By: Rev. Emily Armstrong
I admit it. I love the Church of the Nazarene. I really can’t imagine my life being a part of any other church.
Unlike Scott, I wasn’t born into the Church of the Nazarene. Scott is a part of legacy Nazarenes – parents and grandparents that dig back into the earlier parts of the denomination. He went to Olivet Nazarene University, just like his mom and dad. He graduated from Nazarene Theological Seminary and was ordained on the Kansas City District, just like his dad. Shoot, even his grandpa was a security guard at Olivet during his retirement years. Nazarene was in his blood.
Not so much for me. In fact, just a few weeks ago, if you had been eavesdropping on a conversation between my dad and myself, you would have heard him say, “What would your life had looked like if we [meaning my mom and himself] had stayed in the Baptist Church or even the Assemblies of God Church when we were first saved?”
What would my life had looked like? We will never know, but I do know how GRATEFUL I am to be a part of the Church of the Nazarene. It’s been MY church since I was 2 or 3 years old. It’s the church that counseled me when I was a fiancee and then witnessed my marriage to Scott. It’s the church in which my kids will remember learning to love Jesus. It’s the church where our core values of being CHRISTIAN, HOLY & MISSIONAL just feel…right.
I could write and teach for MANY hours on Christian and Holy (in fact, I have in so many places!) but it’s the missional that takes priority in this blog. You see, being reared in the Church of the Nazarene, I haven’t been exposed to other churches’ teaching and preaching. I haven’t gained my theological teeth in other denominations. I’ve simply had a diet of Nazarene missions MY WHOLE LIFE – and because of that, I thought that the way we do missions is the way that EVERYONE does missions. Spoiler alert – it’s not true!
As I’ve matured not only in my faith, but in my churchmanship, it’s come to my attention on more than one occasion that a defining characteristic of a Nazarene is this deep need in our hearts that desires for everyone in the world to have an opportunity to know Jesus. Sure, I’ve heard churches that preach the Great Commission and then challenge their people to get to work in their neighborhoods – but you know what I hear in the Church of the Nazarene? That we are to go to JERUSALEM, JUDEA, SAMARIA and TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH!
We’ve never been shy about sending our best people to the ends of the earth. We send church planters, bible scholars, university professors, medical doctors, mechanical engineers, tech geniuses and more ALL OVER THE WORLD because we believe that God has placed them in OUR church in order to be sent. Sent so that their gifts and talents can be used to expand God’s kingdom here on earth. We aren’t afraid to lose these people from our congregations – we send them out because we know that we are GROWING because of them.
Again, other churches preach it. Other churches are willing to send when someone testifies to a call. But you know what makes our missions special? We fund it. We don’t just give cross cultural missions lip service with a 2-minute announcement every 3 months in our Sunday morning service. We don’t find “para-church” organizations that we can come alongside for a season in order to foster international missions in our congregations. We give EVERY MONTH to international missions. We don’t receive random offerings, we strategically plan to give away 5.5% of everything that comes into our congregation so that we can reach the ends of the earth with the good news.
I’ve been a missionary with the Church of the Nazarene for just over 17 years now, and I’ve had dozens of conversations with missionaries and sending organizations alike that usually end with the same question, “But, how do you get churches to financially give?” I smile when I say that it’s just a part of our culture. It’s just a beautiful characteristic of being Nazarene.
We call it the World Evangelism Fund. I wish I could remember WHERE in my “History of the Church of the Nazarene” book it tells you exactly how old the “fund” is, but I can’t remember the exact date. Nor can I find the exact book, actually. I do remember, however, that we’ve had this “fund” for close to (if not just over) 100 years. Not bad for a denomination that is close to 120 years old. It’s in our DNA.
After 100 years of funding the mission, we have a HUGE structure that has been created that depends on this fund. It’s the tree trunk that holds up all the other branches. The tree trunk that looks like missionary homes, the translation of literature, dozens of university and seminary campuses, budgets that allow missionary work to exist and SO MUCH MORE. The structure has been so well built over the century, I’m sure there are thousands of stories about children, youth and adults that were impacted by the presence of an ACTIVE church around the world, stories which are virtually impossible to uncover. I like to think that the far-reaching ripple effect of how far our pesos, rupees, pounds, dollars and more actually reached will be revealed to us all in heaven. Give me a front-row seat for THAT showing! We’ll have eternity to hear ALL of the stories.
God is the best at taking something small and humble, and exalting it to transform the world. The Father incarnated his son into a tiny baby that changed the world. The Spirit was breathed on a few dozen and turned into the mighty international Church we see all over the world today. In some ways, I think the missional characteristic of the Church of the Nazarene is one of his “small” creations that we are seeing change the world.
And I for one, am so proud to be a part of a church that does everything possible to reach the ends of the earth.