John Stumbo Video Blog No. 24

July 12, 2015


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This month’s video blog features a condensed, 30-minute version of John’s Wednesday morning address to Alliance Council 2015. Be sure to watch his entire address to Alliance Council.


As a Christ-centered, Acts 1–8 family, we sense that we’re a part of something significant, lasting, monumental . . . Amen? We are part of the eternal Kingdom of Christ that is violently opposed but undeniably advancing, attacked but unstoppable. You watch the news—blood-thirsty, power-hungry, ravaging forces trample cities. Kidnaping, women-raping, child-enslaving, church-burning, Christian- beheading marauders fill the streets, fueled with hatred. Is it not an increasingly dangerous time to be a follower of Christ in much of this world?

Simultaneously do you not feel a “for-a-such-a-time-as-this” stirring? For such a time as this, The Alliance was called into existence! For such a time as this, you and I were called into service. For such a time as this, the Spirit is empowering us—for such a time as this. The Spirit we have been given is powerful for times such as these. The Word with which we have been entrusted is relevant for times such as these.

Do you agree with me that for such a time as this God brought us into being? I believe with all my heart that we are one of—not the only one—but we are one of God’s appointed end-times families that He is using to complete the Great Commission, to fulfill the prophecies of Daniel, and to welcome the return of the Christ. How then shall we live?

So as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, what is—who is—God calling us to be, and what is He calling us to do? As I have waited on God for months on that answer, the first word simply and most powerfully is this: love. As a Christ-centered, Act 1:8 family, together we will love.

Now, I’ll confess that when I first sensed God wanted me to make this my lead point, my response was, “Really? After two years of being president, at my first opportunity to address the Council assembly for a vision-casting moment I’m going to stand before them and say, ‘We’re going to love.’” It felt like a “Duh—of course we are supposed to love. Tell me something we don’t know, Mr. President.” I guess what I wanted was something that made me feel stronger as a leader. I wanted to say, “We’re not only going to take that hill—we’re going to move the whole mountain. YAHHH!” That’s what leaders do, right?

Well, we will climb a few hills together, and in faith we will move a few mountains. But if we have not love (First Corinthians 13 if you don’t recognize that)—if we have not love, we have nothing. We’ve accomplished nothing. If we do move mountains but don’t do so in a loving manner, it’s meaningless. If we show incredible dedication and sacrifice but it flows out of something other than love, something like arrogance or needing to prove something or impressing others or being driven by shame or making a name for ourselves, if sacrifice grows out of anything other than love, in God’s estimation we’ve gained nothing. So I guess we better start here, huh?

And if we’re not convinced yet, please consider what we already know—the Scripture consistently gives priority to love. The greatest commandment is love. The greatest of these is love. Love is the most excellent way. They will know you are my disciples by your love. The fulfillment of the Law is love. You get the point. You know this already, but I’m bringing this to you simply because I’m commissioned to call us to a higher level of understanding and to a deeper level of experience. So, let me ask you: Is your church a loving church? Church leader, do you love your congregation? International worker, district superintendent, college personnel, National Office staff—do we really love the people we minister to and with? Really—praise God! It’s disingenuous to guide our people through a conversation on being loving as a community if we as leaders don’t love the people God has called us to lead. It’s not mine to judge, it’s not, but once in a while I drive away or fly out of a town where I have been with an Alliance church and I’m thinking this: Pastor, I know you—worship pastor, youth pastor, elder—I know you preach to those people and lead those people and have meetings with those people and have potlucks and picnics with those people and I know that you worship with those people, but do you love those people? I was with you a whole weekend and I’m not convinced. (Not mine to judge, not mine to judge.) I go back then and ask the question of my own self.

Love is not on the option, if-I-get-around-to-it list. It’s foundational to the church. It’s foundational to our leadership. We must not degenerate into a veneer of “nice” as an organization. We must love, and the only way we will do so is through connectivity with Christ. A piece of great news here: We don’t have to generate this love. As a Spirit-filled person, He loves through us with the love of Jesus. I’m not calling you to stir up or squeeze out an ounce of love for anybody. I’m calling us to connect with Christ; remain in Him, and He loves through us. May your lack of love only be a source of driving you deeper into your relationship with Jesus, not into a place of condemnation or handwringing or whatever.

Bosnia experienced floods last year as some of our own nation is right now. As often happens in situations like these, our Alliance team ministered and found open doors of opportunity to share the love of Christ; and Kathy Eikost from the team there wrote this in one of her prayer letters: “In one area the floods were severe because a vital levee gave way in four places. The swollen, raging river burst through and flooded vulnerable towns and farmland. Manmade walls had been built to protect the low areas but this year those walls were tested and failed. Why? Over the years people had been stealing sand from the barriers for their private use. Home construction projects seemed more important than a high river bank—after all, the river hadn’t flooded in 120 years! Why would we worry about it now?

“I was praying for Bosnia the other day,” Kathy writes. “I had this picture in my mind. I started to ask the Lord to flood Bosnia with His love and blessing in the same way that the river had flooded the farms and towns. The Lord interrupted me mid-prayer. (Don’t you love it when it becomes a conversation, two- way?) He said, ‘The flood happened because people stole the sand away and weakened the wall. I want you to steal sand away from the barriers Bosnians have put up around their hearts. Every time you show My love, you steal sand.’” Ah! “‘The flood will come—the flood will come when the walls have weakened to the point of breaking.’” Alliance family, steal some sand! Weaken the barriers, weaken the barriers—barriers built by anger, built by wounds, built by fear. By our loving acts, prepare the way for a flood of the love of God to sweep them into His Kingdom. God, make us a sand-stealing family of love! Let the flood come.

As a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, together we will proclaim. Jesus is described in John 1 as being full of grace and truth. I see the grace and truth interplay between these two words of love and proclaim. Let’s talk about proclaim. Like you, I’ve watched the pendulum swing back and forth in some expressions of the church, preaching styles being one of them.

Preaching: Styles and methods come and go. That’s fine. But I fear that in recent decades in some sectors of the church, the pendulum has swung far to the side of popular appeal preaching. In an effort to become relevant, sometimes we forgot about revelation. However, if Alliance pulpits lose the authority of God’s Word, we’ve lost the heart of this movement. If Alliance pastors fail—then all communicators in The Alliance, all communicators of all forms in The Alliance—if we fail to dwell in the text, reading, studying, reflecting, listening for the voice of the Spirit, if as Alliance communicators we cease to dwell in the Word, we’ve lost our voice. We have nothing to say. We join the babble of radio talk-show and daytime television.

Proclaim. Teaching leaders—worship, youth, lay, Sunday school—get into the Word and stay in the Word. Relate and illustrate as best fits your context but if there is no text that has been breathed into your soul, you’re not ready to stand before the assembly. The same is true for me. The president doesn’t get a pass from studying the Scriptures. I need to be a student of the Word. Saints died to preserve this Word for us. Nations still today ban this Word as too dangerous to be allowed among its citizens. What are we doing being flippant about it? May its familiarity and its availability to us not create passivity among us! Are you in agreement?

A second pendulum swing we probably observed is the trend to show the gospel with our lives or speak it with our lips. And here the famous line—“At all points preach Christ; when necessary use words”—comes to mind. You may disagree. (We already said that was legal.) For decades past the evangelical church was so afraid of the social gospel trend that we failed to do much good in the world. We held millions of church services while neglecting to feed millions of hungry people. We could have done the former without neglecting the latter. Some great things happened in those church services—I was part of half a million of them—but you had to be present to experience them and to partake in the potluck dinner.

Today, happily, the evangelical church—The Alliance included—has discovered life outside of our walls. We still have great church services, better than ever in some ways, but the church is increasingly seeing itself as a transformative member of the community, not an isolated fortress from the community. And I’m glad about that. By the way, if your church isn’t there yet, just go home and think about this simple fact, OK? Those walls enclosing our church building are to keep us warm in the winter, not isolated from society. Every Alliance church should have consistent, quality presentation of the gospel where people have opportunity to respond with a well-thought, Bible-based discipleship plan to follow. Ben Stewart is one of our millennial leaders in The Alliance. He said to me, “Our generation is losing the need and ability to articulate faith.” Some of us need to learn to show the gospel better, others of us need to learn to tell it more effectively, all of us would do well to take this word seriously: proclaim.

Let me give a word of encouragement. Your church may not have the hottest program in town or the hottest band in town or the latest whatever in town, but you can love and you can find ways to lovingly show and tell the gospel.

So as a Christ-centered, Acts 1: 8 family, together we will love, together we will proclaim, and as a Christ-centered, Acts 1: 8 family together we will reach. Now I know that The Alliance has been reaching people for all our history. I’m not calling us to something new, but again I’m calling us to greater clarity and greater engagement with what we do. I’m going to speak of reach in three ways: reaching people on the move, people of all ages, and people lacking access. You’re going to hear those three a lot of times in the months and years to come.

How is it that in these latter times there is such an upheaval of the human race? A reshuffling of the populations of the planet is taking place. How is it that so many people find themselves so far from home and all that’s familiar? Our message to people of the Diaspora, people on the move, people who don’t find themselves in their place of their original homeland—our message to the people of the Diaspora is: God has moved you that you might find Him.

“Reach” is a people view of the world rather than a border view. We’re moving in an era of Alliance thought where we are thinking less about boundaries, borders, nations, states and more about peoples wherever they may be found. This will shape much of our strategy in the years to come. Please don’t see this through international eyes only—see this through global eyes, global. The whole globe, as you know, is being shaped by the movements of people; and as new residents arrive in your town, please have eyes to see them. Please hear God’s heart in passages like Deuteronomy 10: “You are to love those who are foreigners.”

People of all ages. Alliance family, I want you to hear me say this: Too often the Alliance family has looked right over the top of wheelchairs and anybody under four-and-a-half-feet tall. Certain sectors of any society can become invisible. The disabled, children, are just two examples. You can add to that list of invisibles immigrants, international students, the incarcerated, returning citizens—those inmates that were just released, for whom some of them the sentences are just beginning—the deaf community. I’m calling the sub point “people of all ages” for simplicity, but in so doing I’m challenging us to lift our eyes and lower our eyes to truly see who is around us.

People lacking access. We have heard about some of this throughout our missionary education and missionary emphasis materials, but we’re going to keep drilling in on this theme. Harry Turner served as C&MA president starting in ’54. He astutely observed in his first Council report (quote), “In our foreign work, we have too long and too often measured our success in missionary endeavor by statistical record of converts and baptisms. The proper criterion of success is: What have we done to plant an indigenous church?”

We want to have conversions and baptisms, but the ultimate goal of those conversions and baptisms is representatives before the throne in heaven that have come thorough a local church that is owned by the local people. This is what we do; this is The Alliance. The Alliance builds a church and we have done so for 128 years, doing it in hard places. Time after time God has used us to build the Church where it never before existed, but there are still 4,075 peoples with limited or no access to the gospel and few if any churches among them. Right now we’re currently working with 70 of these peoples and we have a heart, not the resources—yet—but we have a heart to do more.

Here is the simplest way I can explain lack of access. In the United States if you were to find someone to tell you about a relationship with Jesus, somebody who had a personal relationship with Christ, you would have to knock on a door every 15 minutes for about an hour and a half before you could find somebody—statistically varies from one region of the country to the other—who could tell you about Jesus. In post-Christian Europe you’d have to knock on a door every 15 minutes for a day and a half. However, in places like North Africa where we have teams, you would have to knock on a door every 15 minutes, 8 hours a day, 365 days a year for 3 years before you could find somebody who is a Christ follower. This is what we mean when we talk about people lacking access. Quite likely there is no church in their city, the Bible has not yet been translated or if it has may not be legal, the opportunity to hear about Christ is almost nonexistent unless someone Romans-10 style comes from the outside to share. Unless they meet a foreigner who knows Jesus, they won’t meet anyone who knows Jesus.

And as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, together we will launch. In order to reach, we must do better at launch. What kind of launching am I talking about? What kind of launching should we pray about? May God allow us to launch, and here is where I’m not trying to be comprehensive at all but let’s just start a list going, OK?

What do we need within The Christian and Missionary Alliance? Well, we need to launch new waves of church planters. Lord of the harvest, raise them up, raise them up—more men and women who are passionate about new expressions of the church, new advances of the Kingdom.

New waves of greenhouse churches. What are those? Well, any church can contribute towards a church plant in some way. And just as a greenhouse is a place for new growth, we’re calling every Alliance church to in some way be part of church planting.

New waves of multicultural churches, new waves of “threshold” churches. Hundreds of Alliance churches have closed in the last decade. Often those churches spent months or years at a threshold, but they were in denial about it. Rather than making hard decisions or taking faith-filled risks to boldly reenter the dream—the calling—that God had originally called them to do—rather than reentering, they walked out of the house, the door closed behind them never to open again, and another closed church. Alliance family, let’s close fewer churches in the next decade please.

New waves of college and seminary students.

We must launch new avenues for women to use their gifting. I am not calling for a change in polity; I’m saying that within our polity there’s more room for greater female engagement. This often requires men who are currently in leadership to be a lead blocker, so to speak, to open space for them. Are we just trying to lead a middle-class, white boys’ club or are we trying to lead the Alliance family? This is so ironic that a family is a place where the contributions of both genders are needed. Are we not arguing that at the Supreme Court right now on that matter—that a family is a place where the contribution of both genders are needed? That’s not just a societal issue about marriage—that’s a family issue of The Alliance.

May God allow us to launch new waves of musicians, poets, and artists. Here’s what I think: Evangelicalism still hasn’t fully recovered from some of the unnecessary elements of the Protestant Reformation. I’m glad for the Protestant Reformation, but there’s some unnecessary ramifications of that 500-year-old event. May our sisters and brothers with creative gifting increasingly find open doors for their contributions to shape us. Our God is a creative being, His nature is to create, and in creating us in His image He gave us a creative soul. And He gave some of you the ability to get that soul out onto a keyboard or onto a palette or into a turn of a phrase. Musicians, poets, artists are a great gift to us as they express that creative soul. They help us be more honest—expressing ourselves, knowing ourselves, facing ourselves. With splashes of sound and crashes of words and dashes of color, the creatives stimulate us, anger us, and enlarge us.

May God allow us to launch new waves of strategically minded donors. Money is not the fuel of missions —the Holy Spirit is—but workers well trained, willing, called, vetted, equipped, and commissioned are worthy of being supported.

New expressions of multigenerational ministry. Let’s shift children’s and youth ministry from to and for them to with and through them.

May God allow us to launch new expressions of lay ministry. Church leader, think less about how to make your people happy and more about how to make them heroes.

May God allow us to launch new waves of international workers. I’m going to show us tomorrow lots of charts and grafts, and one of them is going to be a very sobering one from me. It’s just a line on a chart, but the simple fact is today in Alliance history we are sending fewer international workers than when I was a young man entering into the ministry. We have more churches today who are sending fewer workers. And that is not the legacy that I want to pass on to my daughter and sons, an Alliance that is less of a sending organization than the ministry that I received from my father. I as your president want to lead us in a reversal of the trend of how many international workers we are able to send.

I have a very sad list in my drawer. I received it in one of my first months of becoming president. It is a list of the places where we currently have international workers but our teams suffer from a lack of critical mass. If one more missionary goes home, one more international worker has to come home for some reason, we are vulnerable to actually be able to continue the team in these places because we’re operating so lightly staffed. Before we can, I can, in good conscience call us to the next places of the world, or the next peoples of the world, we need to strengthen the places of the world where we already are. Help us do that. First Corinthians 15: “Then the end will come, when he (Jesus) hands over the kingdom [of God] to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” As one of our young leaders, Tim Meier, says, “This is not a human endeavor we are undertaking. We are in the midst of a great God story.”

He raised up The Alliance, God raised up The Alliance to be one of his end-time families to bring about the completion of the Great Commission. Team, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, delegates to the Council of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, let’s rise to who we are. Let’s be all that He has called us to be. Let’s not falter, let’s not get discouraged, let’s not bicker; yeah, let’s debate, let’s discuss, let’s decide if these are good or bad or what needs to go forward, but let’s together as a family be all that God raised us up to be until Jesus returns.


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