I have been sharing with you about the essential things that drew together churches of the Nazarene more than a century ago, to consider whether these things are essential for us as a church. The first is holiness: God’s awesome goodness is offered to humanity through the transformative work of Christ Jesus in our lives! The second was compassion: Nazarenes have always cared about those in need, knowing that as we provide help in Jesus’ name, we are also giving witness to the love of God for real life change.
The third aspect of the Nazarene gathering identity is missions. Nazarenes felt the ongoing need to send and support representatives of the Gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ is the kind of thing that needs to be shared. Precisely because it is undeserved and unlimited, it was never meant to be cooped up or hoarded. So our people worked hard to spread resurrection life all over the globe.
At pastor’s retreat last week, Nicole and I toured a cider orchard. As the guide showed us pear and apple trees, she told us of the importance of watering during the early autumn season, so that next year’s fruit will prepare to grow. It’s amazing for me to watch life spread throughout creation to new areas and larger surfaces. That view of spreading life reminds me of Jesus’ church and his call for missions.
Nazarenes have supported missions from the beginning. In fact, it was one of the major reasons to become a denomination. Churches large and small could all help to send and support missionaries as the “beautiful feet” of the good news of Jesus (Isaiah 52:7).
We now have an incredible network of churches and ministries that spans more 159 world areas, representing many more people groups. In fact, our missions network is so strong that CampusCrusade for Christ chose to partner with the Church of the Nazarene when they started their Jesus Film ministry. This ministry has seen over 14 million people come to Christ in the last decade or so! I love to see Christians work together for the Gospel.
This is why our church gives to missions regularly and supportsmission trips. We support folks from our congregation like Loren Maggard serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in South Asia and Grace Shelby serving the Zambia District Nazarene Office. We recently had Petra and Josh Taylor share about the ministry for which they are gathering support to serve Cru on the campus of Eastern Washington University. There are others as well.
I was privileged to go teach a class for the South Asia Nazarene Bible College in May. It was a joy to meet Christians on the other side of the globe who had been impacted by the Jesus film, and whose churches included new believers from that ministry.
Do we care about the physical health and community health of those with whom we share the Gospel? Of course! In fact, a recent research project by Robert Woodberry found that 19th-century missionaries—who worked diligently to get people into Heaven—were the best contributors of community health those societies had ever seen! (“The World the Missionaries Made,” by Andrea Dilley, Christianity Today, Jan/Feb 2014, pp35-41) So the atheists are wrong about missionaries. Of course, it’s more important to say that Jesus is right! “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify yourFather in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
It’s interesting…some early Nazarenes hesitated to start a denomination. They didn’t like the idea of starting a new “church”— the world has enough denominations already! Nor did some like the idea of creating the administrative offices that would be necessary. But in the end, the need to send missionaries and work together overcame those potential problems for the greater good.
J. B. Chapman spoke of the Church of the Nazarene many years ago: “I would have us think of all we have as a trust to be exercised, rather than as a heritage to be enjoyed.” (from “All Out for Souls”) I believe missions is the continued call for the church in every age. It isn’t some old fashioned idea but the very heart of God, and part of our mission as Jesus-people. I know many of you do as well! It is a part of local ministries like Young Life, regional causes such as mission trips, and of course our global missions as well. It is why we continue to learn about, pray, and support missions. Let us continue this cause in our generation! Let us seek as a church body to have a heart like God the Father, the mind of Christ, and be the human presence of the Holy Spirit.