John Stumbo Video Blog No. 69

April 12, 2019

12:52

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John speaks to why our whole Alliance family must engage well in challenging, yet necessary conversations. We need to address how to more effectively complete our mission and make every effort to pass on the best form of our movement to the next generations.

Transcript

Hello, Alliance family. Someone put a fan next to my calendar, and I can’t find the off switch. At least that’s the way it feels, the pages flipping rapidly. I’ve been traveling a lot as I tend to do as your president, feeling like I best serve the family if I know us and am with us as much as possible. So, in recent weeks I’ve been in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, and Moses Lake, Washington, with our Alliance churches there. And today, Foxborough, Massachusetts, celebrating the good work of God taking place here in New England among the Alliance family. And I’m coming back to you today to continue a conversation that I began last month.

Last month my concern was four principles for public discourse as we engage in public debate. What’s our tone? How are we going about that? Today, I’m coming internal, thinking about the Alliance family and how we talk among ourselves. This isn’t so much our engagement with a broader culture. Now my subject today turns our attention to our engagement with ourselves. But first a story.

I record it in my annual report that you’re going to receive soon. But let me foreshadow by letting you know that late in Dr. Simpson’s life he was traveling quite a bit with Paul Rader. Rader was 35 years his junior, was new in The Christian and Missionary Alliance but would lead singing and conduct other portions of the service as Simpson would travel from region to region preaching. They even traveled raising funds together for the Alliance movement.

One day, while traveling by train as the countryside passed by their window, Paul Rader turns to Dr. Simpson and says, “Doctor, you’ve convicted me greatly. I haven’t heard you say a single word of gossip.” Our founder responded, and I paraphrase, “I have suffered so much at the tongues of others that I simply don’t want to pass that kind of pain on with my own tongue.”

Perhaps inadvertently our founder gave us one of the keys to the success of his leadership and to the strength of the founding of our movement. And that is, he learned how to speak of and to each other in the Body of Christ in ways that built, that blessed—that uplifted rather than tore down or undermined. I believe that’s part of the heritage of our family, and I pray that will be part of our present and future as well.

So, I think you know that I’m very concerned as president about how we speak to one another. The tone in which we choose, the attitude, behavior, the level of trust that we show to each other. And it’s no surprise that for the last decades there have been significant issues within the Alliance family that keep emerging. Women in ministry has been discussed—not always in a very healthy manner, but it’s been discussed. Pre-millennialism seems to show up on the Council floor every other Council.

These kinds of things can rally us together and bring us deeper and stronger and more engaged as an Alliance family, pulling us in to serve one another in love. Or they can separate and divide and cause mistrust and misunderstandings among ourselves.

I feel this commission both from the Board of Directors and in my own spirit from the Lord, at this moment in time, to help the Alliance family to lean in, engage with one another in a healthy dialogue on issues of known disagreement. Not even with the hope of fully agreeing on every subject—that’s really not my goal. But my desire is, could I lead us during this season in such a way where we engage with one another in healthy, positive ways to reflect our founder’s spirit? More importantly, reflect the Scripture.

Have you noticed that almost every time there is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives in the New Testament, it is closely associated with some reference to how we treat each other? One of the greatest evidences of the filling of the Holy Spirit is how we treat another brother and sister in Christ. So, I’m eagerly some days and reluctantly other days, inviting us to engage in this conversation.

So, to use the interrogatives, you know the “how,” the manner in which I want to have this conversation, the tone that’s established. The “who”—this is an invitation that the Alliance family engages at this time and leans in; the “when” is over the course of the next couple of years. The “what,” the content, I’ll be describing more fully at Council, but it basically deals with some aspects of our Statement of Faith and some of our polity and some of our other statements as well—divorce, remarriage, the sanctity of life. But the biggest question for me today is the “why.” Why would I be raising these conversations?

So, I know I’ve already put fear in some people’s hearts when I start talking about conversations that might lead to change, and I put fear in my own heart. I’m not one who changes for change sake. Life is too tiring for me just to change for the sake of changing. But I don’t want fear to win, and there’s moments of time in life, and there’s moments in an organization when we do step back and say, “Do we need to have a new conversation?”

You’ve been going to same restaurant for years—they have a wonderful menu and it’s great service. You just like this place. It’s become a special spot in your life. But then new management comes in and they swap out the menu, and you step back and say, “Do we want to keep going here? Are you sure that we like this? Maybe we should try somewhere else?”

I’m just saying it’s a moment in time for the Alliance family to step back and ask some significant questions. And let me tell you why I would lead us to this point at this time. I take very seriously what I want to pass off to the next generation.

You see, you’ve heard me say it numerous times—for this moment in time I have the responsibility of leading. You do as well in your own settings. A few years ago, the church was in somebody else’s hands, and in just a few more years somebody else will run with it. But for this moment in time we have a spiritual, corporate, moral responsibility for leading the organizations which we oversee, and we take that with great spiritual sincerity. We receive that obligation as from the Lord, and we want to carry that out with due diligence.

But if we don’t really like that which we receive from another generation, don’t do anything with it while we have it rather than just kind of keep it going in the same state, and then pass it on to the next generation or those leaders that follow us to . . .  “Well, you guys fix it.” That feels really weak, or apathetic, or lazy. If I, as your president, don’t like something that I inherited and then say, “Well, I’ll just pass it off to the next guy. Maybe he’ll fix it.” Again, I would feel weak, apathetic, or lazy in doing so.

In the spirit of humility, and a spirit of passion for the gospel, I would hope that we would take a look at what we receive—celebrate that which we can celebrate. We’re standing on those who’ve done fabulous work before us, but nobody’s work endures the changes of all generations.

So I am very concerned that at this moment in time, those of us who have the privilege and responsibility of leading the church would make every effort that we can to pass off the best form of the church that we can to those who follow us and will take up the mantle to come.

Now again, I want all voices, all generations at the table as we have these conversations, so that those who have ultimate leadership in the years to come will have already been to the table in framing some of these things. And you need to hear me say I have this deep conviction and passion in my heart, a prayer that I often pray, “Lord, do not let me be the president that somehow ‘un-anchors’ us from our solid foundation of the authority of the Word of God and the great theology upon which The Alliance has been founded. May I never be the one who allows us to get caught up in the current of moral drift that’s taken place.”

So, firmly anchored in the Scripture, firmly convinced that we have been raised up with a specific message, I do want us to be sincere about taking an honest look at what it is that we hold in our hands right now. Are there better ways of saying what we believe? Are their better ways of articulating what we already know to be true? And so, yes, fear can arise from these conversations, but one reason that I would enter into that fearful zone is I want to hand off the church in the best possible place that I can to those who follow after me.

A second reason that I would want to engage us in this conversation is that it burns within my heart that we would take the name of Jesus to the peoples of the world in our lifetimes in the most beautiful and powerful and effective way possible. Is there anything within our systems, our statements, our structures that are like barnacles on a ship that need to be chipped away so that we be streamlined? Or are there any things that deter or distract us that are really impediments along the way, and that we by rewriting or restructuring would actually be more effective in doing what God has raised us up to do?

I believe that you agree with me that we are one of God’s end-times families that He has raised up to complete the Great Commission, and so there are times that we need to take a step back and look and say, “Are we being as effective as we could possibly be?”

So why would I engage us in these conversations? For mission fulfillment: effectiveness in completing the mission that God has called us to.

Really what I’m doing in this video blog is foreshadowing. A lot of this will be taking place at Council and thereafter, so if I’m leaving with a bit of sense of, “What’s really going on?” or, “Where does this lead?” I just have to accept that yes, that’s what I’ve done with you at this time, but know that this conversation continues and will be forwarded in the months to come.

If you’ve listened to me throughout my presidency, you know that the underlying goal that I have is ownership and engagement. I long for the Alliance family to own and engage the message and mission that God has given to us. When the Alliance family owns that and engages in it, when we lean in and embrace, when we fully participate—everybody wins.

Who do I mean by everybody? I mean everybody. More youth go off to Life Conference, get called into ministry. Our colleges thrive. Our children’s programs thrive. Evangelism happens. More prayer takes place. More money gets raised for the Great Commission Fund. More missionaries get sent. More unreached peoples hear the name of Jesus. More churches get planted. Everybody wins when the Alliance family engages. But when the Alliance family pulls away or is so passive in distance from each other, then everybody loses. So yes, I’m inviting another round and reason for engagement with the Alliance family.

So, as we gather for Council next month, this will honor the 100-year passing of our founder, Dr. Simpson. His traveling companion, Paul Rader, became the second president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and in Rader’s opening address to the C&MA, he quotes Simpson freely and celebrates our founder very honorably.

But then he makes it very clear that 30 years have passed since the founding of our movement and times have changed. He notes those culturally. He notes those throughout the Christian community, and the new leader lets it be known—that while our message has not changed, our mission has not changed, our methodology may need to.

And so, my friend, isn’t it the same today? Our message is unchanging. Our mission is still very clear, but how we go about things, how we structure, how we refer to things, the language we use, and that adjusts from time to time, and we should be very thoughtful in that. So, yes, consider this your invitation to engagement.

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