John Stumbo Video Blog No. 66

January 12, 2019

12:42

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Speaking from the National Office Archives this month, John gives a short devotional from Gideon’s story, which conveys a principle for leaders to take into this new year—God reveals Himself in crisis, often through leaders who rise at that moment despite being in the midst of the tragedy themselves. Examples are Josh Gallagher, lead pastor of Paradise (California) Alliance Church, and Andrew Burchett, lead pastor of Neighborhood Church in Chico, who share their testimonies from the 2018 Camp Fire. The Alliance legacy overflows with accounts of hardship, pain, and the Spirit of God breathing into a leader’s soul—hope, encouragement, confidence, and a way forward. “That’s the Alliance story, that’s the story of the Scriptures, and that might be the story of 2019 for some of us,” John concludes. “His grace is sufficient. Let’s rise and follow the example of those who’ve gone before us.”

Transcript

Hello, Alliance family. Happy New Year to you. I truly hope it is a great new year for all of us, but as I look back, would we say, “Happy last year?” For some of us, it wasn’t. As a friend of mine blogged, “So I bid an enthusiastic farewell to 2018.”

He had a hard year, and many of us did perhaps. And what I want to do today in this blog is give us a simple devotional and then follow it with a couple current stories from the Alliance family that I trust will provide a solid principle for us to take forward with us into this new year—to broaden our exposure to what the Alliance family is part of and to again ground our hearts in what the Spirit would say to us.

The Scripture that I have been meditating on for this moment is Judges chapter 6 where Gideon is hiding out in his winepress, trying to preserve what little harvest he has, as the Midianites have totally ravaged the land. There seems to be so many people and camels all across Israel that they can’t even be counted, and the people of Israel are once again in a difficult place.

God, as he often does at moments like that, raises up a prophetic voice who announces a word of hope, but Gideon doesn’t seem to have believed it. And when an angelic messenger comes to him and gives him the odd greeting–“God is with you, mighty warrior. The Lord is with you, mighty warrior”—Gideon doesn’t buy it.

His response is, “If the Lord is with us, why is all of this happening to us? If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened?” It’s possible that as some of us look back on 2018, we ask that same question—“If God’s with us, why did all this happen?”

Now, as Christians, we know that, first of all, we rolled out the red carpet to sin way back in Genesis, the Garden of Eden, and welcomed all of sin’s ugly step-cousins into the environment and into this world. And so, it’s right that things are wrong in a wrong world. “It would be wrong for everything to be right in a world gone wrong,” as one of our old-time Alliance preachers used to say.

So, we understand that there is brokenness in this world, and that brokenness impacts our lives through the decisions we make or decisions others make for us. “In this world, you will have tribulation,” Jesus said. But we’re also people who, beyond the realism of the hardness of life, also know the last half of that verse I just quoted, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

There is this both/and in the experience of the Christ follower: We know that this world is a broken, hard place to live, yet we have this confidence that there is more to the story than just the brokenness—that God is still alive and active in this world in the midst of crises and hardship.

The story of Gideon from Judges is a lesson for me that one of the ways that God wants to reveal Himself in these times of crisis is that He longs to see leadership arise in the midst of the crisis. The principle that I want to bring to us today is simply this: God reveals Himself in crisis—often through the leaders that rise up at that moment.

Now, the difficulty of this is often that the leaders themselves are people who are right in the midst of the tragedy. Gideon is one that God is raising up to be a leader for this moment, but he himself has suffered. So we, as leaders, aren’t immune from the trials but are often called to not only deal with our own pain and challenges, but to somehow experience the empowering of God to actually lead through the crisis.

God wants to reveal Himself in the crisis through the leaders that are experiencing God in a profound way themselves. Finding God as their healer and their strength, finding God as their source and supply, and finding God as the One who gives them the word for the moment or the silence for the moment—gives them the courage and strength to stand up and say, “There’s still a story of God being written at this moment.”

And so I’ve watched that, Alliance family, just even in this last year. I’ve watched, district superintendent, as you’ve made that hard but necessary decision to put that fallen brother under discipline. And with the proper structures that we’ve established in The Alliance, and the disciplinary team that came alongside, you made the call and you showed love to that fallen brother by removing his license and saying, “No, you can’t serve for a season.” You protected the church in the process. You did the right thing.

But it’s leadership arising in the midst of crisis—even though you yourself were in deep pain, because you knew what was taking place. And by the way, Alliance family, I’m not just referring to one story. I’m referring to a number of stories that I have reason to know about.

I’ve watched, Alliance pastor, as you’ve come alongside of a grieving family. The worst of tragedies has come to them, and you arose in leadership at that moment, even though you hurt as well. You stepped up to be silent and come alongside them and show that grace of presence.

I watched it at Simpson University as the newly elected president, Norm Hall, was barely in town when the fires hit Redding, and there was crisis all around them—yet this was a leadership moment for a new leader to allow his compassion for his town and his leadership to arise. Simpson University became a Red Cross Center, and Norm, in various ways with his leadership team, was able to respond to that crisis.

I watched it the year previous as our district superintendent in Puerto Rico and his leadership team gathered around, even though they themselves had suffered, and provided compassion and care and leadership for those victims of Hurricane Maria.

I watched it in the lives of Andrew Burchett and Josh Gallagher, two leaders in Chico-Paradise, California, that you’re going to hear from in a few moments. Alliance family, Gideon’s story of being somebody who, he himself, was in a place of difficulty and suffering became a leadership moment, where God said, “I have a challenge for you, I have an opportunity for you, I have a job for you, and I have all the empowerment that you need for it.”

Pain is not the absence of God’s presence. Places of pain are actually the avenue to experience the greater presence of God. And often leader, while experiencing the pain ourselves, we’re actually called to be the leader at the moment that expresses hope, courage, strength, and in Gideon’s case, deliverance.

I don’t know what 2019 holds for you, but I know that 2018 was a year of challenge for many. And I know that His grace is sufficient. Let’s rise to be the leaders God called us to be, and let’s watch these next two examples.

Andrew Burchett—lead pastor, Neighborhood Church

On November 8th, everything changed. That morning, I drove to church and was overwhelmed by traffic and law enforcement trying to get people off the hill as the fire was raging through Paradise and actually down toward our city. Within an hour of arriving at the office we were immediately plunged into an evacuation center—a mentality where we began clearing rooms and preparing places for people coming off of the hill to have safety. And along comes the pastor of our Alliance church from Paradise with his family. They had escaped the fire, and they were trying to find a safe place to be.

Neighborhood Church in Chico served as an evacuation center. We had 360 in cots and about 50–100 outside sleeping in their cars with their animals, finding safety from this fire and a safe place to be. In the 20 days that we sheltered people at our church we had so many opportunities to love, to pray for, to help those in need—and no one turned down prayer.

I’ve been surprised at the things that are coming out of me in this season as a leader. I am finding that there is a call on my heart as a pastor to engage our city in new ways, to engage city government, to be involved in leading pastors and helping a region to rebuild. And I’ve never seen anything like this.

And I’m excited to see the church engage and sit at the table with local city government, state government, and other churches—combining together, to work together to truly rebuild the city and love people in crisis. This is what the Alliance family’s all about, this is what the Body of Christ—we’re all about loving one another.

And so this season has been a season of loving grieving people, but also grieving ourselves. So, if you want to come and join us, come—come and help us rebuild.

Josh Gallagher—lead pastor, Paradise Alliance Church

I’m standing here next to the remains of our house in Paradise. Our neighbor right next door to us, brand new build, his house is still standing, and our neighbor on the other side of us, his house is still standing. The amazing thing that I noticed when I came up—our neighborhood, every single house in our immediate neighborhood is still standing, except for ours.

As I was standing here having a little bit of a conversation with God, all I could say was, “I still believe.” I still believe that the power of the Holy Spirit is inside of me. I still believe that Jesus has complete authority over everything. And I still believe that this is for the Father’s glory.

I believe He’s going to use this to draw people to Himself, and I believe He is going to use this to advance His Kingdom. Do I understand it? Absolutely not.

But as I stand here right now, literally standing on a rock, I’m reminded that God is our Rock, the One that we can stand on in hard times. So even though I don’t understand it, and I have a lot of questions, I still believe.

John Stumbo

Thank you, Josh and Andrew. Alliance family, I think you could see why I chose to incorporate them into this blog.

One last note. You may be wondering about the setting for this video shoot. I’m actually in the Archives at the National Office here in Colorado Springs. I am surrounded by stories and memories and historical record of leaders who arose in crisis—Boxer Rebellion, World War I, World War II, Vietnam War, Great Depression, hurricanes, famine, hardship, refugee camps—on and on the list goes. These are stories that just overflow of hardship, pain, and the Spirit of God breathing into a leader’s soul—hope, encouragement, confidence, and a way forward.

That’s the Alliance story, that’s the story of the Scriptures, and that might be the story of 2019 for some of us. His grace is sufficient. Let’s rise and follow the example of those who’ve gone before us. God bless you.

 

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