The Vision Lives On – Stumbo Video Blog 77

December 12, 2019


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John shares how he was profoundly moved at a national gathering of the Japanese Alliance on the 100th anniversary of A. B. Simpson’s death. “It wasn’t so much that our founder had died, but that our movement lived on . . . Alliance family, your part in this is significant—together we’re making progress.”


There once was a poet from Japan, whose poetry no one could scan. When asked why it was so, he said, “I don’t know—I just try to get in as many words in the last line as I can.”

Hello Alliance family, it is my last morning in Japan, and like that Japanese poet I’m trying to get in as much as I possibly can before I have to leave this fascinating country. Dr. Simpson visited here in 1893; he spent three weeks, and he wrote a poem that reflects the admiration and passion that he had for this country.

Off the coast of Asia, ‘mid the mighty ocean lies an island empire strangely fair and bright; ere the morning sunbeams touch the Asian headlands, all her isles are glowing in the dawning light. Kingdom of the sunrise well her children call her, for mid-Asian nations she is in the van (the forefront—the vanguard), first to catch the radiance of a brighter sunrise. Islands of the morning, beautiful Japan. Like a youthful giant she is leaping forward, gathering up the spoils of every age and clime (climate). Kindling with the vision of a grander future, she would fain out-speed the very march of time. (Simpson could sense a progressiveness of these people.) But her boasted progress and her brightest culture only can exalt the pride and power of man. What she needs is Jesus and the glorious gospel. Only Christ can save thee, beautiful Japan.

Beautiful indeed the people, the landscape, mountains, trees, rivers, architecture, its buildings—a sweetness in the air and quietness often in the streets. Japan is typically listed as one of the countries having the lowest crime rates, being one of the safest places to live in the world. We’ve all benefited from her technology and, I hope, enjoyed the flavors of her food.

Simpson was right; his lyrics accurate except for one sentence in his poem. Reading from the fourth stanza, “China’s teaming myriads and Korea’s millions wait for her to lead them to the Son of Man.” Simpson saw Japan as having the opportunity to respond to the gospel and then lead the way in taking that message to places like China and Korea. Instead, in the century that followed the opposite would prove to be true. Millions of Chinese and myriads of Koreans would respond to the gospel message while today still less than one half of 1 percent of Japanese follow Christ. And Chinese and Koreans are here in Japan, seeking to build the Japanese church.

We have a team here as well. I’m proud of them—winsome, dedicated, prayerful, multicultural, multigenerational, learning the language, loving the people, planting and building the church, discipling believers, raising up leaders, multiplying themselves, gospel-seed flingers, persevering Kingdom builders surrounded by a sea of materialism, Buddhism, and Shintoism. Far more Japanese flock to the extensive shrines than ever enter a local church. Yet the work goes on, prayerfully, faithfully.

I’m here at the invitation of our mission team, who wanted to bring together the many expressions of the Japanese Alliance and call for a nationwide gathering. A date was set, a building rented, flyers and banners printed. A joyful worship team from multiple churches assembled, and I was given the honor to preach. It was the largest gathering of The Alliance in Japan in decades—maybe ever. Joyful, multicultural, Japanese, Filipinos, Latinos, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese; it looked like the Alliance family to me.

It wasn’t by human planning, but I realized after I got here, with the help of our Archives team back in Colorado Springs, that we would be celebrating this Alliance Mission Festival on the anniversary marking 100 years from the day that our founder, Dr. Simpson, was honored in a memorial service. So many people wanted to get into the Gospel Tab for that event that tickets had to be handed out to control the crowds. Other services would be held on other days and other places, but this honored our founder, entrepreneur, pastor, author, missiologist, friend.

This day was the day that marked the anniversary of that memorial service, and I was moved. What struck me most profoundly as I stood before that congregation in Japan was not so much that our founder had died but that our movement lived on. You see, at that moment in 1919 The Christian and Missionary Alliance was already in 16 countries. Impressive. But today we’re in over 80. We already had 9 schools of theological training; today, 130. We had hundreds and hundreds of churches worshiping Jesus; today, 23,000. What happened? Well, The Alliance has never been about the man, Dr. Simpson, I hope. The Alliance has always been about the Lord Jesus Christ, and just because our leader was no longer on the scene was no reason for the movement to stop. You know the leadership principle: Unhealthy leaders make people depend upon themselves—they need to be needed, and they gather everything around themselves. Yet godly leaders make people more dependent upon God. They live to multiply themselves and so their ministries outlive them.

So, as an Alliance Mission Festival was held in Tokyo, 100 years after The Alliance gathered in New York for Dr. Simpson’s memorial service, a call was extended. Young and old were invited to come to the front and to join the team of gospel carriers, Kingdom servants, advancers of the message of Jesus to Japan and beyond. People responded. Commitments were made. Direction was sought. Prayers were offered. And there was joy in the house. Dr. Simpson’s vision continues.

Japan was my second stop on this international trip. Cambodia was my first. Oh, what a story that is, deserving a full telling at a later time. Suffice it to say that I’m equally as encouraged by our team of gospel carriers ministering in the area in Cambodia—serving communities, multiplying church networks, developing people.

You’ll probably remember that the Cambodian church was almost completely destroyed by the Khmer Rouge and their cruel rule of the country. Every church was closed, every pastor was either imprisoned, killed, or driven out of the country—or suffered in some way. And yet, the church now today is rebuilding stronger, having greater impact than ever before: church planting, Bible schools for ministry training, elementary schools in impoverished communities, addiction recovery program just getting launched, and on the list goes the many expressions of the Church in this country that is rebuilding.

Alliance family, your giving throughout the year keeps these teams going—and now as you give at year end, thank you! You’re continuing to help us forward this great work, and we’re launching further into still-to-be-reached places. Your part in this is significant—it’s needed and will be rewarded. Your prayers are used by God to empower the team, your finances are used to sustain them and, together, together we’re making progress. We’re making a difference in this world. More hearts are falling in love with Jesus, more lips speak His name in worship and praise, and more churches are being planted—and we are moving forward together. Thank you, Alliance family!

Towering over the Tokyo skyline is a structure called Skytree; it boasts of being the highest lookout in the world. Well, I’ve been on quite a few 14,000-foot mountains and so I might disagree with their marketing, but it is an amazing scene—360-degree view overlooking the world’s largest urban center—37 million people live below, and I felt small. The average church size here in Japan is 30 people and, for a lot of us, that seems small.

One of our international worker couples [is] planting a church in an unchurched region of Japan, and on last Easter Sunday the family took ill and couldn’t come to church. And no one that they were reaching out to came that day; and so our international worker, with no one present, preached anyway . . . small.

It’s the mystery of the ages that God would invest so much into such a little package, an embryo—a baby, the Christ Child that we once again celebrate this Christmas. Only true greatness can reduce itself into infancy without losing its majesty. Only the eternal dare enter the realm of time and outlive it—the Christmas miracle of God coming to us as one of us. We serve a Kingdom that includes mustard seeds, leaven, a narrow road, a manger. Small? Yes. Powerful? Oh, my yes. Eternal? Definitely. Hope-giving? Certainly, especially for those who may feel small. Take courage, and Merry Christmas, Alliance family, from beautiful Japan.


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