August 31, 2022

A Holy Responsibility

An interview with U.S. Alliance President John Stumbo

by Alliance Life staff

Alliance founder A. B. Simpson was wholly committed to seeking out and reaching the lost and overlooked with the boundless love and eternal hope of Jesus. In 2021, The Alliance relocated its National Office to better reflect this foundational vision. Recently, Alliance Life staff sat down with U.S. Alliance President John Stumbo to discuss the reasons behind this move and the urgency of the work we do around the world and in our own communities. 

Alliance Life (AL): As you consider all the work The Alliance does, can you tell us why we do what we do? 

John Stumbo: Fundamentally, we’re followers of Jesus Christ. He commissioned His early followers to take His love and message to every segment of society and every population on earth. And we continue on in that commission with a sense of joy and responsibility. 

As Christians, we feel like we’ve been given so much: grace, forgiveness, and the comfort and hope of eternal life. It would be selfish to keep that message to ourselves. We’re not the kind of people who proselytize, pressuring others to believe the same as we do, but we do want to be people who demonstrate that when you get to know our Lord Jesus, you’ll love Him and be changed by Him.

We’re happy followers of Jesus who feel a sense of holy responsibility to share our message not just with words but also with loving actions. Hopefully, our readers will see evidence of this within this issue of the magazine. 

AL: How does our history impact us today? 

John: From our early days with A. B. Simpson to our current ministries, we don’t want to be the kind of Christians who are cloistered but rather engaged in the broader community—it’s in our DNA. We hope to be a loving, healing, and reconciling presence while at the same time acknowledging our own imperfections. And every church or Christian expression has the potential of actually making things worse and not better. So, we want to walk humbly. 

We’ve always sought to be intentional about leaving places and people better than we found them. When the presence of Christ is evident in a relationship or project, we believe everybody wins. 

AL: Given the state of the world today, why is what we are doing in The Alliance so important at this particular time in our history? 

John: The world lacks hope, and the message of Christ is fundamentally one of hope. The world lacks compassionate care that doesn’t create dependency but rather builds people’s own ability to provide for themselves. The world lacks expressions of love that ultimately aren’t just self-seeking pursuits of the advancement of our own pleasure. The world lacks a lot of things that Christ has to offer. 

What The Alliance is doing today is tangibly bringing hope and help to populations that are overlooked by the broader society. And throughout the globe, people who would otherwise be a forgotten segment of their own community are finding a better quality of life and receiving the gospel. 

We’re crazy enough to believe that we actually become the hands, feet, and heart of Christ Himself. As we enter into relationships and human suffering, we demonstrate who He is. 

As we enter into relationships and human suffering, we demonstrate who Jesus is.

AL: You and other Alliance leaders recently made a prayerful and monumental decision to relocate the Alliance National Office to Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Why? How will this move The Alliance forward and better fulfill what we envision Christ wanting us to be and do? 

John: We loved Colorado Springs. In many ways, we had no reason to leave our office or our city. We were functioning well and had no problem hiring and retaining staff. 

But leaders often ask irritating questions. And I had a question burning in my soul for years that I finally uttered in a meeting with some of our senior leaders: “Are we officed in the right manner?” 

There we were, doing great community work all across the globe, but the home office that oversaw all that work had no community engagement as part of our day-to-day roles at the office. And it felt like that lack of engagement was starting to shape us. 

One of my leadership principles is, “Who are we becoming by what we’re repeatedly doing?” And by us repeatedly going into a business park set aside from relationships that can be developed by intersecting with the community, how was that shaping us long term? It certainly wasn’t modeling the missional engagement we have globally or our own passion for the work we are overseeing. I want the people who oversee the mission to be on mission as we come to work. So, our senior leaders concluded that it would be personally inconvenient but essential to change our model. 

The second question then was, “If we’re not officed in the right manner, are we officed in the right city?“ That led to a discussion about finding a location with a top 100 airport, greater ethnic diversity, and a lower cost of living than Colorado Springs. 

After four trips, visiting 90 properties in three cities that met our criteria, we landed on Reynoldsburg, Ohio, largely because of the hand-in-glove fit of our desire for a mixed-use office concept with the city’s desire for the same in an area they have labeled as the “gateway to their community,” the prime intersection of Main Street and Brice Road. And it’s conveniently located to the Columbus airport and within driving distance of more than half of our U.S. district offices and a large percentage of our churches. 

This required disruption for a lot of staff and their families, and we didn’t take it lightly. We’re grateful for those who have made the move from Colorado to Columbus, but we’re also appreciative of those who weren’t able to do so. 

AL: What kind of presence and impact are you hoping to see the National Office have in the Reynoldsburg and greater Columbus community over the next several years? 

John: Two answers. First, we hope our staff is a winsome contribution to a great community and that we can further advance this city’s desire to be a city of respect, bringing various cultures together in a healthy, life-giving manner. 

Second, we hope to build a facility that is a gift to the community where we’re providing reasons and opportunities for multicultural, multigenerational, and multipurpose gatherings that most cities don’t have. The event center, coffeehouse, and retail spaces we are planning would all provide an economic benefit and a gathering place for the Reynoldsburg area. 

We named it Project Reimagine because, to state the obvious, we’re reimagining how the office of a Christian organization can function. This story isn’t just about The Alliance. One of our early adopters said to me, “When you dream, you give others permission to dream as well.” 

And I’m watching that happen. Other organizations and churches have begun to say, “If The Alliance is doing that, what should we be doing to better engage our communities?” 

AL: What you described sounds like an enormous financial commitment. Where are all these funds coming from to fulfill what we plan to do here in Reynoldsburg? 

John: One of the first businessmen I met in Reynoldsburg said to me, “Wow, you must have a war chest to be able to do all that you’re doing.” I laughed and said, “Actually we started with nothing. We had a dream, and Christians are often fascinatingly generous for causes that don’t personally benefit themselves.” 

So, this is all being done through the generosity of people from California to Puerto Rico and everywhere in between. It’s a major project, but I’m grateful for the early adopters who have been able and willing to invest in this reimagining of what an office of a Christian organization can look like and to participate with us in a self-sacrificing manner. 

So, we do have a challenge before us as building costs have escalated recently. However, one of the values of our organization is to take faith-filled risks. And this is one of those full-of-faith, risky moves that our organization is making under the oversight of the Board of Directors of The Alliance. 

AL: John, one more time: Why do we do what we do? 

John: We’re firmly convinced that every life is better with Christ at the center. And as that influence extends to a broader community, the community benefits as well. Jesus has done so much for each of us: forgiving, healing, restoring, etc. He is just too good for us to keep Him to ourselves. We get up every day wanting to love Christ more and live in such a manner that others would feel the same.

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