John Stumbo Video Blog No. 59

June 12, 2018

12:15

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John’s topic this month falls under the category of “planned redundancy.” During the early months of his presidency (he was elected five years ago this month), consensus was reached about the unique Alliance expression—a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family. John has heard a drift in that phrase, so reminds us that The Alliance isn’t just about mission but is a Jesus-centered denomination: “Focused on Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, sent to every segment of human society, and doing it together.”

Transcript

Hey, Alliance family! Back with you again today on a late spring morning from Colorado Springs.

First of all, I have two announcements. Dennis Whalen has served us so well overseeing Development, our communication and funding part of the National Office. He’s received a call to join the staff at ECB—the Evangelical Church of Bangkok. We’re going to miss him greatly, but we’re excited what he has for his future, and it creates a unique opening for us here that I wanted you to know about, and prayerfully join me with.

Secondly, there’s a new resource that you may have heard of, but I want to make sure you’re aware of. Through the National Association of Evangelicals, we’re partnering in a Lily Grant that gives us access to all kinds of resources on personal, pastoral finances and also on church generosity. So, would you get on this link [link onscreen], and see the assessment tools, the online courses? There’s a richness of resources now available to us that will help us personally, as in personal finance, and also with church-wide communication of funding and generosity kind of issues.

Today’s blog could be put under the category of planned redundancy. Or intentional repetition. I hope that you’ve heard what I’m about to say before, but I want us to know it well enough that it gets into our own souls and messaging.

[Video clip from Alliance Council in Tampa, Florida (June 2013): Dr. John Stumbo is first introduced as the new president of the U.S. Alliance]

Five years ago this month, in God’s kindness, you elected me to be president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. I’m so honored to get to do what I do. I’ve never enjoyed a role so much in my life, but it was day one of my role as president—I was standing outside with the video team, with this longing in my heart to communicate to a family that I love.

[Video clip from London, the United Kingdom (August 2013): John introduces himself in his first video blog—“Video blog number one, a journey begins.”]

I was insecure about this whole video relationship. I’d never done this kind of thing before, but something within my heart said, I just have to communicate.

The love for this Alliance family had gone way back. My own spiritual heritage rises from this Alliance soil. My great grandfather in the faith is Paul Rader; my dad was an Alliance pastor and district superintendent, who was instrumental in leading me to faith and Christ. My spiritual journey through the years led its way through Alliance ministries like Big Sandy Camp, and Crown College, and Life Conference, and various Alliance churches through the years have been so influential.

So I owe a lot to The Alliance, and now I was in this chair of president. Just a couple of months later I found myself sitting in a meeting of denominational leaders, and one of the presidents of another denomination said, “You know, a denomination is really made up of three things: beliefs, mission, and relationships. There’s some beliefs that we hold, there’s a mission that we share, there’s the relationships that we value.” That triggered something in my heart, because coming out of seminary—when I was deciding, Do I serve with the Alliance or not?—I hearkened back to the idea that I always liked our theology, it centered on Jesus, didn’t get too tied up in lots of side issues, loved our mission—going and taking the gospel to the world—and I also liked the people. Whenever I traveled with my dad, I always liked Alliance people.

[Video clip from video-blog number 6 at the National Office (January 2014): John outlines “beliefs, mission, relationships” on a whiteboard.]

So that outline of beliefs, a mission, and relationships started to form my early thinking as president. So I came back to the National Office and started asking the question of key leaders, like our Board, our staff, our district superintendents. What’s the unique Alliance expression of that “beliefs, mission, relationships outline”? And through various prayerful gatherings, we finally concluded that the best way to say this is to call ourselves a “Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.” The beliefs centered on Jesus, the mission summarized by Acts 1:8, and what better word to describe our relationships than family.

Now, I’ve been around in this role long enough to have begun to hear a drift in the use of that phrase. I’ve now heard dozens of times over, “We’re an Acts 1:8 family.” I’m sorry, I’m going to push back, I don’t want to just be driven by the mission; I want to be focused on Jesus. Let’s keep Jesus as the center of all of this. It’s His name that we love; He’s the one that we worship; He’s the one that we serve; we are His. We are a denomination that is Jesus centered, and may that never stop.

I just had a phone call not long ago with a woman who has a prodigal son, [who had] been estranged from the family and from the faith for years. He recently called her and said, “Mom, I know that you haven’t heard these words in a long time, but I wanted to tell you today ‘I love you.’” When she hung up the phone she was just overjoyed by having had that conversation that she had longed to have for so many years, but she was surprised that she didn’t cry, because she’s an emotional woman and loves her son as much as any woman that I know.

Later, as she was praying, she said, “Lord, thank you. It was so good to hear my son say those words. But the words I’m really longing for him to say are that he loves You.” And at that moment she burst into tears. Her desire that her son loved Christ was even greater than her desire that her son love her as mom. So it is with us as a church family.

I love The Christian and Missionary Alliance, I’ve already said that, but our passion, our focus is on Jesus—that our intention would be from Him; that our love would be from Him; that He would be forming our message; that we would never stray from the centrality of Christ. We’re a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.

Acts 1:8: One of my concerns is that the Alliance family would rush too quickly past the first half just to get to the second. The mission is very important—Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, ends of the earth—but not without the first half. You receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. The Alliance family needs to live in that for a season where we grow increasingly dependent on the work of the Spirit in our lives.

One of the favorite things that I inherited from my dad’s office after his death was the Simpson series, Christ and the Bible. In the Isaiah edition, Simpson writes something very interesting. I’m on page 215

. . .

[Text on screen]

Another fine illustration of the fruit of the Spirit is the willow by the watercourses. The most remarkable thing about the willow is that it cannot live apart from the watercourses, and so the Christian cannot live without the Holy Ghost.

And he goes on to tell a story of hearing once about a gardener who tried for a year to shape a willow by pruning and slashing its lopsided branches, because the willow wanted to grow all to one side and was quite bare on the other, and in vain he pruned, and he slashed, but the willow persisted to just want to grow one direction. One day this gardener took a spade and dug down through the roots of the tree and found that there was this subterranean stream running on the side to which the willow leaned, and the willow had simply followed the fountain that fed its life.

He put away his pruning knife, and he dug a little channel for the river around the other side of the tree and, lo, the next year it grew towards the river and became symmetrical, and without a touch of violence.

[Text on screen]

Beloved, this is what we need to change the deformities of our lives. Not more trying, not more suffering, not more scolding, not more condemning of ourselves, but more life. More help, more love, more the precious grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, Alliance family, Acts 1:8: Let’s not rush past the first half of the verse, but let’s live in the flow that the Spirit has for us, as He sends us to every segment of human society.

As we enter into the deeper life that Christ has for us, as we walk in the Spirit and experience His fullness in our lives, He does send us to the peoples of the world, starting right where we are, Jerusalem. But don’t get stuck there. Judea: surrounding region, church-planting efforts in your county or broader area. Samaria: people who live close to us who are not like us. Never before in history have there been so many Samaria-kind of relationships available to us—and then all the way to the ends of the earth. To the places on the planet that still have not had access to the gospel. We feel like this is a justice issue: that you can still live in this world today and not have access to the message of forgiveness and life that Jesus Christ came to give us.

So, the mission—empowered by the Holy Spirit and sent to every segment of human society—a Christ- centered, Acts 1:8 family.

We’ve concluded that we do all that better together, that there’s a synergy that comes together when we join our resources, our prayers, our personnel, our funding, our ideas, we bring them together with our strategies, our passions, and together we advance the gospel. So the support that you show for your own local district in church planting efforts and other initiatives that come out of your district level. As we join our resources together for the advancing of the gospel through our international ministries team to the ends of the earth, we feel like there is a greater advancement of the gospel when it’s teamed, and that there is a greater similarity to the New Testament when we’re a team.

We look more New Testament when we’re bound together as one. And we will look more like the book of Judges, frankly, when everyone is “doing that, which is right in their own eyes.” So we’re freely calling the Alliance family to serve together, to envision together who God wants us to be and to join our resources.

And it’s exciting for me five years into this journey, now that I have been able to travel so much with The Alliance, to watch Alliance churches leaning into the family, engaging in relationship, partnering more in area outreaches. It’s been very exciting for me to hear in just this last year, and witness myself, that many of our district conferences have had a fresh expression of the work of the Holy Spirit within them.

And then to have just been, for example, in Russia celebrating 25 years of The Alliance work in Russia. Almost 100 churches are strong now through our partnerships in the advancement of the gospel there.

Having just returned from South Korea, where a new expression of The Alliance is arising because graduates from Alliance Theological Seminary caught the vision of Simpson; fell in love with him as a leader and the mission of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and our teachings.

So now, from the soil of Korea has arisen a new expression of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and where it goes from there? Who knows? But I’m just celebrating the fact that together we accomplish far more than any one of us could do on our own.

So I am increasingly passionate about inviting us into the Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family—focused on Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, sent to every segment of human society, and doing it together.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance, one of God’s end-times families that He’s raised up to complete the Great Commission. Would you, Alliance family, continue to lean in; join in what God is doing in and through us?

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