John Stumbo Video Blog No. 62

September 12, 2018

12:29

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This month, John addresses this #MeToo, #ChurchToo, time in history, sharing his grief for victims of sexual assault in the Church over the decades and repentance for when the abused were not quickly defended. He expresses gratitude that a greater day of accountability has arrived and maintains that this is not just an issue of sexual misconduct but “how we [leaders] handle and perceive power and what power can do to us.” It’s why “sanctification has to get in our souls.” John cites three factors that contributed to the previous era—naivete, image protection, and lack of soul care. In overcoming these factors, “By God’s grace, may fewer of those stories be told in the future.” Click here to view the full sermon at Resonate.

Transcript

Hey, Alliance family. I’m excited to be back with you again today. I’m coming from Resonate, one of my favorite events of the year here in Colorado Springs. It’s our orientation for new official workers.

Right now, with the headlines that have been highlighting things like #MeToo and #ChurchToo, there’s some things in my spirit that I needed to say and so I used this event to say those things and I’m inviting you into that conversation right now. If you’d like to catch the full message of what I gave at that conference, that’s available on our Web site as well.

I shared this with the National Office staff this last week, and I want to share with you for a few moments what I want to say in this #MeToo, #ChurchToo, moment in time.

First, I need to say I grieve for the women and girls who have been treated by men as objects of sexual gratification. By God’s grace, I have not been one of those men, but as a representative of a Christian leader, and a male, I need to say to the women of the Church, and perhaps some of you as individuals . . . I don’t know any stories in this room . . . but I am sorry that you were disrespected. I’m sorry that you were looked upon with eyes less than your Father looks upon you with. And then, to add insult to it all, sometimes, you, the victim, were actually treated as the one who was at fault, and the Church scorned you in the process. I am sorry.

I repent that in decades past, the Church did not come quickly to your defense. It was wrong of us. It was wrong of me. At times, I was part of that group that did not understand, or if I did, I did not act quickly enough. And I also must comment that on occasion that wasn’t a girl or a woman, that was a young boy or a young man that was treated in that manner, and I grieve. I’m saddened that not only did you have that experience and not only sometimes were you scorned in that, but there was this huge loss of trust. You trusted that leader. You looked up to them, and it was a power issue that they were using their power as a means of accessing their own gratification. This is one reason this message of sanctification has to go past your theological exam and has to get into our soul. We need the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

Now, I’m grateful that a greater day of accountability has come. Be sure your sin will find you out. That verse? That’s a prophetic word, especially at this moment in time.

Let me just say it. If you’ve got something buried—even 25 years ago—go talk to somebody. We have chaplains here. There’s somebody in your life. Let’s start dealing with this because if you don’t deal with it somehow, what’s been hidden in darkness will be brought to the light and what’s been whispered will be shouted from the rooftops or, in recent cases, the New York Times.

I’m grateful that a greater day of accountability has come. It needed to come. But I’m saddened that that accountability largely came through the world to the Church. Are you with me?

Some of you will fully disagree with what I’m about to say, but I have a firm conviction—and I think I have the backing of the apostle Paul—that it has never been the role of the Church to hold the world accountable for their actions. I don’t find that in the Bible. I don’t think that’s our responsibility—for the Church—to hold the world accountable for their actions. It is the Church’s job to hold the Church accountable for our actions.

But we’re in an odd moment of history, where the world is holding the Church accountable for our actions. If we weren’t going to do so ourselves, by God’s grace, somebody was going to rise up and do it—even if they had no idea they were serving God in the process. This era of hiding, of covering, of shuffling people along is coming to an end and must come to an end.

This may feel like an aside to some, but please understand that for a lot of us this is not just an issue of sexual misconduct—as awful as that is. A lot of it’s an issue of power and how we handle and perceive power and what power can do to us. And I’m speaking firsthand; I’ve felt this as president—that encroachment of the opportunities that power can give upon my soul and how that must be recognized and resisted.

To add to this, we live now in a celebrity-status culture of the Church. I’m not saying it’s bad that some communicators or some musicians and some labels and artists . . . I’m not saying it’s bad that they are highlighted. But I am saying that they must not become addicted to the light. They must dim the light. They must share the light that they are under. And I must take that seriously as well in my position. That if we’re not careful, the temptation comes, leader. The temptation comes to, I think, one of two things or both—that I’m above doing that, or I deserve some of that. Are you following me here? It can settle into your soul over the course of time, leader, to have the subtle thought that, “I’m beyond that. I’d never be tempted in that kind of way.”

Friends, my understanding of Ephesians 4 is simply this. Your old nature, my old nature, is in a continuous state of corruption. Read Ephesians 4 carefully. Our old nature is continuously being corrupted—continuous present tense in the Greek, if I remember right.

Jesus is not trying to just polish up your old nature. Your responsibility is not to prop up your old nature. No, it’s never going to get any better, and it’s never going to get any weaker. It’s actually getting worse. The point is, Jesus wants it dead. It never has to win. It never has to dominate. It never has to control.

We can choose the new nature every time, every moment—we can. It’s available to us in Christ.

But don’t be deceived. I, we, have potential of the worst of things residing within our own souls, and so let’s just own it and be honest about it. I’m not above doing anything really stupid, nor do I deserve what I think that would provide for me. That’s just awful, hideous thinking.

And I need to admit that this era that we lived in—where there was a lot of covering and hiding and shuffling of leaders who had sinned—that era had some contributing factors, and I want to name a few of those, just to get them out there.

One factor that contributed to that era of the Church, that I trust is coming to an end, was naivete. This was me. When I was at this kind of event 30 years ago, I was so naïve about these kind of things. I had no clue that this kind of stuff happened in the Church. Call me whatever you want to call me, but this is the truth.

When I was the youth pastor and the teenage girl, eighth grade, called me at the church office and said, “One of the men of the church picked me up last night, took me on a drive, did some things sexually with me that I won’t explain in public, and what do I do? And then he talked about running away with me.”

I didn’t have any category in my 22-year-old head to know where to put that. I’m sorry. I failed. I blew it. I folded. I had nothing to offer. I could not picture . . . I knew the man—first name basis with him—I couldn’t imagine. Was she just making this up? I couldn’t imagine that was real.

Happily, gratefully, she told her parents, who pressured the church, who dealt with the issue. But it took the pressure of the parents for the church to actually wake up. I was part of that. It was a naïve moment in my life and perhaps in a lot of church life that needs to just be over. Yes, any leader is capable of doing all manner of stupidity, and let’s not be naïve.

Image protection was a second contributing aspect of that era—that often the Church was more concerned about protecting their own image or that of the abuser than they were of hearing the truth and dealing with the truth and handling the truth.

A third contributing factor for this moment in time that led us to that kind of covering was lack of soul care. We lived through a generation of hard-working, highly dedicated, often effective ministry people, who had little understanding or maybe even less permission to care for their own souls.

And if there’s one legacy that I want to leave in The Alliance—besides the Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family that gets to take the gospel to the world—that’s permission granted to the Alliance leadership to care for your own soul, please. See it as one of your most significant aspects of the way that you can serve your church is to stay alive and fresh in your relationship with Jesus.

When I was a young pastor, I had a bad formula. “I’ll take care of God’s Church; God’s Church will take care of me.” Mistake. I’m saying to us, friends, let’s enter into soul-care opportunities and walk in them.

What I’ve hoped you’ve heard me say in this #MeToo, #ChurchToo, moment in time is the Church bears great responsibility for what we’ve done.

We’re at a good moment in time where we now can learn to handle well any failures that have taken place and, by God’s grace, because of overcoming some naivete, and image protection, and soul-care issues, that less, fewer of those stories will be told in the future. By God’s grace, in every one of the churches that you and I represent, may that story not be told in our lifetime.

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