John Stumbo Video Blog No. 20
March 12, 2015
This conference will be of greater value than most any other conference you could go to in the next couple years.
Hey, team, I’m coming to you today from Long Beach, California—the site of Council 2015. I’m on the Queen Mary, looking across the water and where the Council will actually take place, gorgeous location. What a pleasure it will be to gather here in this great city, in this location.
You‘re gonna enjoy the weather and the beauty and the walkways and the restaurants and all that this particular region has to offer. You’re gonna love that, just being present in what God has created here in Long Beach. But it’ll be even better when the Alliance family gathers. And so this is an invitation to every Alliance leader, pastor, official worker, layperson: please, do whatever you could to come to Long Beach and join us.
We are planning a significant week together, praying that God will meet us in a substantial way. That’s why I’m on location today, months early, for prayer and planning so that when you gather in May that we are fully ready for you with great anticipation.
Expectancy and anticipation are key words for me with this event, not only because of the slate of speakers that are lined up and the worship that is being prepared—the breakout sessions, seminar kind of things that are planned; I really feel good about the slate that we’re offering to you—but beyond the human preparation, there is a sense right now that God is at work in The Alliance and that by gathering together, we get to have the shared experience where we join together in listening for what He is doing among us and speaking into that.
Across cups of coffee and around meals and sometimes behind microphones, when we gather at an event like this, we get to speak into who the denomination is becoming, and so that is very significant to me that you would join that conversation. It’s significant for me as well that we give ourselves permission to renew—that as leaders, we receive; we’re not always on the giving end, but we come to have somebody else open the Word for us. We come to hear what somebody else is grappling with, their best practices, their listening-to-God moments. And so, I welcome you to come and receive what it is that God has for you as an individual and for us corporately as a family.
I’m also welcoming you, because I was elected two years ago and was not prepared at that moment to stand and give us any vision kind of talk. I felt it inappropriate; I felt unprepared to do so. But now this will be two years later, and in this listening journey that I’ve been on, in my own quiet times with the Lord and also in community, I am increasingly ready and will be ready by May to stand before you and say, “Here are some of the places—not necessarily just geographic—but some of the places that God is taking us as a community of believers—the people we must become, the priorities we must emphasize. This moment in Alliance history, what is God saying to us for what some of the next steps are?”
There’s a stirring happening in my heart that I am very eager to share with you at that time.
Those of you that are pastors and church leaders know the significance of shared experiences. You have witnessed it in your local church, when God meets with us and we have this experience as a community that was shaping for who we became as a local church. Well, as a denomination, I almost covet that very same experience for us as a denominational family, believing that when we gather together that there are going to be some God moments that shape who The Alliance becomes. And I want you to be part of those moments.
I hated it, as a pastor, when key leaders didn’t come to the meeting that God showed up at. And so as now denominational president, I just so much long for us to gather as many people together as possible so that who we become as a denomination is experienced by many, many more people than perhaps has been at sometimes in the past. So, I’m believing. I’m expectant. Those are key words for me in these days—that God will be at work as we gather, because He is already at work in our planning; He is already at work in your local churches. As we speak into the conversation, as we pray together, listen to God together, I just want us experiencing this as a family.
So I am very aware that some of you are asking the “Is it worth it?” question. I asked it many times when I was an Alliance pastor. Is it worth it to ask my board for the funds to go? Is it worth it to take a week of my life to travel a long way away and get somewhere in a city I‘ve never been to? Is it worth it?
Obviously, you need to answer that question for yourself. I can say this: I believe that this conference will be of greater value than most any other conference you could go to in the next couple years. Makes me nervous to say that, because I am planning this thing, with a team, and I can’t guarantee you will have more whizbang or excitement than some conferences; but this is shaping who The Alliance is becoming. This is your family: the family needs to speak together. The family needs to journey together. The family needs to experience God together.
So whether it is worth it or not to you to go to the time and expense, you’ve gotta decide. But I know, for me, we’re gonna have a better experience if you are with us. So, I invite you to come.
So I’m back in Colorado Springs to wrap up this video blog. And I’m pleased to continue this whole conversation about Council, because I want to foreshadow the kinds of conversations we’re gonna have in Long Beach. Specifically, I want to give us one piece of information today that has been developed in recent weeks here at the Colorado Springs National Office in some of our behind-the-scenes, back-room conversations that help us think strategically about where we’re going next in the next wave of the global work of The Christian and Missionary Alliance.
So think in terms of a Johari window—kind of the classic grid by which we can compare a couple of factors. Factor number one for this particular grid is how responsive is a particular people group? Thousands of people groups across the globe—The Alliance is working with dozens and dozens of them—how responsive is that group of people? And then there are dozens and dozens more that we need to consider, you know, participating with evangelistic efforts of those peoples. And how much access to the gospel do they have. Can they hear about the name of Jesus in their own language? Are there Bibles available? Are there churches; are there places where the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented or not?
So when you think of these kinds of terms of responsiveness and access, you know that there are places in the world that are highly responsive with a high level of access. And we rejoice in the fact that throughout much of Central Africa, throughout lots of South America—Peru, Chili, Ecuador, some of these kinds of countries; Philippines would be another one, where there has been a huge receptivity to the gospel and lots of opportunities to hear about Jesus—and we delight in that. We delight in the fact that we got to be part of that over the last 130 years.
There are some places in the world that have low responsiveness but high access. These kind of places would be like post-Christian Europe—France, Germany—or perhaps Paraguay, Uruguay in South America.
Up here, we have groups of people that are highly responsive, or at least somewhat responsive, but have low access. If they’ll hear about Jesus, which they are unlikely to do, it’s very likely that they’ll respond to that message. But they don’t have much chance to hear the message. Here we would have places and people such as the Kurds. Perhaps it could be argued that Syrian refugees might be in this category, not much access to the gospel but often they are responding.
Perhaps it could be argued that when Uzbeks and Tajiks leave their country of origin and go to a different country, there is still not a lot of chance to hear about Jesus, but they are more likely to respond than from their low-response, low-access country of origin. Here, not only would have the people like the Uzbeks and Tajiks but also the Wolofs of Senegal, the Sudanese of Indonesia, these kinds of peoples, not much response at this point in time and not much access at this point in time.
Throughout church history, it has been fascinating to watch as God’s people have cultivated hard soil, planted seed year after year, watered that seed, that in time a harvest is produced. They become more responsive and then, as the church is built in their own country, they become a high-response, high-access kind of people or nation as well.
While many mission groups are almost solely focused where it’s exciting, high response, and lots going on for the gospel, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, from our origin, has been called, in the words of Simpson, “to the neglected peoples of the world” that would often be focused right here. Not much response, not much access, and not much mission effort going on. We have people here, we have people here, we’ll continue to keep our focus on these places. We would desire that, more and more, the low access, low response would become high response and eventually become high access as a church is built among them.
I wanted you to see this because it’s a way of looking at our world that helps us clarify some of our priorities and establish some of our strategy. And I want you to be in on this kind of thinking. See you in a few months.