John Stumbo Video Blog No. 44
March 12, 2017
While speaking at the Converge Conference in Colorado Springs earlier this year, John addressed four dangers the American church faces.
If you want to raise my blood pressure, you can do it in two words: flight delayed. I’ve traveled enough now in this role that I’ve heard quite a few of them. [In] Denver one day, we were number four for takeoff but the pilot comes on and says, “There’s going to be a little bit of a delay. There’s a coyote on the runway.” I hadn’t heard that one before.
Recently, the pilot came on and said, “We’re number two for takeoff, but we just received notification from air traffic control that they have declared a state of emergency in the air traffic control tower and have evacuated the building.” I looked at the guy next to me and I said, “Should they really be announcing that? Are we in danger right now?”
Then there was, just a couple of weeks ago, a flight from Salt Lake City to Colorado Springs and the flight attendant, who was not schooled in graces of like how to deal with the public, said as we were boarding, “Now I just want you to know there’s going to be no beverage service on this flight. The flight over here from Boise was the worst flight ever so just buckle up, take a seat because this is going to be a rough one to Colorado Springs.”
Now that would have been fine, but about three minutes later when everybody was seated, she says, “Now, if you didn’t hear it, there’s going to be no beverage service. Eight people got sick on the flight from Boise to Colorado Springs and if you decide to not take this flight, that’s fine.” And a little voice from behind me two rows back, a female passenger, says, “Uh, uh, uh, I’m not sure I can do this.” The flight attendant says, “You’ve got one minute to decide. The door closes in one minute. You need to know there’s not another flight going for 24 hours out of Salt Lake to Colorado Springs.” Wow, wow, wow.
Interestingly enough, the state of emergency at the air traffic control was just a mistaken fire alarm set off, and they were back in business within 15 minutes. And the flight from Salt Lake City to Colorado Springs was as smooth as it’s ever been, and we did get beverage service.
The whole point there with that introduction is very simply this: When are you in danger and when aren’t you? When are you really in danger and when aren’t you? Some of the things that are perceived dangers really are no big deal, and others maybe we don’t even have awareness of are a big deal.
To say it differently . . . one of the calls of leadership is to define reality, right? It’s a well-known fact. In your leadership, are you properly defining the reality of the real dangers you face? And that’s important especially today because there’re so many flight attendants shouting “danger, danger” when there really isn’t a danger there. The flight’s fine.
Do you know what I’m saying at this moment? Are you with me right now? There’re lots of voices in this world that are crying, crying, crying, “Oh, this is terrible. This is terrible. This is so bad. Did you just see that? Did you hear what happened?”
Yeah, it’s like how many thousands of years has this been happening? This isn’t really new. It might be painted in a little different color or printed in a bigger headline, but it’s been snowing in the East Coast for thousands of years. This really isn’t “Snowmagedden” or whatever.
My point is very simple: Leaders, let’s lead ourselves and help the people we lead to properly identify the true dangers we’re facing. Let me suggest four of them today that are dangers that the American church faces.
Number one danger: What are we truly in danger of right now?—compromising our message. We are in danger as the American church of compromising our message. “Oh, without Jesus people aren’t really lost. There’s lots of ways to get to heaven. People are basically good. Just be nice and pray once in a while and everything will be fine.” You know what’s happened in lots of denominations. You know what’s happened in a lot of churches.
And I’m proud and I’m pleased and I’m so encouraged to say that three-and-a-half years into my role, I’m not sensing within the Alliance family that there’s huge battles going on. Now maybe little pockets of them here and there, but by and large we had a room almost this full, not quite, of new official workers that had just entered into ministry in The Christian and Missionary Alliance. We do it every year. Last August was one of our largest ever.
Every time I’m with these new workers, there is this sense of thank you for being a family that is still upholding the Word of God, preaching the Deity of Jesus Christ, and declaring that He is the only Way to salvation. “Thank you” that they have found a home, that they’re part of not a place that they’re trying to undermine.
If you don’t want to believe in the authority of the Word of God and the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ, sadly, there’re plenty of other organizations you can serve in. But if you want one that’s going to stay faithful to the Word and keep preaching Jesus, The Christian and Missionary Alliance is determined to be one of those groups. It’s not the only one, praise God, but one of them. But we must face the fact that we are in danger of compromising our message.
Number two: Another true danger that I believe that we face is to lose our passion for world evangelization, to lose our passion for the eternal, to lose our passion for things that really matter. I call it the Sampson Syndrome. Remember when Sampson finally said when he was getting worn down, “If you cut my hair I’ll be as weak as any other man”?
The Sampson Syndrome—“to be as weak as any other man.”
And Christian and Missionary Alliance family, can I look you in the eye and say to you, “If we lose our passion for the world, we’ll be as weak as any other group”?
Something has to keep beating at our hearts because it beats at the heart of Christ. If we’ve lost our passion, don’t try to regain it. Don’t try to stir it back up. Don’t guilt yourself. No, no, no, no. Just keep coming back to Jesus. Let Him restore the passion, who looked upon the crowd and was moved with compassion because He saw them for who they were—harassed, beat up, pushed around, helpless.
He’s got enough heart for the world for all of us. Amen? He’s got enough heart for the world for all of us. Just keep coming back to Jesus to keep passion. Without Jesus, I don’t care about the world after a while. But we’re all in danger.
Number three: Dangers that we face—self-protectionism. Does anybody know what I’m talking about? As the noise of the media gets louder and as various other themes are promoted, the American response will increasingly be, I believe, self-protectionism. Now I’m not talking about foreign policy here. I’m not going to go there at all.
But what I am talking about is the hearts and minds of Alliance people. And have we, instead of welcoming the stranger, become suspicious of the immigrant?
You do realize that the word “hospitality” in the New Testament Greek means love of strangers. Strangers have come to our communities by the droves and will continue to do so. Our call is to love. Now if you’re in some governmental office that has to figure out various kinds of things, then do your job and do it well. But most of us are just local citizens called by God to be His people among the people of our community. Self-protectionism is going to work against us and the church and those new arrivals.
How about under self-protectionism, not only is it about the new immigrant, it’s about prioritizing personal security over our Kingdom calling where the question is first asked, “Is it safe” before it’s asked, “What is God doing here?”
Oh, man—I watch the news so differently now that I’m president of The Alliance. If something comes up about some country in the world, it’s like, “We’ve got people there. We’ve got people there, and I feel a responsibility for those people.”
A couple of times, I’ve texted Tim Crouch right on the spot and said, “Tim, did you hear the news?” So, we’re on it. We care about the personal safety of the teams that we’ve sent, but we wrestle with when is it? . . . ISIS came within three hours of one of our teams as they were marching across and were moving towards them. It was, “What do we do?”
We care about taking care of people. We will continue to do so. We have hard wrestling matches. But I’m saying that for those of us in the American church, the tendency is to become very small and just draw the circle around ourselves that we feel like is the safest little circle and never go outside of that circle. And it doesn’t sound very Kingdom. It doesn’t sound very New Testament. It doesn’t sound like Acts 20:24 where Paul says, “I consider my life nothing as long as I can fulfill the calling that God has called me to do.”
Finally, number four. One more thing that we’re in danger of: self-promotion. I just said self-protection. Now it’s self-promotion—personal Kingdom building. I suppose it’s always been a danger for the church, but I think the danger has gotten greater now that the ministries are getting larger.
And a guy like me in a position like mine has to be careful that what I’m doing is for the advancement of the name of Jesus, not the name of Stumbo or even of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. We could advance the name of The Christian and Missionary Alliance and totally fail at our calling.
I had a really sweet moment a week ago in the Dominican Republic, preaching down there. Joanne and I were there with our wonderful missionary team and we were at three Alliance churches and then this pastor’s conference. I was tired by the time I got to [the] pastor’s conference. And I was going to preach three nights in a row, working through an interpreter I’d never met before . . . all these kinds of dynamics.
Standing outside under a little thatched-roof hut, getting my heart prepared for the service, I realized in God’s kindness, This is really quite simple.
I’m not here to sell books. I’m not here to raise money. I’m not here to invite people to be part of The Christian and Missionary Alliance family. I’m here talking to 200 pastors and spouses and lay leaders from almost 100 Alliance churches and preaching points in the Dominican Republic and I just have three assignments: advance the name of Jesus, strengthen the church, and drive back the enemy. It clarified for me. I went from being nervous and a little disturbed and whatever to just having clarity. It’s a sweet clarity that comes when self gets out of the way.
Last comment on that self-promotion point . . . It’s easy to confuse leaving a legacy with building a dynasty. We are large when we live for the eternal.
# # #