John Stumbo Video Blog No. 11
June 12, 2014
John shares an aspect of what has been going on in his heart this year; how the lostness of man, though a significant aspect of our calling, is not a sustainable motivation for ministry. The love of God that gave Jesus to this world is the love that continues to send us to the world.
The following is an edited transcript of John’s video blog.
Hey, Team, it’s great to be with you again. A lot’s happened since I talked to you last month, at least in the Stumbo family.
Our oldest child, Anna, graduated with a physical therapy degree from a university in Denver and moved with her husband to Jersey City, New Jersey.
Our son Josiah and his wife, Sarah, made us grandparents in the last few weeks. Little Silas John Stumbo arrived three months early, weighing in at 2 pounds, 4 ounces—a 13-inch bundle of awesome, according to his parents. We haven’t seen him yet, but we are grateful that he is doing remarkably well for a child of that size. We are praying that soon he will be able to breathe and eat on his own. But we’re excited to be grandparents.
This is number eight of eleven District Conferences that I’m part of. I’ve been very pleased to get to meet many of you in person. Thank you for the kind comments about these video blogs as a way of feeling connected with what’s going on in the C&MA and getting to know each other in this manner, as well as through the couple of times of prayer that we had corporately by way of live stream. I’m encouraged that many of you are feeling more connected to The Alliance. It’s been a real pleasure to see you face to face at your conferences.
This conference is in Puerto Rico, where, if I were an intelligent president, you would think that I would stay more than a day and a half. But in trying to get to so many places, with the District Conferences happening in a short period of time, this is the best that I can do.
It has been fun to get to know the Puerto Rican expression of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. [At] 114 years old, the Puerto Rican Alliance church is almost as old as the C&MA itself. There are 64 churches, with plans to plant two more on a couple of islands off the Puerto Rican coast. I’m excited about God’s vision through the Puerto Rican church to continue to extend the ministry in these under-reached areas.
The seminary here is growing strong—fully accredited with a chaplaincy ministry. In spite of nearly 14 percent unemployment, the local churches have given nearly a quarter million dollars to the Great Commission Fund the past year. The youth ministry is alive; the area youth director is planning for 2016 LIFE, hoping to send their largest group ever to [the conference.] It’s been fun to get to know these local leaders. One of the churches recently baptized 15 new believers. I’m excited about this expression of the Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.
I’m feeling honored to get to do what I do and meet the people I get to meet. A year ago right now, however, I was just one of the nominees. I didn’t have this privilege yet. I want to tell you a few things that were going on in my heart a year ago.
I was fascinated to watch brothers that could’ve easily become the president; if they had allowed their name to stand, they could have been the one standing before you right now. Then, one by one, they stepped aside, believing that God had directed them to not let their names stand. I felt like I was on an episode of Gomer Pyle, where the sargeant asked for volunteers, and everybody else backs away, and he’s left standing out there. God wouldn’t let me say no.
But what was happening in my heart was fascinating. A burden came upon me, a heavy burden, emotional. I began to picture unreached people groups. I was aware that what happens in an office like the president’s office of The Christian and Missionary Alliance over the course of time has direct impact on whether or not those unreached people groups hear the name of Jesus—at least through our efforts. I became aware of the next generation—that what happens in an office like the president’s office in The Christian and Missionary Alliance has direct impact over the course of time on whether the next generation wants to engage in the church and participate in the cause that we’re a part of.
I thought about organizations in my lifetime that have strayed from the gospel and from the authority of the Word of God. In one generation, they had drifted in dramatic and horrendous kind of ways. And I became aware that what happens in the president’s office, over the course of time, impacts the direction of an entire movement—unreached people groups, the rising generations, the holding steady to the Word of God—the significance of this role. Not that one president dictates all of that, but being aware that the style of leadership—the themes that are emphasized, the commitments that are made, the way that money is spent, the leaders that are raised up—has a direct impact between what happens in offices like ours and nations or unreached peoples.
The weight of that was [substantial.] In fact, my wife grew concerned and approached me one day, saying, “John, do you really think you can handle the presidency if you’re not even elected president and you’re already feeling this heavy?”
In God’s mercy, while on a particular stretch of interstate, He met me with Psalm 40, verse 8, which says, “It gives me pleasure to do your will, O Lord; I delight in doing your will” [paraphrased]. The fascinating thing about that passage is that it also is quoted again in Hebrews, chapter 10, implying that Jesus Himself said those words pre-incarnation. Leaving the Father in heaven to come to earth as the divine Son of God, Jesus evidently says, “It gives me pleasure to do your will. I delight in doing your will.”
I knew as God gave me that word that it was no sacrifice, compared to what Christ had done for me, to give up my simple life that I was living to take on the leadership responsibilities of the C&MA. But more significant than that was with that river of burden that was flowing through my heart, He joined a second river to it, like the confluence of two bodies of water. The second river that joined it on that stretch of interstate that day—and has remained until this day—was a river of joy. What a fascinating combination in my heart—burden, deep burden; joy, rich joy—coming together.
I think that sometimes in Christian and Missionary Alliance history, we have misunderstood John 3:16, thinking that it says, “For God was so burdened for the world that he gave his one and only son.” No, you know what the verse says: “God so loved this world.” Yes, burden is a significant aspect of the heart of God. Burden must be a significant aspect of our ministry. But the lostness of man alone, if that is all that’s beating in our hearts, that’s not sustainable. None of us can minister long term under that kind of weight. But when that weight is matched with the joy—or if you just want to use the simple word “love”—that when it’s genuine love arising in our hearts in a loving, joyful, life-giving way, that’s sustainable. Love is sustainable; burden alone is not.
Maybe you don’t think that my personal experience of burden and joy makes a very good definition of love. Well, that’s fine. But for me, those two rivers flowing together have been what has propelled me in these months. I am convinced that what we do is of great significance—holding true to Scripture [and] reaching next generations and unreached people groups, as well as your participation as a local church through church planting, and discipleship and the various aspects of your church’s expression in the Body of Christ.
So here I am behind a church in Puerto Rico, giving you the behind-the-scenes look of what’s been on in my heart this last year. It’s also been what’s been behind the scenes in the formation of some of our materials that we have sent out, like Great Commission Sunday videos that you have received recently. I’m afraid that not enough of us have recognized them as a resource to be used, so I want to re-promote one of those videos at the end of this blog, which you will see in a moment.
This conversation that, yes, we must be burdened for the lost, and, yes, Christ redeems the soul from hell, is not the whole gospel message. It also includes the joy of forgiveness, the life that Christ brings, and the way that He makes us larger people to be released to serve the whole world with His love.
And so, in the words of A. W. Tozer, “The purpose of Christ in redemption was not to save us from hell primarily, but it was to save us unto worship that we might become again worshipers of the living God.” What a gospel we have. What a joy it is to speak this gospel.
And so as you minister, my friends, in your churches, I pray that there will be a profound burden that drives you. But not burden alone; [I pray] that the joy of the Lord will become your strength and that [they] will flow together as a current of love in your heart to take the gospel message to people who will soon become worshipers of the living Christ.