By Andrea Anibal and Jeff Finley
World Vision President Richard Stearns delivered the keynote address to the first evening assembly of Free Methodist General Conference 2011 (GC11).
The service kicked off with lively praise led by Glen Prior and Kelly Roth of the Southern California Conference. A talented team of FM musicians from across the country has assembled to guide GC attendees in meaningful worship.
After the video intro “Empower,” Bishop David Roller introduced Stearns as a speaker particularly suited to the Free Methodist value on social justice. Stearns’ book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” has received international acclaim and was chosen 2010 Christian Book of the Year award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.
Stearns focused his message largely on Jesus’ call to bring the kingdom here on Earth, stating that an age where people are often obsessed with Jesus’ second coming, it is important to consider why Jesus left .
“Jesus left because there was something remaining that He wanted us to do,” Stearns said, “and He will return when it is accomplished.”
He went on to imagine a shocked group of disciples staring upward, open-mouthed, as Jesus was taken up to heaven.
“More than 2,000 years later, are we still staring into the sky – or into the big screens every Sunday – wondering why Jesus has left us and what He wants us to do?” Stearns said.
He went on to describe two predominant kingdoms of this world: the magic kingdom versus the tragic kingdom. Many Christians who live in the magic kingdom are faced with decisions like where to go on vacation, and they tithe an average of 2.5 percent. Those in the tragic kingdom live with staggering statistics like children dying every four seconds from preventable diseases and incomes of less than $2 per day.
Stearns expressed concern that churches have become like the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-18). He outlined five traps to avoid: belief above behavior, exhortation above explanation, inward instead of outward, institution above revolution and apathy instead of outrage.
“Frankly, we’re more outraged at the Caylee Anthony verdict than we are about the 22,000 kids that died that same day,” Stearns said.
Stearns said Christians must think and act differently instead of accepting the status quo.
“It’ll require the same kind of courage, resolve and sacrifice demonstrated by Benjamin Roberts and your founding fathers who challenged the social injustices of their day,” Stearns told the Free Methodist audience at the college founded by Roberts.
Free Methodist World Missions Director Art Brown closed the service with two specific actions Free Methodists can take to step up the challenge:
1) Sponsor a child through International Child Care Ministries; $25 a month give a child in one of 30 countries a chance in life.
2) Make sure that FMWM’s country share accounts are fully funded so that vital mission work can proceed in all the countries with a FM presence.