A Listening Posture – John Stumbo Video Blog No. 118

This month John shares an alternate approach—based on a statement our founder penned in the original Christian Alliance Constitution in 1887—to the premillennial recommendation in our Statement of Faith.

Alliance family, Council is right around the corner, our spirit of expectancy continues to grow, and our listening posture continues. Join me today. As you’ll remember in the March video blog, I walked through all 11 points of the Statement of Faith and what we’ll be discussing at Council. We get a fair amount of communication here at the office and try to read what comes our way.

Well, one of the letters that landed on our desk came from a former member of the Theological Issues Committee, a retired professor, and he presented an alternate approach to the specific topic of our wrestling match regarding premillennialism—you know that through the last few years, we have talked about whether it should be in or out of the Statement of Faith, whether it should be a footnote or not. And he presented a third way that had never been considered that we found very intriguing—so much so that we felt like we needed to go to the Board of Directors and say, “We’ve tried to take a listening posture throughout this whole journey. I know that this is a late addition to our discussion, that we felt like we had settled it all, but I’m coming back to you with this suggestion that we take a different approach for how we handle this oddity within The Alliance—that we have those among us who are not premillennial, but we have “premillennialism” in our Statement of Faith, and we have this long history of having a diversity on that subject among us. Would you, Board of Directors, be interested in looking at an alternate approach?”

They said yes, and in a recent Zoom meeting, they have agreed that this become the alternate recommendation that we’re bringing to you on the subject of premillennialism, and it includes, interestingly enough, a preamble. You know that our current statement on premillennialism and the whole bigger subject of the return of Christ is in 1.11 that says, “The second coming of the Lord Jesus is imminent and will be personal, visible, and premillennial. This is the believer’s blessed hope and is a vital truth which is an incentive to holy living and faithless service.” That’s how it currently reads.

Here’s the “whereases” that would be coming that set this up: “Whereas, The C&MA has always been a predominantly premillennial movement; Whereas, The C&MA has also historically had some openness to those who embrace our mission and other aspects of our doctrine who may not be premillennial; and Whereas, This proposal would require official workers to embrace all other areas of our Statement of Faith including the imminent return of Jesus Christ and the missional impetus provided by His return,” that we amend our previous recommendation to include this preamble. “This preamble paraphrases the words of our founder, Dr. A. B. Simpson, penned in 1887. They are found in the preamble and body of the first constitution of what was then known as The Christian Alliance. We continue to embrace this spirit within The Christian and Missionary Alliance today.”

Here’s the story—in our research, we reviewed all the manuals of The Alliance but neglected the fact that in 1887, they didn’t have a manual. What we had was The Word, The Work, and The World, the magazine, and it was in an 1887 edition of that that Dr. Simpson gave us the first constitution of the Christian Alliance and a preamble for that constitution. And in that, he directly addressed the very kind of issues that we’re wrestling with today. And so, what you’re about to see is a paraphrase of Dr. Simpson’s words for the modern application: “The C&MA is a family of believers who share in common the fullness of Jesus in His present grace and coming glory. The C&MA is not intended to be sectarian in a way that would divide it from the broader body of evangelical churches. Rather, it is the intent of the C&MA to fellowship and to partner with all Christians, churches, and denominations who, like us, cling to ‘the faith or was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3).’ We understand that some will desire to be members and official workers in the C&MA who are in agreement with our mission and our doctrinal principles with the exception that they may not fully embrace the doctrine of the premillennial return of Jesus Christ. Such people may be received into membership and licensed for ministry so long as they embrace all the other tenets of our Statement of Faith and are willing to give the matter of premillennialism their honest and prayerful consideration.”

What this preamble does is allow us to keep our historic roots and acknowledge that we have among us those who do not hold the premillennialism but hold all of our other tenets of our Statement of Faith and allows us to leave the word “premillennial” within 1.11. So, here’s the 1.11 that would be presented to you: “The second coming of Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, is imminent and will be sudden, personal, visible, and premillennial.” In previous versions, we’d struck that word. Now, it remains. “This is the believer’s blessed hope and is a vital truth, which calls us to holy living, intentional witness, and faithful service.”

And so, it would read in this manner. Nothing changed in this since the last you saw it except retaining the word “premillennial” rather than striking it. So, this unique approach that we would get to retain the word within our Statement of Faith, but just acknowledge freely who we are in our preamble, is the motion that we are bringing to you at Council. So, you can see why I said we’ve tried to keep this listening posture all the way through this National Conversation, and I hope that we’ll keep listening to each other as Council convenes.

One question that we’ve been hearing as we’ve been listening is, “Are we going to have enough time to do all the Council business?” My friends, I cannot lead us two Councils in a row in such a manner where we don’t get all of our business done. So yes, we are prioritizing these key topics of interest for us, the Statement of Faith and the topics of men and women in leadership. And we’ve added an additional business session to our week so that we can ensure that we have ample time to cover the issues of significance.

Second, I’ve been asked about the order of the topics. “When will we be discussing these things?” Fair question. We have some important business items to deal with for the opening of every Council, but by Wednesday, we will get to the Statement of Faith and then to the men and women in leadership. So, we will have four Council sessions, if need be, to deal with these issues.

A third question I’ve been asked is, “Will you have any resources available to us post-Council?” The answer is yes. We know that as you go home to your local church, you’ll want to have conversations with leadership teams, elder boards, etc., and the National Office will be providing an FAQ with some resources attached to it to help you engage in healthy conversation with clarity and so that we can move forward in unity and health together. Now friends, as important as these matters are, as we gather for Council, we gather to meet with God as we meet with each other.

This whole theme, expectant, it was born out of prayer in private and in community as we sought God for what it was that we should look towards as we come to Council 2023. And that word landed on our souls as not only a theme but as a statement of faith and as a statement of conviction that we come with this spirit, anticipating that God meets with us. We have a long history of Him doing so in the Alliance family. We have a need for Him to do so at this moment in time. We have a desire to meet with Him, and we have our shields of faith lifted that He is the God who meets with us. How sweet of Him, how kind of Him—worship is being prepared, sermons are being prepared, reports are being prepared, hearts are being prepared.

I’m hearing stories of people fasting. I’m hearing stories of people coming in large numbers and with this eagerness not just to have discussion and debate and to vote but to meet with God, to engage with Him. I firmly believe that once again our Lord Christ will touch some bodies with physical healing. We’ll encourage some discouraged to come with faith shields drooping. We’ll build up the assembly of believers. We’ll bring praise to Jesus. We’ll, lift our hearts in such a way that once again, we walk away saying He met with us. He is kind. He is good. He does these kind of things. He brings hearts and minds together, and He lifts us together on mission and in worship, and it all comingles together in such a beautiful way when worshiping people get reinvigorated for their mission and get reunited in their calling and have fellowship and community along the way.

So yeah, we got a lot of work to do. It’s significant work, but the real work of the Church is worship, prayer, moving forward together, and advancing of the name of Jesus Christ. So, come with your own spirit of expectancy as we meet together at Council 2023. And for those, many, who can’t be there, join us online, join us in prayer, and may you join us with the same expectant spirit that He’s the God who doesn’t need an assembly of people to meet with you. He can meet you right where you are as well. Alliance family, this is a good season. God’s at work among us. Let’s keep lifting our shields of faith together.