John Stumbo’s Video Blog No. 57

April 12, 2018


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This month, John is joined by Tim Crouch, vice president for Alliance International Ministries (IM), and Mike Sohm, president of CAMA Services. The three discuss what God is doing to shape Alliance missions for the future, including organizational restructuring to more effectively lead, manage, and communicate our multi-specialization missions work. One of the first steps is the integration of CAMA with IM to create a more holistic missions ministry, which will also increase opportunities for more people in our churches with varied gifts and callings to serve in Alliance missions. Here is a short historical timeline to bring more clarity to this discussion.


John Stumbo: Hey Alliance Family. It’s April. I’m back with you again today. First of all, an announcement. In your mailbox is this coming Great Commission Day’s material. I would invite you to open up that box and share it with your church family because here’s the simple point: Every person should have the opportunity to hear the gospel. And every Alliance person should have the opportunity to help the world have access to the gospel. And that’s what this Great Commission Day is about. So please give your church the opportunity to engage in this manner.

Today’s theme has to do with the evolving world of how we do missions across the globe. A couple years ago I had a beginning conversation with Tim Crouch, vice president of International Ministries (IM), where I simply threw out a question, “Are there any structures that we currently have that are not serving us well for the future? Because as The Alliance we’ve inherited a wonderful organization, but if there’s anything that we’re currently doing that will not serve the next generation now, let’s have the courage to change that while we’re still in leadership.” Little did I know where that conversation would lead, but today with me in the studio is Mike Sohm, who leads CAMA Services, Compassion and Mercy Associates, and Tim Crouch from IM. And together we’re going to be telling the story of what God is doing to shape Alliance missions for the future. I introduce to you today my friends Tim and Mike.

Tim Crouch: John’s question got me thinking about several decades of our history in The Alliance. I think in the middle portion of the Alliance work around the world, maybe in the years since World War II, we developed a very singular way of doing missions. In the era following the World Wars, there were a lot of reasons to prepare people for church ministry competencies and then see them deploy those around the world in places where receptivity was high. As times changed and as needs changed in some of the places we were serving, we actually began to broaden the kinds of work that we were doing around the world. We began to employ international workers of a greater variety of competencies. When we look back over those decades, we can see that we added on work of different specializations, but with a few more decades to look back we see we haven’t necessarily created the systems that integrate all of this work and that make sense of it to all of us across the Alliance family. These days, we feel that we have a wonderful opportunity to do just that.

Mike Sohm: One of those specializations was CAMA Services. Not exactly created to be a specialization but a response to an overwhelming humanitarian need created by the Vietnam War. We sent people to help with refugees who were streaming out of Vietnam, Cambodia, and eventually Laos. In our response, we were innovative, we were creative, outside of the box, working alongside of existing Alliance work and coming into conflict from time to time because we did things in a somewhat unorthodox way. But it was effective. In every place we sought to see the gospel presented to people, their human needs met, and to do things that would help to establish churches, even in refugee camps. But again, our work was a bit unorthodox at times.

Tim Crouch: Just as CAMA became an additional specialization—people working in relief and development out of the Vietnam War years—it wasn’t long after before IFAP, the International Fellowship of Alliance Professionals, was begun. With the opportunity to see workers in places like Ch*na again, after a long time when we couldn’t be there, sending professionals—people who would be involved in business or teaching, education, medical spheres—became an additional way that The Alliance could be at work in the places of the world where people need gospel access. This wasn’t really something new. Through the years of a strong focus on church ministries there have always been people like medical professionals woven into some of the teams of The Alliance, and that continues to this day. Today, many English teachers and people are involved in cultural exchange communities; the number of specializations involved in Alliance missions is growing.

And in the last decade the addition of Envision—a specialization focused not only on joining in the ministry on the ground but developing the next generations to follow who will be working around the world—came to the fore as well. Today we’re a multi-specialization missions operation. However, there’s tension today because not all of our systems or ways of doing things or ways of leading or ways of talking about Alliance missions across our churches—and even the funding mechanisms that we use in The Alliance—have caught up with this multi-specialization way of doing missions.

Mike Sohm: While CAMA is one of those specializations, it is different from the others in that we have operated organizationally distinct from The Alliance. That creates a unique problem, something that we need to address.

Tim Crouch: How do we address that? In the past year, the CAMA Board, the President’s Cabinet, and the Board of the C&MA have been dialoguing about this, leading to the decision to see CAMA integrated into International Ministries. This is the first step that we will take to restructure ourselves to function more systematically, more intentionally, as a multi-specialization mission. It’s not the only step that we’ll take. We’re looking at how to raise the voices of all the leaders of the various specializations in the way that we lead all of the international workers around the world. We also want to look at fresh ways to give expression to the broad variety of types of work in The Alliance so that from our churches, people of various vocational bents and callings will be able to find their place in serving.

Mike Sohm: That’s a great vision, Tim, but we’ve got to start somewhere. And the place we’ve chosen to start is to integrate CAMA back into Alliance missions. We’re seeking to bring about an organization change. But underneath a large organizational change is transition—personal, personal change. The many changes for me . . . the CAMA Board will no longer function the way it is or exist. Many other things will change. Titles will changes, roles, responsibilities

. . . and that’s transition. That’s hard. Something is coming to an end. But it has to come to an end because there’s a new beginning. And that new beginning is compelling. Think of what we could do in working together intentionally.

Tim Crouch: That’s what I love about where we’re heading. We want to embrace the fact that already we have many types of Alliance people serving in many ways around the world. But we want to envision the opportunity in the future to see more people of more different types serving the Lord in more different ways through Alliance ministries than ever before. To do that, we need to support all of that diversity with the systems and the structures and the leadership that they deserve. So this is the direction that we’re heading. We’re beginning with this first step that you’ve heard about today, and we look forward to more as we receive from the Lord what He has for us in the days to come.

John Stumbo: What I hope you’ve heard so far is that there is change coming. Some of it is specific and already has dates and true clarity to it. Others of it is still evolving, such as funding. Right now, please continue to give to the CAMA Advance Fund and the Great Commission Fund. They’re still separate, but in time we’ll be bringing together the funding as well. This is still evolving as we go. I hope that you have seen two leaders who are humbly coming before God, offering up position and title and all of that just to say, “Lord, how do we best advance your work for the Kingdom of Christ?” And we haven’t said the word yet but I always hope that you’re hearing overtones of the word “proclaim,” one of the four priorities that I’ve been presenting to The Christian and Ministry Alliance family—love, proclaim, reach, and launch. Because in that “proclaim,” every time I speak of it there’s always the demonstration of the gospel and the verbalization of the gospel.

We must show and tell, speak and live this gospel. And I’m going to bring Tim and Mike up one more time to give some of the heart behind this decision to be working toward a merger of the organizations.

Mike Sohm: Historically, The Alliance has always been committed to the proclamation of the gospel and the demonstration of the gospel. The gospel is seen through who we are. It is experienced through what we do. But it is understood by the words that we speak. CAMA Services staff have had the privilege of serving in some really difficult places. And the gospel is really good news for the refugee. It’s really good news for the person struggling with poverty and food security. The gospel makes a difference in people’s lives.

I stand on the shoulders of some amazing people who’ve served with CAMA Services over the years. I think of Andy and Bev Bishop and I think of Cliff Westergren, the Baileys, Phil Skellie—people who worked in some very, very difficult places. The needs of the world have not grown less. Things are more dire than ever in some places. But the good news is that the gospel is more than adequate for all of those needs.

Tim Crouch: We’ve talked today about the desire to make changes because our systems, our structures, our leadership, haven’t kept up with the kind of mission that we’ve become as we’ve followed the Lord. But we also want to make these changes because of the nature of the gospel itself—it is good news for the whole person and for whole communities. We have an opportunity as well to involve the whole church in many more ways today as we look for how medical professionals, business people, teachers of language, church planters, evangelists, and disciplemakers can work together so that peoples of the world that today lack gospel access will gain it. And so that from them it can flow to still others until the Commission our Lord gave us is complete.

John Stumbo: As 12th president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, I feel this weight, this significance, of being one of God’s end-times families that He has raised up to complete the Great Commission. But the weight seems bearable because I share it with leaders like Tim and Mike and many others who together we’re yoked for this joint purpose with our Alliance churches—with you, church leader—for this great task of having the joy of being the kind of people who have been chosen to be the representatives of loving proclamation that reaches and launches.

And so team, we’re changing some stuff around here. Some of you will feel that acutely. Some of you will not as much. But know that everything that we’re doing is for the advancing of the name of Jesus and for the glory of Christ. And so we continue to invite you to join us on this journey, and we’ll keep you posted. God bless.


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