John Stumbo Video Blog No. 8
March 12, 2014
John challenges pastors to move beyond perfunctory leadership to the high and holy calling of leading His Church.
Hey Team, I’m back with you on the twelfth of the month. I hope you’re enjoying this conversation as much as I am. The last couple of months you know that I have been talking about what is a denomination, and more specifically, who is The Alliance—this Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family. Thank you for those who’ve responded about that in person and by way of the surveys.
I’m really not taking a popularity poll on this, but I am looking for resonance, that sense that God is stirring the same thing in our hearts at the same time. And I’ve been very encouraged that on the idea of Christ centered, Acts 1:8, there has been huge resonance. But when I get to the word “family,” there has been a little more uncertainty, caution, pause, hesitance. And I want to give three responses to that quickly, as I begin today’s video.
The first response is as I talk about a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, I’m really not asking you to adopt that language, those specific words. If the word “family” doesn’t work in your setting or culture or background, that’s fine; I’m really OK with that. If this gets plastered on literature in some of your churches and not in others, that is totally your call; but I am not asking you to adopt that specific language.
The second response is I am calling us to adopt this as a grid, an outline, a perspective of which to see the Alliance both locally and internationally—that we are to be Christ-centered; our beliefs are centered around Christ. Our mission is to be a Spirit-filled movement that is taking the message and love of Jesus Christ to every segment of human society and to do so in relationship, community, not just out there isolated on your own. So I’m asking us to think of this as an outline in which to look, not necessarily words to adopt.
The third response is I am warning against this individualistic, independent, isolated—yes all three of those words begin with the letter “I”—I’m warning against that kind of independent mindset, which says, “I’m just going to do this thing called the church or the pastorate myself.” But when that gets translated to the church, it’s wrong. It’s unbiblical. That American ideal is a strike in the heel of the American church. We were not called to be isolated, independent, autonomous, do-whatever-we-feel-like-is-right-in-our-own-eyes kind of entities, whether that’s individual Christians or entire churches. We are called to an interdependence that is dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
So I am not asking you to adopt language. I am asking us to adopt a mindset that says relationship matters; relationship is highly valued. Can I just remind you, leader, that almost all of the “Y-O-U yous” in English of the New Testament are, in Greek, plural—y’alls. So this is not something we are doing independent, isolated. It is something we are doing in relationship. Let me use that as a Segway today to talk about the local church and your leadership of it.
Church leader, if you’ve lost hope and lost heart for what the church can be, then move aside to give space for those who still have faith to believe that Jesus isn’t done building His Church. His Church, the resurrected Christ’s Church, is too holy, too loved, too significant to be lamely led by faithless leaders performing religious duties in some stale, perfunctory manner.
You know what I mean by doing things in a perfunctory manner? I remember one night being at an event where I was kind of the religious dignitary who had been invited to officiate over this certain ceremony, and when it came my time to stand and pray, I went through a religious ritual and said some words in the form of a prayer, but I hadn’t truly prayed. I had “perfuncted.” Following me was an elderly individual that was asked to pray as well; and elder Jim prayed—talked to God, poured out his heart—a real prayer. I drove away from that event that night convicted. “God, please spare me from being Pastor Perfunct. You didn’t call me to this to just go through some religious routines and then slap the name of Jesus over the top of it. You called me; You called me to a high and holy calling, and, God, would You stir in me a holy zeal, a reflection of Your heart for Your Bride?”
That was sort of my prayer that night and it continues to be my prayer to this day. And so I want to say to you, church leader, that I believe the local church is exceedingly significant. I believe that as you lead your local church, you are doing something of utmost significance; what you’re doing matters. You are involved in the local church. The local church is strategic to God’s plan and dear to His heart.
I believe that your local gathering of believers and other Bible preaching, Jesus loving churches like yours, are doing more good for your community than most anything that makes the headlines of your local papers. From your churches people are loved, prayers are prayed; worship of the Almighty God is heartfelt. The Word of God is declared. Holy marriages are formed and defended. Widows are supported. The addicted encounter hope, missionaries are raised up, sent out, and supported. Children, youth, and adults are offered a life-giving alternative to the degrading lifestyle modeled around them.
Souls are rescued from Satan’s clutch and baptized in the powerful name of Jesus. The ever-threatening tide of evil is held back. Goodness is upheld. A light shines. Demons seek to undermine; angles defend, and Christ Himself walks among you.
I know that because of what I read in Revelation, chapter 1. Picture this scene with me, would you please?
“I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet which said: ‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.’
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in its brilliance.
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
‘Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
‘To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.’”
He is the Christ who walks among us still today. I believe that.
I know there are issues in your church. There were issues in the churches I served. There were issues in these churches. But Christ claims her as His own. The Church is His Bride—most precious to Him. He called us into being. “I will build my Church.” He commissioned us. He cherishes us. He comes again for us. What we are doing is no small thing; it is of eternal significance, and the Church is of ever-increasing importance as the end time approaches.
The Church is Christ’s idea; Christ’s plan; Christ’s Bride; Christ’s calling on our lives. This is big. This crazy family called the Church, this is big. This is eternal. This is our privilege. From Anchorage to Zephyrhills, from Mountain View to Mountain Lake, Jesus walks among the churches still today. The Church is too central to Christ’s plan for us to loose heart, too cherished for you to do anything less than love. I really don’t hope that a bunch of Alliance leaders will resign as a result of this video, although if in a conversation with your pastor, district superintendent, you conclude that it is time, then have the courage to do so.
I do hope that as a result of this message we—pastor, leader, elder—will once again fall to our knees and thank God for this high and holy calling of being commissioned to lead His Church.