I love the Church. I love the Church of the Nazarene. I am glad to be a Nazarene, and I hope I’ll always be a Nazarene. My grandparents are Nazarene, and I hope my grandchildren will be Nazarene.
That’s why I work so hard to change the Church of the Nazarene. My loyalty and my expectations are equally high. When I criticize, I hope it’s constructive. When I lament, I attempt to give voice to our collective prayer that we will get better together.
Even so, sometimes, it’s good simply to celebrate what is good. Sometimes, we need to remind reformers why we stay, why this is a family worth investing into. Sometimes, we need to remind traditionalists that - even in the midst of our work for change - we still value our ecclesial tribe.
Here are seven awesome traits of the Church of the Nazarene. We may not always live up to these, but I think we can all agree that these are at the core of what make us who we are.
Hope. Whether you call it entire sanctification, progressive sanctification, growth in grace, second blessing, lordship of the spirit, maturation in Christ, or one of a hundred other labels or metaphors, Nazarenes really believe people, things, and communities can get better. We are not stuck. We can and should change for the better. Our essential message is hope through Jesus.
Compassion. Here is where our roots shine out in contemporary fruit. The Church of the Nazarene was birthed as a church of, for, and by the poor. Early Nazarenes fought sex trafficking, cared for orphans, and gave hope to the homeless. Today’s Nazarenes are carrying forward this pattern of putting our faith into action by caring for those who suffer.
Justice. But Nazarenes know that it’s not enough to relieve today’s hunger. We must empower people to grow their own food, and we must ask what systems contribute to their disempowerment. At our best, Nazarene churches are equal parts big hearts, clear eyes, sober judgment, and courageous grit.
Local. We are nearly everywhere, in more countries than McDonalds. If there is a crisis in the world, there is probably a Nazarene church on the ground meeting local needs. The vast majority of our districts, fields, and regions are led by people from that area, and we are making slow but steady steps toward having more truly international global leadership. We also give significant freedom for churches to structure their church and worship service in whatever ways work best for their local context.
Learning. When regional groups merged to form the Church of the Nazarene in 1908, each group brought with it pre-existing educational institutions - most of which still survive as our Nazarene universities. Now, as our churches spread around the world, so do our colleges and seminaries. We Nazarenes highly value understanding our world. We believe in an educated laity and an educated clergy.
Tradition. Our whole movement emerged as an attempt to reclaim the heart of John Wesley’s tradition (in the 1700s) and that of the early church. Our DNA is neo-traditional. We are always trying to pull forward the ancient faith and practices of God’s people, translating them into our own time and contexts.
Progress. One Nazarene pastor recently said that the core of our Wesleyan tradition is a commitment to progress in methods and thought. Our forefathers knew that we are conducting one huge ongoing experiment and that we will constantly need to be flexible, adjusting our terminology and methods as we go. They structured a general editing process every four years at our General Assembly, when Nazarenes from around the world come together to make decisions about how to be better together. On countless issues, we are making slow but steady progress. Moving forward into a brave new world is in our DNA.
This is why I’m a Nazarene. Yes, I was born a Nazarene, but this is why I stay. Our DNA is good, solid, holy, and hopeful.
Why are you still Nazarene? Post in the comments section below.
(For now, let's stick with the people who have decided to stay. Maybe later, I can do a post about why some people are leaving.)