John Stumbo Video Blog No. 27
October 12, 2015
As workers for God’s Kingdom, our identity is in Jesus and not in the things we accomplish. Our call is to and from Christ, and it’s a ministry we were not meant to do alone.
Hey, team! It’s good to be back with you again today.
There are some communications that will be coming your way in the days and months to come: a very specific mailing updating us on the four levels of giving that I talked about at Council; the Alliance Life magazine is going to be highlighting the Love, Proclaim, Reach, and Launch themes in upcoming issues; and the year-end materials are going to be landing on your desk any day now.
You may not be aware, but the average Alliance family contributes to five causes at year-end. I’m asking that as church leaders, you give your families the opportunity to make one of those causes the Year-End Offering that will support the Great Commission Fund and CAMA [Advance Fund].
The video team here at the office has done a fabulous job of putting together multiple options for you to show to your congregation. And if you would be an advocate for us for the Year-End Offering, that would be a huge thrust forward for both CAMA and Great Commission Fund.
Today’s video blog I’m taking us to two five-minutes clips that I recorded in two completely different settings, but I think you will see how they relate, sharing some of my pastoral heart for this Alliance team that I love, serving Jesus from Montana to Mongolia.
I’m increasingly seeing us as one team, one global staff. Yeah, we have some administrative distinctions between church ministries and international ministries. I get that. But one team—one global staff—serving The Alliance.
Now, we call our team members, at this point in history, “workers”—“official workers” on the U.S. side, “international workers” on the international side. And if by “worker” you interpret that to mean Jesus’ statement of sending forth laborers, workers into the harvest field, if it’s an agricultural metaphor that you’re thinking of as you use that term, then I am good with that—seeing yourself as a seed sower, a planter, a harvester. Or, as we get into closed-access countries and serve in very difficult places, the cultivator side of the agricultural view.
As your president, I want to acknowledge that cultivation is a huge aspect of good harvest ministry as it is a core aspect of just good agriculture. Some of you are doing the very hard, laborious, faith-filled work of putting a plow through the ground and tilling up that hard, fallow soil that someday will reap a great harvest and reach a great number of people. But before the seed will be able to take root, there is a great deal of cultivation, tilling that soil, breaking up belief systems, breaking up spiritual oppression, breaking up hardness of hearts and entire cultures. Bless you in doing that work. So if you use “worker” in terms of an agricultural metaphor, I’m good with that.
If you would use “worker” in terms of New Testament bond servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, if you think in terms of “I have allowed my ear to be placed next to the door post and the awl has come through piercing my ear as visual evidence of the fact that I have chosen to become a bond servant of my Master, the Lord Jesus,” if those are the kinds of things you think of when you think of “worker,” then I’m in.
But if you think in terms of “my identity is based on how much work I accomplish, that my value is based on metrics of some work accomplished” then my apologies that the word has even been used. My encouragement to you is to lay down that kind of thinking. Know that your identity comes because of who your Master is. Know that your value comes because of how much you are loved by Him and that your work increasingly becomes an expression of the work of God in your own heart.
So, if by “worker” you mean agricultural or bond servant, good. If by “worker” you mean your identity is tied to your work, then I want to get away from that. So increasingly I’m hoping that our identity be tied into who we are in Christ.
Einstein, of all people to quote, is said to have stated, “A lot of what can be counted doesn’t count, and a lot of what counts can’t be counted.” Of course, as president, I call you to be industrious, listening, giving yourselves wholly to the work of the Lord kind of people. And, yes, we will continue to require you to fill out reports. But, who you are, your identity in Christ is not tied to how many people you led to Jesus last year. Seek God, pray, be holy, love. But, like I do in my life, I have to leave the results to Him.
Our identity is in Jesus. Our call is to and from Jesus, and there is one more aspect of that call I want to take us to today.
Now, the first clip you saw was recorded a year ago on an international trip that I took. This next clip is from this summer when I was with a team climbing the side of Pikes Peak on this thing called the Manitou Springs Incline—a 2000-foot vertical assent in less than one mile. Altitude is an issue. You are starting at 6,500 feet above sea level and climbing to 8,500 feet, and it draws everything from the Olympic Training Center athlete to the unsuspecting tourist who has no idea what they are about to get into.
A year after moving to Colorado Springs, in my role as president, I issued a challenge to the National Office staff to climb the incline before it closed down for repairs. This 2000-foot assent right up the side of Pikes Peak, an old cable railroad that has been transformed into a fitness attraction for Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs, and everybody that comes here for vacation. It was going to be repaired for some erosion control, not to make the trail any easier but to protect it long term, and I wanted to just have a little fun with the National Office staff and say, “If you climb it before it closes, I’ll buy lunch and give away some prizes.”
Well, some of the team rolled out of bed at 0 dark 30, climbed the thing, showered, and were back to the office by the time it opened at 8:00. But Stumbo delayed and waited till the very last morning that the incline was open. It was to close at 6:00. I rolled out of bed the last minute I could and showed up at 5:50. There was a local newspaper reporter at the bottom just interviewing people because this is such a significant local attraction, and I told him that I had offered this challenge to the C&MA National Office staff and didn’t think anything about it.
Well, I started my hike up, and a year into my presidency, I was still figuring out some of the health kind of things—still am, for that matter—but I wasn’t in the best of shape to be doing something like this. I started out doing fine, but I noticed about one-third of the way up that there was nobody behind me. This was exceedingly unusual because usually this trail has dozens of people at any hour on a weekday and hundreds of people on the weekend, and so I was kind of like, Wow! This is weird that I’m the last person on the incline.
I’m about two-thirds of the way up the side of the mountain, and there is this great thing called the bailout, a little trail off the side. If you decide the incline is too much, there is an option for a couple-mile switchback trail that takes you back down to the parking lot. The photographer was waiting right here from the local newspaper. The guy comes off the trail, and the guy comes around the corner and yells at me and says, “Hey, you’re going to get a fine if you’re still on that mountain after 6:00.”
Finally, I decided I’m just going to go for it; I’ll take the risk of getting a fine. I headed out all by myself on the side of this mountain, and a little farther up—I’m still a good 500 feet from the summit—and my legs start to quiver. My muscles start to shake. It’s not nerves; it’s the fact that I’ve maxed out what my muscles are able to do. I’m in trouble. Here I am all alone on the side of a mountain, and I’m losing it.
It’s at that point I realize the principle: There are some places you were never intended to be alone, some things you are never intended to do alone. Well, I couldn’t go forward, and I didn’t know if I could go back, but I had to go back, gingerly make my way back to the bail out—the switchback trail.
I made my way back down fine to the bottom of the parking lot. Got back to the office. Everybody gives me a hard time that I was the last one on the side of the mountain. Here they are getting out of bed early, and I’m sleeping in late. They really gave me a hard time when the next day my picture was front page of the local newspaper. I was relieved to see the caption that read, “John Stumbo, leader of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, last legal climber on the Manito Springs Incline.” There it is—proof I hadn’t broken the law.
But the whole point is this: There are some places we were never intended to be alone; some things we do that we’re not supposed to do alone. The ministry is one of those places.
It’s one of those things it’s not supposed to be solo. We are not supposed to be doing this on our own.