gave my life to Christ. I found myself in a little church that encouraged missions and found a Bible college in San Diego called Berean Bible College. During that time, God placed South America on my heart—specifically Peru. I traveled here to Peru 1978 on a missions trip with some youth in our Bible college and saw the country, saw the hunger, saw the worry on people’s faces. We determined, “God, if you send us back to Peru, we’ll give our life to that country. So we did, and we’re still here. We’ve been here for 38 years, and absolutely love what God is doing. We didn't expect to come and plant a church. We thought we were going to plant churches, but God led us in this direction—to be a church that opens doors for other churches.
Virgil: You recently wrote a book called Filtros [in English, Filters]. Can you tell us about it?
Robert: What’s a filter? It helps you make good decisions. How do you make good decisions and how can you teach somebody to always make good decisions? That’s where this book Filters was born. It’s the art of making good decisions that leads you to a better life.
The Bible says, “Wisdom builds a house.” If wisdom builds, bad decisions can destroy. Everything God does in the Bible is a pattern based on a principle. So, if I say something like two, four, six, what comes next? Eight. The reason we know this is there’s a pattern based on a mathematical principle. So, because there’s a history with the pattern, you can predict the future. Five, 10, 15 is a pattern in the past that will help us know what’s going to happen in the future.
Virgil: You were sharing with me that the book actually has 25 filters that we can pass our decisions, or our options, through to be able to make the best decision. We obviously don’t have time to go through 25 filters in one podcast. But what if we unravel maybe the top two, the ones that you consider the most important?
Robert: So, basically, the first filter is this phrase: “Honor God in everything you do.” This is found in the story of Daniel, who was just a young kid, kidnapped from his country of Israel, from his family, brought into Babylon. For Daniel, they were changing his language, culture, diet, clothing and name. Daniel had to make very difficult decisions. How did he make them? By putting every decision through the filter of honoring God in everything he did. Let’s bring it in for a landing. Can I go to that place and honor God, can I watch that on the Internet and honor God? Can I say that, hear that, do that? If you can, do it; if you can’t, don’t. Right? Even if it seems like a hard decision, hard decisions become easy—if you make that principle a non-negotiable in your life.
Virgil: Have you found that sometimes there are situations that feel a little gray, or is that just us conveniently wanting to justify something? I think sometimes as leaders, we find ourselves in situations where we wish it was a little bit easier to distinguish.
Robert: I see so much gray. I’m actually nervous about people that only see black and white. They make me nervous because sometimes it’s not that black and white. It takes a little while to back up in the “gray” moment and just either pray about it or get some counsel on it from your mentors, from leaders around you or just other peers around you. The gray is, I think, where a lot of the decision-making can be.
Virgil: Is there a specific area or pattern that you’ve noted that leaders continuously struggle with specifically with this filter.
Robert: I think there’s the temptation to compartmentalize—different rules for church, business or our personal lives. I’ve often heard it said, “Well, that’s church; this is politics.” People try to separate the two. We’ve got to have the same filter here and there. There’s the temptation to have one set of books for the IRS and one for me. One for the government, and then the other cash register over there—like they used to do in the old days. The temptation to cheat a little bit. Some might call it gray, but isn’t really gray. There’s such a peace when you live a God-honoring life, because you’re never worried about hidden things coming out of the closet.
Virgil: So, what’s the second filter?
Robert: The second filter is, “Trust God.” Have you ever asked the really hard questions? What about those tribes that never heard the gospel? What about the babies that were aborted? What about my grandfather? God, what about these people? Really, what you’re asking when you ask these questions is, “God, will you be fair? Can I trust you? Will you be fair in your judgment of these people? So, the idea of this filter is that you can trust God. There are certain parts of faith—whether it be in the workplace, business world or church—that we just don’t have all the answers now. In my limited understanding, I’ve learned to trust God anyway. I’ve been walking with Christ now going on 48 years, and I’m still growing. And I thank God that questions I might’ve had a while back I’m just getting answers to recently. In faith, I continued to walk, even when I didn’t understand.
Virgil: Before we wrap things up, Pastor Robert, what would you like to leave on the hearts of all of the leaders that are connected right now?
Robert: What we’ve been talking about is actually simple. That’s what filters do. They help you keep things simple. I always remember a little saying from Albert Einstein where he said that there are four levels of intelligence. The lowest is that you’re smart, the next highest is brilliant, the next is genius. But the highest level is simple. So many leaders take simple things and make them complicated, but the smartest people take complicated things and make them simple. So, that’s the goal, and that’s the way we can create a path that people follow behind us. Keep things simple.
This article was extracted from Issue 6 (Summer 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.
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