Luther and Nazarenes

Today (October 13, 2017) we celebrate the 109th Anniversary of the founding of the Church of the Nazarene.  Happy Birthday, Nazarenes!

Throughout this month we are also celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, so we thought, “Why not combine the two celebrations today in one post?”

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Rev. Klaus Arnold is a German Nazarene and Rector of European Nazarene College on the German/Swiss border.  He is also a friend and he and his wife were commissioned as Global missionaries in our denomination together with Emily and me in February 2007.  Arnold recently wrote an article in Holiness Today entitled “Growing up in Luther’s Shadow” in which he concluded by comparing Luther’s theology with Nazarenes’:

In Germany all Christians, including Nazarenes, have grown up in the large shadow of Martin Luther. Of course, there are key differences. Like Luther, we Nazarenes believe that baptism is a sacrament: a time when God’s grace is present in a special way. However, Luther was known to assert that baptism was the means by which God cleanses us from original sin, and this is not a teaching consistent with doctrinal statements of the Church of the Nazarene.

Another difference is in the doctrines of justification and sanctification. We believe (like Luther) that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone because of what God has done through the person and work of Jesus Christ. However, for Luther the change of relationship between a believer and God is only relative, but there is no real change in the believer.

He believed that a Christian is always “sinner and justified” as long as he/she lives. The Church of the Nazarene believes that while there is a relative change in justification, there is also a real change taking place: we become a new creation.

Sin does not need to reign over us, and we do not have to sin deliberately or consistently. With the infilling of God’s love through the Holy Spirit, our sinful nature is cleansed in entire sanctification.

God’s mission is the renewal of his creation. And part of that is transformation of believers into the image of God (Christlikeness). As we are filled with God’s love, we want to share that with the rest of creation and truly make a difference in our world and participate in God’s mission wherever we are! We affirm, with Luther, that our new life begins and continues by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

The Protestant Reformation 500 Years Later

“Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out…At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out.  They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses” (Numbers 9:21, 23).

October 2017 is a special month. It marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The end of this month, October 31, will be five hundred years to the day since Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This was the act that started it all, that started the grand and vast movement of Protestantism, that started the Reformation.

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In the evangelical church – and in the Church of the Nazarene specifically – we have obviously been greatly impacted by the Reformation.  If you have ever asked, “Why do we do this or that in the Church?”, many times the answer comes in large part due to the Protestant Reformation.

During the entirety of this month, we will be focusing on this anniversary. At times we will dive into the lives of the Reformers.  Other times we will focus on the core tenets of the Reformation (keep an eye out for the “5 Solas”). The primary purpose will be to help us learn about and reflect upon this enormously important event and how it has brought us to this moment in history as a Christian Church.

At the same time, a secondary purpose is also at work.  By dedicating a month to this topic, I hope that we will recognize that we are a Church that is always willing to evaluate itself and make adjustments as needed.  We have not always been good at that through history, have we? The Church has often been the last entity in society that is willing to change.

Thus, through this month I pray that we would renew our calling to reform, beginning with ourselves.  Just as the post-Exodus Israelites needed to be ready in any moment to follow the cloud, may we be so attuned to God’s presence that we willingly move and adapt at his prompting.  Lord, begin a reformation in me, and in us!

2017 Thank Offering for the World Evangelism Fund

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We must fix our sights on places where the church is not yet, engaging in intercessory prayer, sacrificial giving, and physically going to and mobilizing others to go to these places. Each time you give to the World Evangelism Fund, you send the message of the gospel into areas where “the church is not yet.”

For more information and to download the resources visit the official website: nazarene.org/generosity

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The Challenge is Urban

By Scott Armstrong

Last week I had the privilege of being in Panama where several leaders were gathered to brainstorm solutions for more effective ministry in three areas:

  • Urban Mission
  • Youth
  • Children

These areas have been declared our regional emphases in Mesoamerica for the upcoming Quadrennial.  And rightly so: although great things are currently taking place in each of these ministries, we have a long way to go before we see an explosion of fruit all across the region among children, youth, and our cities.

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I’m sure you have listened to our Worthless Servants podcast recently (if you haven’t, seriously, what are you doing with your life?), and you know we have addressed all three of these issues in various episodes.  However, for the sake of this article, let’s focus on urban mission.

If you have heard my wife and I speak recently in any service or event, you know that we are banging the drum for urban mission.  Our ministry is GENESIS after all, where the mission is to make Christlike disciples in the urban centers of Mesoamerica.  We are sending missionaries to 28 strategic cities so that they may plant churches and impact communities with little or no Nazarene presence.  And it is happening!

Still, I admit that the influence a team of four workers can have in a city of 1 million+ is limited.  And what about the other cities that have not been identified as the 28 strategic, urgent sites that will receive missionaries? It is clear that our whole region needs a genesis and it will not come solely because of a dedicated volunteer missionary force.

This very week while we were in Panama, we received from Dale Jones in Nazarene Research (love them!) a list of all of the cities in the Mesoamerica Region with 100,000 or more in population.  The findings are intriguing and yet staggering:

  1. General statistics show that 72% of Mesoamerica lives in an urban area (this includes several cities of less than 100,000 that are still considered urban). Nearly 3 out of every four of us is an urbanite! When you think of urban, you may think of New York, Beijing, or Tokyo. But we are the region with the highest percentage of urban dwellers.
  2. In just two years we have grown from 169 cities with 100,000 people or more to 182 fitting that description. All over the world people are moving to the big city in droves, and our region is no exception.
  3. Of these 182 metropolises, 115 are in one country: Mexico. One. Five.  Reaching the cities of our region means especially reaching the cities of Mexico, many of which have no Nazarene church.
  4. After Mexico, the four countries that have the most cities with population of 100,000 or more are: Cuba (16), Dominican Republic (9), Haiti (8), and Nicaragua (7). In other words, 155 of the 182 biggest cities in our region are in FIVE countries. Would you pray specifically for urban impact in those five countries?
  5. The total population in Mesoamerica is 223 million. 42 million of us live in cities with greater than 100,000 people.  That’s 54%More of us live in a huge city than don’t.  Shouldn’t this effect the way we equip our leaders for ministry?

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  6. If the majority of our population lives in a big city, then that’s where all our Nazarenes are, too, right? Wrong. Only 32% of our members live in a city of over 100,000 people.  That’s 129,354 out of 406,000 total Nazarenes.

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  7. #5 and #6 above cause me to reflect: I know that we have many Nazarene members in these cities already and I praise the Lord for their witness. However, there is no doubt that in the great majority of these urban settings, we lack a true presence as a Church of the Nazarene.  Having a church building and holding services every week will not cut it.  In order to impact the city, sacrificial, creative, and missional discipleship will be required in the days ahead.
  8. A significant number of these 182 cities have recently been affected adversely by devastating natural disasters. Could it be that our entryway into these cities would come through comforting those who have lost all in hurricanes or earthquakes? Could it be that – even without natural disasters – acting as agents of compassion would be the healthy way to impact our cities anyway?

My intention is not to overwhelm you with statistics.  I recognize that each observation above must be digested thoughtfully for greatest understanding, and I pray you would do so!  Honestly, I share all of this not just to inform, but also to invite you to be a part of this initiative.

Would you pray?

Would you give?

Would you go and impact an urban context right where you are or even far away?

Comment below if God is turning your focus toward the city.  Communicate with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at MesoamericaGenesis.org.  Listen to our podcast and tell others about it so the conversation about these topics spreads.

We need your help.  The statistics are clear and the call of God is clearer: let’s bring a genesis to the urban centers of Mesoamerica.

 

CCO – Haiti, 2017

In Montrouis, Camp le Phare, Haiti on December 7-9, 2017 leaders of NYI and Global Mission will be hosting a Cross-Cultural Orientation (CCO). The moment will certainly be historic as Haiti has never held such an event before. The CCO is necessitated by the fact that Haiti is rising up and desiring to train and send its own Nazarene missionaries, challenging stereotypes that have been pervasive through generations outside, and sometimes even inside, the Caribbean country.

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So, What Is a Nazarene?

Today marks the first day of the Church of the Nazarene’s Global Conventions and General Assembly.  These events are held once every four years and this time in Indianapolis, Indiana we are expecting more than 15,000 attendees and delegates for times of corporate worship, training, fellowship, and business.  However, maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves.  Some may ask, “What is a Nazarene anyway?” On an exciting day such as today, Rev. Daron Brown reminds us of our equally exciting origins.

Written by Daron Brown
From his column Pressing On

A few days into my freshman year at Trevecca Nazarene College, one of the guys in my dorm suite pulled me aside. He was unchurched, attending TNC on a baseball scholarship. He spent his first week wide-eyed, watching us Church of the Nazarene folks, wondering what he had gotten himself into. With a hushed voice, half embarrassed and half amused, he whispered, “What is a Nazarene?”

Since then I have been asked the question dozens of times. While there are different ways to answer it, perhaps the best response is to look back at how we got the name.

In the first century, the town of Nazareth in Galilee was considered a second-class community. This attitude can be seen in Nathaniel’s response to Phillip when he spoke to his friend about “Jesus of Nazareth.” Phillip evidenced his skepticism with, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46, NIV). The assumed answer to Phillip’s rhetorical question was “Of course not. Nothing worthwhile ever happens in Nazareth.”

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In Luke 4 when Jesus returned to Nazareth, he was physically rejected and nearly killed by citizens of his own hometown. Their response might be described as, “Why should we listen to you? You’re no better than us.” To be a “Nazarene” in the first century didn’t win you much credibility.

It is remarkable that the Second Person of the Trinity would come to us by way of a remote place like Nazareth. God himself chose to reside in a community where people believed goodness did not exist. In doing so, He reminded us that we are not always so quick at distinguishing good from evil. It’s a problem we’ve had since the first chapters of Genesis.

Some 700 years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah foresaw the life of Christ with the words, “He was despised and rejected by humankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem” (Isaiah 53:3). In embracing the role of an outcast, Jesus the Nazarene showed His solidarity with those who were marginalized, persecuted, and without hope.

Nineteen centuries later, in Los Angeles, California, a Methodist Episcopal Church preacher named Phineas F. Bresee felt the call to take the message of Holiness to poor families—urban outcasts who likely were not welcomed by well-heeled folks in prominent fellowships. Leaving his denomination over the issue, he partnered with a well-known physician and former president of the University of Southern California, Joseph P. Widney. In 1895, they joined with others in the community to start a new church. The late historian Timothy Smith said that in doing so Bresee “declared that the only thing new in the movement was its determination to preach the gospel to the needy, and to give that class a church they could call their own” (Called Unto Holiness, Vol. 1, p. 110). The name they chose for their movement was suggested by Widney, who said the term “Nazarene” symbolized “the toiling, lowly mission of Christ… to whom the world in its misery and despair turns, that it may have hope” (Ibid. p. 111).

Since that time almost 122 years ago, our fellowship has expanded into more than 160 areas around the world. You’ll find Nazarenes of diverse ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds, worshiping in beautiful sanctuaries, cinder block buildings, and strip malls. Our thousands of churches may have different personalities and programs, but we continue to share a common aspiration. First and foremost, we are driven to take the message of Holiness to the poor and needy around us. Secondly, we embrace the identity of the God who himself became an outcast in order to reach the outcasts of this world—people like ourselves.

Since my freshman year at TNC, I have gotten better at responding to “What is a Nazarene?” These days, the best answer I can give is: “Come with us into the neighborhoods. Let us show you the jail ministry, the community garden, the food pantry, the mentoring and backpack feeding programs. Come join us as we work alongside those who suffer—the sick, the aging, and the addict—and then you will clearly understand what it means to be a Nazarene.

Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.

This article was originally posted at: pbusa.org

The Army And The King

By Rev. Carla Sunberg

Several years ago I heard a sermon by the President of Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, USA — Carla Sunberg.  Rev. Sunberg opened the work of the Church of the Nazarene in Russia and served for 13 years before becoming a pastor and District Superintendent in the United States.  She spoke the following words to 2,000 university students at Olivet Nazarene University and I hope they inspire you as much as they did us that day.  Although many would say that this generation of youth is lazy or apathetic, Dr. Sunberg’s vision is quite different.

The vision? The vision is Jesus.  Obsessively, dangerously, undeniably it is Jesus.  And the vision is an army of young people.  You see bones?  I see an army.  And they are free from materialism.  They laugh at 9 to 5 little prisons.  They could eat caviar on Monday and crusts on Tuesday and they wouldn’t even notice.  They know the meaning of The Matrix and How the West was Won.  They’re mobile like the wind.  They belong to the nations.  They need no passport.  People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.  They are free, yet they are slaves of the hurting and dirty and dying.

And what is the vision?  The vision is holiness.  It’s a holiness that hurts the eyes.  It makes children laugh and it makes adults angry.  It gave up the game of minimum integrity long ago to reach for the stars.  It scorns the good and strains for the best and it is dangerously pure.  Light flickers from every secret motive, every private conversation.  It loves people away from their suicide leaps, their Satan games.  This is an army that will lay down its life for the cause.  A million times a day, its soldiers choose to lose, that they might one day win the great “Well done” of the faithful sons and daughters.  Such heroes are as radical on Monday morning as Sunday night.  And they don’t need fame from names.  Instead they grin quietly upwards and they hear the crowds chanting again and again: “Come on!”  And this is the sound of the underground: the whisper of history in the making, foundations shaking, revolutionaries dreaming.  Once again mystery is scheming in whispers, conspiracy is breathing – this is the sound of the underground.

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And the army is disciplined, and also discipled: young people who beat their bodies into submission.  Every soldier would take a bullet for his comrade in arms.  And the tattoo on their back boasts: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Sacrifice fuels the fire of victory in their upward eyes.  Winners, martyrs – who can stop them? Can hormones hold them back? Can failure succeed? Can fear scare them or death kill them?

And the generation prays, like a dying man with groans beyond talking, with warrior cries, sulphuric tears, and with great barrel-loads of laughter.  They are waiting and watching 24-7-365.

And whatever it takes they’re going to give.  They are breaking the rules, they are shaking mediocrity from its cozy little hide, they are laying down their rights and their precious little wrongs, laughing at labels, fasting essentials.  The advertisers cannot mold them.  Hollywood cannot hold them.  Peer pressure is powerless to shake their resolve.  At late night parties before the cockcrow cries, they are incredibly cool, but dangerously attractive inside.

On the outside they really hardly care.  They wear clothes like costumes to communicate and celebrate, but never to hide.  Would they surrender their image or their popularity? They would lay down their very lives!  They’re going to swap seats with the man on death row who’s guilty as hell, a throne for an electric chair.  With blood and sweat and many tears.  With sleepless nights and fruitless days.  They pray as if it all depends on God, and they live as if it all depends on them.

Their DNA chooses Jesus.  He breathes out, they breathe in.  Their subconscious sings.  They had a blood transfusion with Jesus.  Their words make demons scream in shopping centers.  Don’t you hear them? Herald the weirdoes; summon the losers and the freaks.  Here come the frightened and forgotten with fire in their eyes.  They walk tall and trees applaud.  Skyscrapers bow.  Mountains are dwarfed by these children of another dimension.  Their prayers summon the hounds of heaven and invoke the ancient dream of Eden.

And this vision will be.  It will come to pass, it will come easily, it will come soon.  And how do I know? Because this is the longing of creation itself, the groaning of the Spirit, the very dream of God.  My tomorrow is his today.  My distant hope is his 3D.  And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, and bone shaking: Amen!  From countless angels.  From heroes of the faith.  From Christ himself.  And he is the original dreamer.  He is the ultimate winner.  It’s guaranteed.  That’s my King.