Mission Catalyst for the Redwood Empire Association
Robert (Bob) Lawler serves in the role most commonly known as “Director of Missions” for the Redwood Empire Association, when in fact, in 2015, the association changed the title to “Mission Catalyst” (a somewhat common misconception Mr. Lawler pointed out). He and his wife Sandie just celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary this past May. Their love story began on the opposite side of the United States in Long Island, New York as high school sweethearts. Mr. Lawler is also an award-winning artist. With an undergraduate degree in graphic design from The State University of New York, Bob earned accolades as the “Insanity Editor" for his college newspaper. To this day, he still enjoys drawing. His Father’s Day present was an easel, and he already knows what his first subject will be - the lagoon he and his wife often hike around.
1. What biblical character (other than Jesus) would you want to meet, and why?
I would want to meet Mary (Jesus’ mother). I think she has to have the most amazing perspective. To give birth, raise the son of God, and to be there for his teaching, his crucifixion, and his resurrection. She just saw the entire scope of Jesus’ life and ministry in a way that nobody else experienced it.
2. Toilet paper, under or over?
Hahaha it actually really depends on who is in the household because if you live with cats or toddlers, the toilet paper needs to come off the back of the roll. Now if you don’t have cats or toddlers it can come from the front. I speak from experience. I’ve had toddlers and I have cats right now. Two of them in fact.
3. Tell us your best, ministry horror story.
Well, I have a horror that turned into joy. I was set to baptize a six-year-old girl. Our church at the time didn’t have a baptistry. So, we had to ask another sister church to use their baptistry. This was in New England, and it gets cold. No one had checked out the baptistry prior to letting us use it and the heater was broken! Let me tell you when I walked down into the water, the temperature was one that would make you catch your breath. I turned toward the six-year-old and explained how cold the water was and that I would completely understand if she didn’t want to do this, and we could reschedule for another time. The six-year-old looked up at me and … ~this is how I know that the faith was genuine with this girl,~ she looked up at me and said, ‘If Jesus can die for me, I can get into cold water for Him!”
4. What has been an evangelistic tactic that has worked best for you?
I got to a place where I realized I should tell my story -and Jesus’ story- as a love story. That is what I encourage when I do evangelism training. At some point your story and Jesus’ story intersect and if you can tell how His story and your story became one story, I think that really means something to people. My wife was a believer before I was. She actually led me to Christ as a teenager. So even our love story is wrapped up in the bigger love story with Jesus. I don’t believe in leading someone to Christ in a memorized sales pitch or acronyms. As soon as you start doing that people are like ‘umm... this is a method.’ Storytelling evangelism is where my heart is.
5. Do you have a favorite leadership/personality type assessment? (Ex: Myers Briggs, StrengthsFinder, etc....) If so, what do the results tell us about you?
Well, I was really pleased with the StrengthsFinder assessment. I was like WOW, no wonder I’m a Mission Catalyst. No wonder I work in the denominational structure. It’s like a perfect fit! My top 5 strengths are: Learner, Empathy, Belief, Connectedness, and Strategic. I think those are all the things you would want in a Mission Catalyst!
6. What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Communicate more with the ones you love. There’s another part of my personality that is pretty far down the introvert scale. The little voice in the back of my head says, ‘they know that you love them, and they love you’. But I think if I had given myself the advice back then, it would have been to say it more. I needed to be more expressive. I come from a long-family-line of introverts; both of my parents, my two sisters, everybody was/is an introvert. My wife on the other hand, is an extrovert! When we came to seminary, they gave both of us the Myers Briggs assessment and the counselor said “I hope you have a good marriage, this is a hard one to navigate. But if you can figure it out, you’ve got all the bases covered!” Forty-five years later, I think we got it figured out!
7. When you think through all the names of Christ, what name resonates with you right now and why?
Definitely Shepherd. I was just meeting with my administrative assistant. I’m a senior citizen, and she’s a little older than me. So, we talk about getting old. One of the things we realized is that, as you get older and more mature in Christ, you grow and have more answers, but it feels like you still have even more questions. So, it’s good to have a shepherd who knows the path and the answers to all the questions. He just doesn’t come out and tell you. He just says ‘I’m God, you’re not. Where were you when I established the foundations of the earth?’ We have a great Good Shepherd who is going to protect us, guide us, and lead us to green pastures.