The Way of Love – John Stumbo Video Blog No. 86

September 12, 2020

12:02

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This month, John offers updates on four issues of importance to the Alliance family and closes with an encouraging reflection from I Corinthians.

Transcript

Alliance family, I’m so encouraged by your ongoing interest and engagement in things of significance within our movement. And today I want to bring an update in four categories. If I were in your chair, I’d be asking some specific questions. And I’d like to answer those today and give a devotional thought at the end.

I’m coming to you today from the beautiful state of Kentucky, where my wife and I are 3,000 miles deep into a road trip. Every summer, we love to take a road trip. Don’t always get to do so, but this felt like the right year. And so we’ve been throughout many states, including Eastern Ohio and we’re on our way back West, grab a couple vacation days as we do.

But I want to give you updates today in four categories. First of all, Council. I know that many of you are wondering with COVID going on, what’s our plan? At this moment, we’re still planning on gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, at Opryland, a place that’s been a wonderful site for us in the past. We’re excited to gather there again, Lord willing and COVID, you know, allowing, but we do know that we’re going to shorten the week. It’s only going to be a Monday night through Thursday night with extra seminars on Friday.

So it’ll be a shortened time together, and it’ll be a simplified time together in that we’re not going to try to do the vendors and booths than we have in the past, which has provided great energy and wonderful information. But for this year, it feels like a simplified, quieter Council would be in order. Before COVID even hit, we had decided that the theme would be sacred. This idea that what we do is sacred. And as we gather together, that’s a holy thing set apart for God alone.

And so we want the time to be something that is powerful spiritually, whether you’re able to gather in person or whether it’s through the livestream. And we’re still sorting out what that’s going to mean. You know that we’ve done very well in recent Councils in providing for those who can’t come in person with a livestream experience. What that means for voting though, we need to sort out a little more specifically if we’re not able to have as large of attendance as normal for Council.

So for now we’re planning on moving forward, and we know that anything could change. We will be opening registration in just a couple of months. But at this moment, please begin to plan, and prayerfully plan, that we could gather together in person for the joyful assembly under that theme of sacred.

A second subject that I’m getting a lot of questions about is National Conversations. Terry Smith and I were planning 50 live events during 2020 to engage the Alliance family, kind of in a town hall format, on issues of the statement of faith and issues of men and women in leadership—our polity regarding credentialing, ordination, consecration, positions, titles—fascinating conversations.

And the overarching question that has emerged over the months is where is The Alliance best by requiring national uniformity and when are we best by allowing for local autonomy? What issues are of such substance that we all need to believe that and we all need to do that, and what issues are not of that much substance so we can say, “please decide for yourself?” It’s important but not so important that everybody agrees on it in all 38 languages and all the cultures and contexts of the Alliance family.

So what requires national uniformity? Where are we best with local autonomy? That’s been the question that has been shaping much of this. And I’ve been so encouraged by how the Alliance family has engaged—over 1,300 participants. We have more events still to come, some in person, some by Zoom or webinar, but we’re going to press forward with this.

I’m presenting the latest information to the October board meeting. After that time, I’ll be able to present to you more specifics on what we’re thinking regarding our polity and our statement of faith. But for today, just know that the conversations continue. They’re going well. I’m encouraged by the Spirit, and we’ll get back to you after the October board meeting.

My third subject for today is the Great Commission Fund. Many are asking, “How are we doing?” Your support is so encouraging. The fact that so many within the Alliance family understand that they get to be part of what God is doing around the world. And so together we contribute. And we all knew that going into COVID, this was going to be a tough season. And so we announced that we were going to go into a six month pro-rata, a 10 percent salary reduction for all of us who are supported by the Great Commission Fund.

And so our international workers, National Office staff, and others . . . we’ve been in that six month season. We also let it be known that we were going to take it on a month-by-month basis. But it wasn’t as bad as we first anticipated, but the staff has felt the impact of that. That six months now comes to a close, so thank you for standing with us in that season. It wasn’t nearly as severe as it could’ve been, but we do look to the next months with a bit of caution and concern. And so we’ll be coming to the October board meeting, looking to them for more direction.

But at this point, the pro-rata comes to close as of September 30. And we’re trusting that God’s going to provide for us in the many fascinating and unique ways that He does. So overall we’re encouraged. Our work is going forward. Our mission is moving forward. All of Jesus is being taken to all the world, and our teams are fully engaged. And frankly, in some ways we haven’t been spending as much money with, you know, some events being canceled, less travel being conducted, so it’s working, you know? Our bills are getting paid, and we’re standing together. So I just want to thank you again.

And for those of you who are doing the fall Missions Emphasis in some way, shape, or form, bless you for that. I know it looks different this year, but our materials are strong and our international workers are willing to engage with you in some way, even though it might not be, you know, face-to-face in your church sanctuary. But please keep leaning in—the work is unfinished, and we are fully committed to staying with our hand to the plow for the advancement in the name of Jesus in the world.

The fourth and final subject for update is relocation. You’ll remember in the last video blog, the board of directors gave administration of The Christian and Missionary Alliance the permission to begin to pursue the possibility of relocating outside of 8595 Explorer Drive, Colorado Springs. It’s a wonderful location. We love living in Colorado, we love Colorado Springs, we love our office. This isn’t for our convenience. This is because we believe that there are some things that we could do better.

And so let me talk about it today in terms of new city, new concept. The cities that we looked for were cities that would provide us with a top 100 airport, lower cost of living than Colorado Springs, greater ethnic diversity, and closer proximity to more of the Alliance churches. So that narrowed the list down very fast. And I announced three cities last month.

Today I can say to you that we’ve narrowed that further. And our focus right now is in Cleveland and Columbus. And when I say those cities, I mean the broader Cleveland and Columbus region. We’re meeting with commercial real estate brokers. We’ve been taking some trips. We’ve been getting to understand the city’s better and prayerfully asking a lot of questions.

The concept of the office though, is what I really want us to get today more fully. We’re trying to be disruptive of what is the current model for most of American Christianity. Almost every denomination and nonprofit that I know has an office building where the staff does not have to engage with the public by coming to work. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, it’s efficient, it’s fine, and it’s worked. But I feel that over the course of time, it has not helped keep an evangelistic passion, a mission momentum that an organization like The Christian and Missionary Alliance has to have.

And so I would like every day that I go to work and our staff goes to work, there’s natural, positive means of engaging with the secular community. Where we, yes, have a good office, but that office isn’t fortressed by itself but has natural connections to the region in which we live and maybe the nation that comes to us. If it’s an event center, we host 30 events a year, so maybe we have our own event center. I’m not sure, we’re looking at that idea. I’m just saying that would be one idea for the community and the office to be engaging naturally—where our gift of hospitality could be shown to people who are coming to our building for a wide variety of reasons. So I want to lead the way for Christian organizations to break out of our bubbles a bit and for us to find ways to office that actually engage with the community.

Let me close with this. I’ve been thinking about the phrase, as I’ve been driving, “follow the way of love.” I looked it up, 1 Corinthians 14:1. I was stunned. You know how we believe that the Bible is inspired, amen, but that the chapter divisions and the verse notations are not? “Follow the way of love” is actually an NIV translation of two Greek words that says “pursue love.” But when you look into the Greek a little more closely, when Jesus first spoke to Saul, the persecutor of Christians and says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He’s using that word. He’s using the Greek word persecute, which Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 14, turning into a positive word, pursue. It’s this idea—chase it down, hunt after it, go after it hard. And that can be in a negative sense to persecute or that can be in a positive sense to want something so badly you just chase it down until you can get it.

Isn’t it ironic that in 1 Corinthians 13, that we celebrate, that we preach, that we do at weddings, that we memorize, that we have all of this, and then we stop with, and now these three remain faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love? That’s not the end of Paul’s thought. This thought goes onto the next two words. We stopped the chapter. We stopped the thought. We don’t turn the page.

The next thought is chase it, pursue it. I’ve told you all these things about love, how beautiful it is, now chase it. There’s never been a moment of time when love isn’t necessary, but I don’t know of a moment in time in my lifetime when love needs to be chased with more passion and intensity. Pursue a loving spirit, pursue a loving attitude, pursue loving relationships, pursue, pursue, chase, hunt it down. Follow the way of love, not passively, but with passion.

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