Feature

The Alliance: Together

Love • Proclaim • Reach • Launch

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The spring of 2013 was a fascinating time in my life. The Alliance family had prayed me back to health from a mysterious illness to the point that I was able to work full-time again. I was privileged to serve the Alliance Northwest District family as “acting district superintendent.” Meanwhile, the Presidential Search Committee had requested that I consider allowing my name to stand as a possible nominee following the retirement of President Gary Benedict.

"The Spirit of God is calling the people of God back to the Son of God."

A burden fell upon me that I’d never before experienced. I saw the direct connection between what takes place in the office of the Alliance president and whether unreached peoples will hear the name of Jesus in our lifetime; I saw the link between the decisions made and attitudes displayed by National Office leadership and whether the next generation will choose to embrace the Church or walk away; I felt the responsibility of the connection between a president’s role and whether The Alliance will stay true to the authority of the Word of God and the preaching of the historic gospel—or if we would follow the sad parade of organizations that are embracing secular thinking. Other aspects of the significance of the role weighed on me.

Like a mantle—woolen and water soaked—the burden fell heavily upon my shoulders. I could speak about it with no one other than my wife.

One night Joanna kindly asked, “Do you really think it is wise to let your name stand? You aren’t even elected yet, but you are so heavy. If you feel so weighed down now, how do you think you’d be able to handle actually being president?”

These were fair questions. I didn’t have good answers. I just knew that God wasn’t letting me say no.

In God’s kindness, not too many days later, He added another element to my experience. Like two rivers converging, a current of joy joined the steady flow of burden. He did not take away the burden, but graciously He gave a provision of joy.

This is the “river” that I flow in to this day: a divine, genuine intermingling of burden and delight.

The Commingling

I am burdened that:

  • Currently, the U.S. Alliance is closing more churches than it is starting.
  • Many of our churches are not experiencing the joy of baptizing anyone.
  • The Great Commission Fund has met budget only once in the last 15 years and that was only because of an exceptional legacy gift.
  • The U.S. Alliance is sending out fewer international workers today than when I first entered ministry in the early 1980s.
  • There are still 4,075 clearly identified peoples who have no (or few) believers among them and no (or little) access to the gospel.
  • While I rejoice that our team of international workers currently brings the gospel to 70 of these unreached peoples, I’m challenged by the fact that we are not seizing opportunities that are right before us. Many of these people live in or near geographic regions where our personnel are already in place. Yet, our teams are often so understaffed they have little capacity to look beyond their current realm of ministry.
  • Waves of immigrants wash across the continents, giving us wonderful opportunities to share the gospel, but our response feels minute compared to the massive need.
  • Misuses of power, misunderstandings about the role of leadership, spiritual lethargy, cynicism, racial superiority, an inward focus, and a failure of personal soul care are still too common among us.

Meanwhile, I have reason to rejoice. The joy the Spirit grants is not based on the following factors, but our spirits do find pleasure in seeing the work of God go forward.

I am pleased that:

  • Prayer—alive, active, and faith filled—can be found within the Alliance family. May God strengthen, protect, and hearten our prayer warriors and increase their numbers.
  • There is a hunger for the presence and work of the Spirit of God among us. More and more, some of us are realizing that our lives and ministries will never be any better than our obedient response to the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • Some of our churches are experiencing conversion growth. The U.S. Alliance family is baptizing more than 12,000 people a year.
  • Our 126 years of global ministry continues to bear exceptional fruit. Worldwide, the Alliance family has baptized more than a million people in the last five years.
  • There is a determined, joyful resolve among many to see new churches planted and existing churches thrive.
  • More than 1,000 men and women are preparing for ministry within the U.S. Alliance. Meanwhile, thousands of retirees desire to use this stage of their lives for causes of significance.
  • In the last two years, we have had the privilege and weighty responsibility of sending 80 new international workers to strengthen our current teams.

The Question Most Asked

One of the questions I’m asked the most regards vision. I’m grateful that the Alliance family has given me some time to formulate my response in prayer and in community. Those who have followed the monthly video blogs know the foundation upon which my thoughts are being built.

First, through the insight of another evangelical denominational president and after refinement by our Board of Directors, we clarified the C&MA’s “Reason for Existence”:

  • Beliefs we live,
  • A calling we share, and
  • Relationships we value

Next, we asked, “What is the unique Alliance expression for each of these?” We concluded that The Alliance is a:

  • Christ-centered
  • Acts 1:8
  • Family

I have no desire that this phrase—“a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family”—become a tagline for us, but I am eager for it to be our outline. For example, in the redesign of publications such as A Passion for Jesus and Alliance Life magazine, the phrase now serves as our format. The planning for this year’s Council followed this outline. May we always start with Jesus (His love for us, His love for the world, His call upon our lives, etc.) and remind ourselves of our need to be filled with the Holy Spirit as we fulfill our calling to every segment of human society (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world).

Increasingly, I want us to be aware that we are at our best when we do this together. Serving in a local church and among a community of local churches is the wisest and most effective manner of pursuing significant Kingdom impact. We really are better together.

With this foundation understood and increasingly discussed among us, I now turn to the essential question that follows: Together, as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, what is God calling us to do and be?

Together, as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, we will:
Love • Proclaim • Reach • Launch

As I feel the Spirit of God calling us to love, I will ask our church leaders to prayerfully assess whether we’ve settled for being “nice” or “friendly” while failing to truly love. Are we a loving witness in our community? Leaders, do you truly love your church family?

As I feel the Spirit of God calling us to proclaim, I will ask our church leaders to prayerfully assess whether we’ve compromised our message, watering it down with too high an affection for current trends. I’ll ask us to consider whether obedience to Scripture, prayerfully and thoughtfully studied, is the signature mark of pulpits.

As I feel the Spirit of God calling us to greater focus, commitment, and passion in our desire to reach the world for Christ, we will highlight the following:

  • People on the move
  • People of all ages
  • People lacking access

And, to reach these peoples, we must launch new waves of godly church planters, leaders, international workers, and laypeople of a wide variety of skillsets.

It’s simple, yes. But these are issues that I’ve prayed over, discussed in numerous leadership settings, cried over, been discouraged about at times, and am ready to die for at other times. A needy world awaits our response.

I want to create conversation as a result of this call to love, proclaim, reach, and launch together as a denomination. I hope that the leaders of this movement—elders, pastors church leaders, women’s directors, international workers—will be initiators of key discussions around these issues. My goal is not 100 percent agreement but that you be conversation continuers, starting with the questions you will find in this issue.

Please join the conversation.

—Adapted from the President’s Report to Council 2015.

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