“And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ’Come back to God!’”(2 Cor. 5:18-20)
As Nazarenes, we have a message for the world that is full of hope and optimism. We do not believe that this world is just a sinking ship and our job is get people to make a decision for Jesus so they can get off this sinking ship before she goes down for the last time. We believe that God is at work to redeem the world. We believe that God’s grace is poured out upon the whole world and that all persons are being drawn to the love of God in Christ. Our job is simply to announce with our words and with our lives the gospel, the good news of God’s reconciling love in Christ. So while our methods can and must adapt and change our message is clear. Our churches, our pastors need to be teaching this clear message. I am deeply concerned as I travel this District that our people are being shaped more by teachers and popular Christian media that do not reflect our rich Wesleyan-holiness heritage. Let’s be clear about what we believe.
We need a clear understanding of the authority of the Scriptures. We do not bind our people to a literalistic reading of the Bible but understand that the Bible inerrantly reveals the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation and it authoritatively guides us in matters of faith and practice. We are recently reminded by some of our theologians, that our forebears “crafted the Articles of Faith in such a way that they focus our attention on things essential to our salvation.”
We have always embraced “liberty of thinking in areas not addressed in Scripture or in the Articles,” and thus recognize for example that we have “refused to bind our people to particular beliefs about the beginning or the end of the world. We believe God created everything and we believe our Lord Jesus is coming again. As Phineas Bresee himself said, ‘In essentials-unity; in non-essentials liberty; and love over all’” (Faculty of the School of Theology and Christian Ministries at Northwest Nazarene University).
Another example, we have historically and consistently affirmed the place of women in roles of ordained ministry. Our Manual says explicitly that we “affirm the historic right of women to be elected and appointed to places of leadership within the Church of the Nazarene, including the offices of both elder and deacon.” If you have a different view, perhaps the Church of the Nazarene is not the best place for you.
Another example: we do not believe that the best we can ever hope for in this world is for our sins to be forgiven and that we are resigned to a life of constant struggle, of constant failure and forgiveness until finally we make it to heaven. We believe that there is enough power in the death and resurrection of Jesus actually to change our lives; to free us from the tyranny of sin and to enable us to reflect the character of Christ in our daily lives evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit. Nazarenes, let’s be clear about what we believe.
- In one God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- That the Bible is the Word of God, fully inspired by God, and tells us everything we need to know about how to be saved.
- That all persons are separated from God because of sin, and that sin impacts our nature as well as our actions.
- That all persons will stand in judgment before God and that without faith in Jesus Christ, we will be eternally separated from God.
- That Jesus died for everyone and that anyone who turns to Christ in faith and trusts in Him is forgiven, healed, and made new.
- That believers in Jesus are to be holy people, by receiving the gift of entire sanctification, giving us freedom from sin and the power to live as Jesus did.
- That the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the heart of a believer, assuring us that we belong to God.
- That our Lord will return, the dead will be raised, and the kingdom of God will be fully realized in heaven and earth. (My paraphrase of the Agreed Statement of Belief)
And we have always understood that our message and our acts of love and compassion in the world combine into a powerful and effective presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is who we are, this is what it means to be Nazarene, and this message reflects our participation in the mission of God.
Dr. Jeren Rowell
Kansas City District Superintendent