John Stumbo Video Blog No. 60

July 12, 2018

12:04

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In a follow-up to last month’s “planned redundancy” message on the unique Alliance identity—a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family—John shares what God would have us do. He unpacks how the Alliance family is called to love, proclaim, reach, and launch, which requires the Holy Spirit fully at work in our lives. “May we commit ourselves to these kinds of things,” John concludes. “For these are the kinds of things that the Church must be doing as we prepare for, and rejoice in, the return of Christ.”

Transcript

Hey, Alliance family. It’s great to be back with you again today for video blog number 60. I can’t believe it!

Thanks for joining me on this journey. Some of you see every video; I know others do more intermittently, but thank you. I’m grateful to get to communicate with you in this kind of way. Today I’m in the National Office—one of our meeting spaces. It’s a summer afternoon, the staff has wrapped it up for the day, and the video team is hanging out with me at the end of the day.

I’m so proud of the National Office staff. I’ve been with them now for five years, and I’ve witnessed their dedication, loyalty, Christ-likeness, perseverance, servant spirit. And I’m just pleased by the team that I get to work with and want to thank you, the broader family, for supporting us, to make it possible for us to work in this place and work together to do the kinds of things that the National Office does. So, we’re blessed, and you are a part of that blessing.

Last month, if you remember, the theme was “planned redundancy,” where I took us back to look at the Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family—this identity statement that has shaped who we are. It’s been interesting for me to receive feedback reemphasizing one of the communication principles I’ve come to hold, and that is—about the time that I, as a communicator, am sick of saying something, somebody else is just beginning to grasp it and understand it. And so I’m really not sick of talking about the Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family. But I want to communicate in such a way that we not only know these things, but they work themselves into our own language and lifestyle and thinking.

I’m taking us on from there—and this planned redundancy—and want to talk to us about the question that we ask next and the outcome of that question.

We said, “Lord, as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, what would you have us to do?”

And four verbs seem to arise in prayer and in conversation, and I want to unpack each of those briefly today. They’ve become pillars for how we think and function.

The first verb that seemed to arise was so simple that I was a little taken off guard at first. The word was simply “love.” But what seems simple at first has begun to arise in all its complexity as I realize that this must increasingly be central to who we are as an Alliance family and as the American church.

That maybe, maybe there was a time that you could get away with a strong program, or a beautiful building, or with great communication, and that people would overlook the fact that they weren’t really being loved in the process. I don’t know if there was ever a time when that was true, but certainly that is not true now.

The world isn’t going to care about our program. They won’t listen to our message. They won’t come to our building if there’s not the sense that love dwells among us. Love for each other, and as the family, and love for the world. That, what do we lead with? Are we leading with message? Are we leading with action and that some way is all about us?

Are we leading with program, or building, or are we leading with what Christ said we’re actually to be known for, and that is our love? This drives me back to Jesus, because I don’t have the capacity to love like that, hour by hour, person by person.

So, it takes me right back to the Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family, focused on Jesus, empowered by the Spirit. I need Him in me, every moment, if I’m going to love that way. But I don’t want to back off on this, Alliance family, as if it’s something just to be assumed.

Because I have to admit, as I travel so much, that I have left places at times, Alliance churches sometimes, and thought, “Pastor, church leader, I watched you worship with those people, preach to those people, take an offering from those people, have a picnic with those people, have meetings with those people, do all sorts of things with those people, but I’m not convinced that you love those people.”

Other times, happily, on the other hand, I leave knowing that church leadership team loves the congregation that God has called them to serve, and it’s just evident in their demeanor, their attitude, their prayers, their behavior, their words.

We must love. That’s what we’re called to do. It’s who we’re called to be as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.

The second verb that arose is the verb proclaim. When I say love, I’m saying one thing. When I say proclaim, I’m saying two, really. And it depends on what generation I’m talking to.

To baby boomers and older, my generation, I have to talk about Matthew 25—that the marginalized, the hurting, the imprisoned, the poor, the immigrant—they’re part of our Bibles, too. We focused so much on verbalizing the gospel, which was fantastic, that sometimes we overlooked demonstrating the gospel.

We kind of left that to the liberal churches, to do the social gospel kind of thing, and I’m questioning that. And I’m saying that we as an evangelical church, as The Christian and Missionary Alliance, must learn to demonstrate the gospel in ways that touch our communities.

Meanwhile, if I’m speaking to the younger generation, they don’t need for me to go to Matthew 25. Cause, justice, those kind of issues, are part of their language and lifestyle. But, they’ve lost, as one young leader has confessed to me, “Our generation has lost the ability to articulate faith.”

Verbalizing, speaking the gospel, has become weak in a lot of our younger groups. And so I want to challenge us to be the kind of people who verbalize and demonstrate the gospel. So millennials and younger generation, you don’t have to like the words or methods that us older guys use in speaking the gospel. That’s fine if you don’t ever ask anybody to invite Jesus into their heart. I don’t care about that, but what I do care about deeply is that we become people who authentically speak the true gospel in ways that each culture, each generation, can hear.

So, learn to speak the gospel in ways that are authentic and biblical. My personal contribution to this has been developing this little book; it costs less than about the same price as a greeting card—all the money goes to the Great Commission Fund. But it’s a nonreligious, 15-minute presentation of the message of the gospel, that now thousands have been given away—from hospice to an oil field to a prodigal in New York—and I’m thrilled to hear the stories that are coming in of people that are truly embracing faith.

So, it’s a seed-scattering tool that is being used. And just this month, the second edition of that is coming out. Some of the guys have told me that, “That nice little flower you got in the front of that book, I’m not giving that to my bros.”

But we’ve come up with a campfire version that tells the story artistically in a fascinating way as the artist is really entered into the storyline of this little book and communicated it in a way that guys can get.

Verbs. What are we as a Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family to do? Love, proclaim, reach.

I’m calling us to three things when I say reach. Reaching the overlooked. In every community, there’s somebody being missed. I experienced it when I was in a wheelchair that often the disabled are overlooked. And for some communities it’s the deaf. For some it might be children. For some it’s senior citizens.

I don’t know who it is that’s being missed in your community. It might be the immigrant who’s come to your town. Would you ask God to give you eyes to see and to reach those who are currently being overlooked, missed, in your own community?

Reaching not only the overlooked but also those that are on the move. Never before in human history have there been so many people in transition, no longer living in the home of their origin. And when we first started speaking of this four years ago, it was just seeming to arise as a significant worldwide trend. And now it’s amazing how many people are in transition, and some of those have come to your community.

And I challenge us to be people who reach those who are overlooked and not get so caught up in the political wrangling on so many issues that center around immigration that we miss the simple fact that The Alliance from pre-day one—Dr. Simpson, in his earliest days in New York City—[has been] ministering to the immigrant. And so who are we to think that we’ve grown past that or that our issues are more complicated this day and age, so we can forget that? Friends, let’s reach those who are on the move.

And thirdly, under that category of reach, I’m concerned there’s still people that do not have access to the gospel of Jesus, and so . . . reaching the overlooked, those on the move, and those lacking access.

This is a justice issue, is it not? Is it not unjust that you can still live in this world and still not know that forgiveness is available to you? You don’t have to accept that message, but to not even know that the Christ has come to provide that? It’s not satisfactory, it’s not good enough. So, happily, you’re part of a family that’s doing something about it. You’re part of a family that is reaching those [who] are lacking access, and I’m continuing to ask the Alliance family to engage further in that process.

Four verbs. We’re called to love, we’re called to proclaim, to reach, and the fourth is to launch. For us to do that loving, proclaiming, reaching kind of work, we need to continue to launch, and I don’t know how many things I’m saying when I say that word.

I am pleased to report that I love seeing evidences of when older leaders such as myself start to make room for younger leaders who are rising among us and give them a voice, an opportunity, a chance to speak in or to in some way engage more fully in a position, or on a platform with a microphone, or in some way to have a greater voice.

I’ve been pleased to see when men are using their influence to allow an open door for women to have a ministry access—completely within our polity to do so. But often women have been shut out from ministry opportunities, and so it’s fun to see men help women be launched in ministry.

And it’s also exciting to see when those like myself, of a Caucasian background, that have some measure of privilege for why we get to do what we do, to use that influence to open doors for those who come from other cultures, who may not have as much natural access to ministry opportunities as we do.

And so, I’m not claiming by any means that we have totally arrived at launching various sectors of the Alliance family, but I am saying that I do see evidence of that from place to place, and I rejoice in that and want to just be an advocate for those of us who would use our current positions of influence to give others access to ministry opportunities that we may have just taken for granted, but they can’t take for granted because they haven’t been given them.

So, launching . . .

Christ-centered, Act 1:8 family—called to love, proclaim, reach, and launch. It takes me back to a need for the Holy Spirit to be fully at work in my life and yours as well.

May we commit ourselves to these kinds of things, for these are the kinds of things that the Church must be doing as we prepare for, and rejoice in, the return of Christ.

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