Robert Stearns’ influence reaches across the globe as a highly regarded pastor, visionary, speaker, author and musician. Stearns has spoken and performed musically in over 40 nations around the world in venues as diverse as the United Nations, Carnegie Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the House of Lords in London. He has worked with some of the greatest faith-based leaders such as the late Billy Graham, Pastor Jack Hayford and Pat Boone.
One of the most defining moments of his life was his first trip to Jerusalem in the early 90s, which exposed him to the many ways people approach Christianity and the history of Judaism. This inspired him to start Eagles’ Wings, “A global movement of Jerusalem-centered, like-minded people, advancing three strategic values: peace in Jerusalem and the Middle East, authentic spiritual community and bridges of friendship across cultural divides.” This highly regarded organization promotes dialogue to create a better understanding between the Jewish and Christian faiths, and change preconceptions about Israel and the Greater Middle East. Eagles’ Wings is a pioneer in cultural education and participates in dozens of programs and seminars to help build tolerance, understanding and mutual respect between faith communities. To further promote their mission, the organization sponsors a 10-day trip for influencers to Israel, where they can form their own opinions of the country and achieve a deeper, cross-cultural understanding.
Stearns is the president of the Israel Christian Nexus, whose mission is to “educate Christian and Jewish communities and the general population about the crucial role of Israel, the Jewish people and our shared Holy Scriptures with the values that are foundational to our freedoms and respect for life. ICN works to encourage relationships and joint initiatives by Christians and Jews in support of Israel, the Jewish people and our shared Judeo-Christian values.”
Additionally, Stearns continually shares this message of hope through his multigenerational church, the historic Tabernacle based in Orchard Park, New York, whose mission is to “Love God and people well.” His innate ability to communicate and connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds allows him to spread his influence and faith passionately.
HOW EAGLES’ WINGS BEGAN
Robert Stearns: I was raised in the Christian church, and felt a call to the ministry at an early age. In my early 20s, I visited Jerusalem for the first time to volunteer for the International Christian Embassy. It changed my life. I had been raised solely within Christianity and all of a sudden, I’m in the land of the Bible. I’m interacting with people who are praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That’s the same God I pray to. My faith construct came from them. All of a sudden, my faith didn’t just go back to Jesus, but all the way back to Abraham.
While doing work through Eagles’ Wings, I met an iconic Los Angeles figure named Pastor Jack Hayford. He became a mentor to me and introduced me to a retired Israeli general named Shimon Erem (z”l). About 25 years ago, Pastor Jack and General Erem started an organization called the Israel Christian Nexus, which was the primary place of connection and communication between the Jewish and Christian community in Greater Los Angeles.
After General Erem passed away, Pastor Jack assumed leadership of the Nexus. A couple of years later, he asked me to lead it. I became the president of the Los Angeles-based Israel Christian Nexus, which has great leaders of faith such as Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, Rabbi Pini Dunner of the Beverly Hills Orthodox Synagogue, Pastor Michael Fisher and many more.
The most influential people are those sharing their journey and not just their final destination. Having that vulnerability and the transparency to share truly unlocks the heart.
THE CHURCH’S MISSION
Robert Stearns: We are a church that wants to love God and love people. I know that sounds simplistic, but we take it seriously. We don’t think you can love God without loving people well. I love the local church. I personally believe that being grounded in a community of people is part of what keeps you authentic. It’s part of what keeps us very intentional about being a multigenerational church. We really are just seeking, as we look to the next 85 years, how we love God and love people.
WHO IS JESUS?
Robert Stearns: Part of my journey in wrestling with faith has been questioning my relationship with Jesus, because maybe someone believes in God, in a higher power, or in universal consciousness. However, that doesn’t necessarily equate to Jesus. I have found that there’s a tremendous difference between Jesus and the Western Americanized Jesus that we’ve come to know–this is part of the journey.
The reason people misunderstand Jesus is because we have turned Jesus into something he’s not. In Western Christianity, we have a constantly changing iteration of Jesus. I try to help people remove some of the layers of how we have perceived Jesus over the years.
Who is Jesus in his true, historical context? I would start with chapter one of the Book of John. In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. Therefore, Jesus is God’s word, voice, representation and expression, encapsulated and brought to Earth.
Years ago, the author J.B. Phillips wrote a book called Your God Is Too Small. The title of the book is everything to me. The premise is that too many times we present a God who is altered to fit in our construct when God is much greater than that.
Robert Stearns: God chose to reveal himself to Earth through a group of people called the Jews. People subconsciously read and interpret scripture with their own bias. They always say Jesus was Jewish. I correct them–he is still Jewish.
I have a Jewish man in my heart and trust a Jewish Savior.