A Step of Activated Faith – John Stumbo Video Blog No. 121

This month John shares how Jesus is writing a new story about how we position ourselves for meaningful, impactful presence where He has placed us—no matter how unlikely the surroundings.

– Just two years ago, this land that I’m standing on was used for drug trade and other illicit activity. But a new day is coming, not just for these 14 acres and for the city of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, but for all the Alliance family. Join me in this story that Jesus is writing right here.

You’ve heard the story how your Alliance leadership became dissatisfied with how we were officing as a mission-advancing denomination. See, all over the globe, here in the United States and around the world, we’ve found ways to have a meaningful, impactful presence as The Alliance. City after city, community after community, we bring the gospel to a community in meaningful ways. Yet we, as a National Office team, were sheltered in a business park, not able to engage in mission during our eight to five, Monday to Friday work. And so, we asked that disrupting question, “Should we office in a different manner?”

And that led us on this search. And you know that we visited 90 different properties and came to a very unlikely candidate, a vacant Kmart with a bonus McDonald’s on the property. And the city of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, met us here and said, “We heard what you’re trying to do, and we think that our property might be a hand and glove match for your vision.” And so, what they called the “gateway” to their city, had become known by the locals as the “armpit” of their city as this vacant Kmart property had been neglected. But the city had a vision, and this is becoming home for The Christian and Missionary Alliance.

So in June, we took the bold step of breaking ground. We set up a tent on this property, put in 400 chairs, brought in a worship team. It filled my heart with joy to hear the name of Jesus proclaimed right here in this public setting. Tent flaps open, McDonald’s traffic driving by, pedestrians about, the name of Jesus declared joyfully, winsomely–it was beautiful. Moments of celebration followed by the more formal act of a public groundbreaking where the mayor gave a few good words and the construction and architectural teams came and our own office staff got to join in, and we shoved shovels into the ground as this act of declaration that this is now property given over to purposes of the Kingdom of Christ.

For me, it was just a foreshadowing of what’s going to take place here day after day, month after month, year after year, as this property becomes an event center with all kinds of celebration moments like that for the name of Jesus, conference rooms, our office, coffee shop, retail, other office space, our archives, this mixed-use opportunity for the gospel of Jesus to be winsomely lived out as we come to the office day after day. So, the groundbreaking was a powerful moment– not only a statement to the city, but also a preview of what’s to come. This week, we now close on the final four acres needed for our master plan. Let’s not miss this moment. When we came here to Reynoldsburg, only one property was for sale, but we needed four.

We were able to acquire the Kmart and McDonald’s property fairly quickly at a very good price, but there’s a corner lot that was needed– Main Street, first paved road in America, Highway 40, the original Cumberland Road. This intersection of Main and Brice–30,000 cars a day on Main, 16,000 cars a day on Brice–was essential for us to have the right access and the right control over this whole 14-acre property. Next, we needed interim office space. And in God’s kindness, right in the backyard of the Kmart, an office had become available because of COVID, and it’s suited us very well as an interim office space. Lastly, this strip mall was not available but has now become available to us. And the final piece of the 14-acre property is now in place. All of it paid for outside the Great Commission Fund, without a line of credit or a loan, by those in the Alliance family that caught this vision early. Bless you. Thank you for those who’ve contributed to that.

And now, in just a couple weeks, the next phase begins of all of that unglamorous thing called site work– underground utilities, removing the asphalt, the underground water retention, those kind of things that are necessary for a significant commercial building, a multi-million dollar project that’ll take months, outside the Great Commission Fund, without line of credit or loan. All of those funds have been provided as well. Thank you for that.

Interestingly, only about 400 Alliance people have contributed to this project to this date. Over $15 million has been raised, allowing us to do all that we’re doing here. But now we’re on to the next phase in our fundraising because when that site work gets done, we want to lay a foundation and get a building up– 130,000 square foot building that will serve us well for decades to come. $400 a square foot, that’s over a $50 million building, which is a big number, I understand that. And I even went back to the Board of Directors after we got that number and said, “Is this an overreach? Are we trying to do too much?” And their clear and united answer was, “No. This seems to be what God has for us. To pull out any one component would make the whole thing less functional, less synergistic. And so yes, we need to press forward with the whole.”

You know, we announced in Council we’ve got a $25 million goal for this year and for next year– we’re about 10 percent of our way into this year’s goal. And so, we’re off to a good start, but we have a lot of money to raise before we can begin the actual construction of the building itself. So, it’s time for me, as president, to ask you, as an Alliance family member, would you make your financial investment to this project? We would love it if every Alliance family member gave $400, one square foot, so they could own a piece of this building. I want you, when you walk onto this campus sometime, to know that you’re an owner. That one square foot of this building has been paid for, provided by you, the Alliance family, for us, for our community, and for the next generation that will be impacted by this missional advance. For some of us, one square foot is way too little of an ask. We can and should do much more than that.

Joanna and I continue to give on a regular basis to this project, and we invite you to do so as well. Pastor, I’m asking you to not only give personally, but also stand before your congregation and give them an opportunity to give. For some of you, that would work best by including Project ReImagine in your year-end giving. Some of you have a year-end offering for special projects– include Project ReImagine in that. I think it’s important for you to hear me say that I consider this, both for my family and I hope for yours, above and beyond giving, beyond your local church and beyond the Great Commission Fund, which we normally do.

We believe there’s capacity in the Alliance family for much more. And that’s been very obvious in the first $15 million that’s been given. This has not been a trade off from the GCF to Project ReImagine. This is primarily new giving that is coming. And so, we welcome your participation above and beyond your normal giving, knowing that’s a stretch for some of us. But it’s a good stretch. This is a full of faith moment for the Alliance family. For me to be asking you to contribute more financially, that’s a step of faith for some of us. And for all of us to think of a national office doing a capital campaign above and beyond our Great Commission Fund, that’s new thinking, new terminology, new concept for some of us, and an opportunity for the faith of the Alliance family to increase.

I have increasingly become convinced in this multi-year journey of this relocation and Project ReImagine that yes, it’s about meaningful, impactful presence as a denomination. Yes, it’s about gospel advance in this region. Yes, it’s about the next generation. But it’s also about a faith enlargement for us as an Alliance family– that God is stretching our faith of what is possible among us, that we have limited Him at times in our own journeys and our own stories, in our own churches, and in our own office. And it’s time for a faith enlargement in this community. Now, as you’re gathering, this is not a normal project. We’re not going to a bank for a big loan. We don’t have all the finances in hand before we start.

We’re doing this trusting by God, step by step, and He’s provided step by step. But as I was coming up to the groundbreaking, I got real nervous, and seriously considered postponing the groundbreaking. We don’t have all the funds for the full construction of the project, we just have enough for each next step. And then my own Council sermon came back to haunt me. The jar and the jug was a sermon from the story of Elijah as he goes to the widow and asks her for her last bite of food. And she reluctantly, but obediently, makes that meal. And then the promise comes that she’s going to have everything she needs for every day, that every day that jar and that jug will have more oil and more flour. And then I found myself in my sermon saying that “the miracle often follows a step of activated faith.”

When I said that at Council, I didn’t have a personal application of my own heart for myself. I knew that when the priest stepped into the water, and when Daniel threw open the window, when Peter stepped out of the boat, and when Abraham raised the knife, I knew that those were steps of activated faith, and a miracle followed. We went forward with the groundbreaking, again, joyfully. But in my heart, there was this, “God, we’re going public with this.” And a couple days later, as I wrestled through it more, I realized that’s what it was. It was a step of activated faith that we were taking as Alliance people in this community, declaring that God’s doing something, and we’re trusting Him to bring the miracle. So, we’re not going to be foolish in how we proceed, and we’re determined to not go into long-term debt, but we need you to lift your shield of faith with us and join us in this journey.