John Stumbo Video Blog No. 43
February 12, 2017
John addresses the importance of U.S. church planting and explains why Council 2017 in Columbus, Ohio, is a “must-attend” event for the Alliance family.
Hey Alliance Family. If you’ve been following these video blogs, you know that I’ve been doing lots of international travel. I’m not going to try to keep up this pace for the next year; in fact, most of 2017 is already booked to be in conferences and churches around the United States. I’m looking forward to being with you in those settings.
Right now, I’m in the Dominican Republic—seeing our church plants participating with our Envision site and just getting to know the national church leaders that are very passionate for the kingdom. That kind of spirit of appreciation and passion for continuing to advance the kingdom has marked the Dominican church with a special focus on church planting.
Right now, there are about 50 Dominican Alliance Churches with about that many other churches in some form of development—preaching points, and groups that are gathering—and I’m moved by their vision that they would like to have an Alliance church in every regional center of the Dominican and are making good progress towards that.
It leads me to ask the U.S. Alliance family how serious are we about church planting within the United States? I want to be an advocate for church planting. Personally, it has been one of the most significant aspects of Joanna’s and my lifetime of ministry—the times that we have been able to personally participate in the establishment of a new church. Those times have enlarged us, deepened our faith, broadened our view of ministry, and just been really exciting ministry.
And now as president, I want to be a spokesperson for the fact that God often reaches people through a new church; that many cities right in our own country are under-churched—and there are new opportunities for us, as some churches become so liberal there’s no longer a gospel witness in the community; as new people come into a town, there’s a new population that hasn’t connected to a church; a new generation that is rising that may not have an expression of church that’s ministering to them in a community; lots of people groups for us to focus on that are in need of a church in the U.S.—and again I want to be an advocate for that. In fact, we’re having our first ever Church Planting Sunday, a national day in The Christian and Missionary Alliance U.S. the end of February where we’re asking that churches—existing churches—just promote the idea of church planting among your congregation.
Church leader, I am saying to all of us—myself and you: we should steadily be on the lookout for where the next church should be planted, who is in need of a new church, who the next leaders of the church plant should be, and what our part in that could be. And whether or not God is calling you to be a church planter is secondary to me. My call to you today is this: Would every Alliance leader make church planting a priority in your ministry in some way? To be an encourager, a prayer support, to be on the lookout for where is the next place that a church needs to be planted? In some way, would you participate? And you might want to begin by highlighting the last Sunday of February as Church Planting day among your congregation.
I’ll say a lot more about church planting as the months and years go on, but at this moment I want to shift our thinking to a significant event that is coming in just a few months. It’s called “Council.” There’s a reason that we keep going back to Columbus. They’re one of the finest host cities that you can imagine, and there’s another video that’s available to you if you want to know some of the amenities of the city of Columbus. But for the rest of this blog, I want to talk to us leader-to-leader, heart-to-heart about why I’d really like to have you there.
Like you, I have attended events where there was no sense that anybody expected God to show up. It felt like the leaders who had organized the conference hadn’t done so with any anticipation of meeting with God. They planned an event expecting to meet with each other, to sell product, to conduct business, to have some Christian entertainment, to do tourist kinds of things, to stay in a nice hotel, eat nice food, have a nice time, but by the program and the measure of responsiveness to it, there was little evidence that people expected a God encounter of any kind.
I believe you’ll agree with me that we can’t control the Holy Spirit, nor should we even try; we shouldn’t attempt to concoct moments that counterfeit His ways. At the same time, I don’t want to be guilty of setting up the program in such a way that if He did reveal Himself, He’d have to be interrupting as an uninvited guest. When I speak at a conference or some kind of event, I do so with an expectancy that God is going to show up in some way . . . not because I’m speaking, but because He is a speaking God. In the words of Jesus at the last supper, John 14 through 16, these kind of messages are given to us: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. When He the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” He is a communicating Spirit. Our God as a communicating God; He spoke, and the world came to be. He spoke and breathed this Word, the Holy Scriptures, into existence through the prophets and poets and apostles . . . and that speaking God continues to speak today.
We are excited about the family gathering. In fact, we are praying for the largest Council since our centennial in 1987, believing that God speaks to us through us. Some of you remember that last Council, the Spirit of God met us, but many of those times, many of those God encounters, were in little clusters or in one-on-one conversations between old friends or never-met-before-that-moment God appointments, that proved to be significant conversations.
One reason I don’t want you to miss Council ’17 is because God may want to use you in one of those moments to minister to somebody else who has come. Could God meet us in a business session? Or the vendor areas? Or seminars? I think so. Could God use us in some way to leave a positive impact on the city of Columbus? May it be so. At Long Beach, there were two people that weren’t part of the events who met Jesus through Council participants. What does He have in mind for us in Columbus? The gathering of God’s people should be a gathering of anticipation. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call on Him while He is near. You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart.”
We tend to read such verses through narrow lenses, personalized, as if He’s talking only to us as individuals. And the measure of that kind of personal application is OK, but is it not appropriate—even more fitting to the text—to read it corporately, in community? “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Plural? As a family united before Him, let’s call on Him believing that He is near . . . that He likes to show up at moments like this. I’m calling us to make every effort to join together with an expectant heart. “We want to meet with You, Lord. We want You to meet with us!” Your praying in advance for Council and your full participation in it will be one more way that we can lean in to what the Spirit of God is doing among us.
I’m in a room that will serve as “prayer central” for Council 2017 in Columbus. I’m very excited about the kinds of passion and prayers and encounters with God that will take place right here. I am looking forward to giving a follow-up of the directions . . . setting kinds of statements I made in Long Beach 2015, where as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, I believe that we are called to love, proclaim, reach, and launch, and I called us to level three and four giving. I hope that language is familiar to you; it may not be to everybody, but I want to follow up on how we are doing, where there are evidences of progress, on the love-proclaim-reach-launch themes. Have people caught on to our need to better support the worldwide work of the C&MA? So, I’ll look forward to a follow-up of those conversations, and where’s . . . what else is God stirring in our heart.
We are wrapping up our time in Columbus on this preparatory kind of trip that we have made. I confess that there’s like a million details that still need to be taken care of as we envision some things that have never been done before at Council to our knowledge. For example, mobilizing 700 people on Saturday to bless various Alliance and other ministry projects throughout the city, with a huge “Renew the City” kind of day . . . needing to do two missionary rally events because of the potential of a significant drive-in crowd, and other factors and details that have like all kinds of ramifications to them that we need to still work out. But when I get past the concern about details—and I’m very grateful for the teams of people that are running with these things—but when I get past the level of detail, I return to this: I think God’s going to meet with us here.
So yesterday here in Columbus I was grabbing a few minutes of devotional time. I read Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 6: “Don’t store for yourselves treasures here on earth, where moth and rust destroy, or thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, and thieves cannot break in and steal.” Every time I’ve read those words in the past, I’ve always applied it to financial dealings, and I think that’s very appropriate because the very next verse says, “You cannot serve both God and money.” So that’s the context.
But reading those verses here in this setting took my mind a different direction. I’ve encountered huge expos for nothing but hair-salon products. Arnold Schwarzenegger brings in the world’s largest gathering of athletes to Columbus every year—more athletes show up here than the Olympics themselves. Various kinds of events that we’ve witnessed and heard about fascinate me, all of which are building some name for themselves . . . the product line . . . the athlete trying to win a competition. “Don’t store up treasures on earth for yourselves; store them up in heaven.”
When we leave this conference, if nobody besides us knows anything else about The Christian Missionary Alliance, that’s fine! We didn’t come to Columbus to advance the name of the C&MA in Columbus. But we believe that there is a treasure that is incorruptible, that is going to be advanced while we are here, advancing in the name of Jesus—the work of His Spirit among us and through us— believing that His name will be celebrated and glorified in this city, more greatly in our hearts and lives, and through us, the church of Columbus can be strengthened, our Alliance churches here, I believe that the church of The Alliance will be strengthened while we are in Columbus . . . the name of Jesus being exalted, strengthened, advancing among us, as His Spirit works. I’m looking forward to that, and I’m looking forward to you being a participant in that.
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