he year 2005 brought catastrophic weather, natural disasters, Nazarene compassion in action, and record increases of 1,009 new congregations worldwide, and 100,000 new Nazarenes. ¡Gloria a Dios!
Praise the Lord!
The Board of General Superintendents salutes valiant pastors, laity, evangelists, missionaries, district superintendents, regional directors, field strategy coordinators, educators, chaplains, and compassionate ministry directors for their missional labor of love on the front line of Kingdom ministry. A hurting world desperately needs hope. How do you respond? You offer not yourself to the needy but "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Jesus . . . the Hope!
Centennial Goals Update
Our focus for the 2006 General Board report is the Centennial Faith Initiative
. At the General Board meeting in 2000, the Board of General Superintendents prayerfully launched the Centennial Faith Projections. This initiative represents a passionate desire to evangelize, assimilate, and disciple new people for Christ.
As part of the Centennial celebration, our Board envisioned:
- 2 million members
- 2 million in weekly worship attendance
- 1 million new Nazarenes in ten years
- 18,000 Nazarene congregations
- 1 million in Sunday School attendance
At the close of the 2005 district assembly year, the denomination reported:
- 1.6 million total members (an increase of 4.7 percent over 2004)
- 1.1 million average in worship (an increase of 3.6 percent over last year)
- 18,000 Nazarene congregations (an increase of 3.9 percent this year)
- 685,300 new Nazarenes since 1999 (27 percent ahead of the previous decade)
- 830,000 Sunday School average attendance (an increase of 4 percent)
Using the 1999 baseline, we are prayerfully setting our sights on the Kingdom gains we yearn to report to the 2009 General Assembly in Orlando, Florida:
- In six years we showed a net gain of 300,000 members. We will want to increase 400,000 in four years to report 2 million Nazarenes worldwide.
* All figures rounded. "New Nazarenes" is a decadal goal.
- We increased 200,000 in worship attendance since 1999. We will need to increase 900,000 by 2009 to be able to report 2 million in weekly Nazarene worship attendance. This "impossible" task will be accomplished as every Nazarene attends church faithfully!
- With the net increase of 4,000 new congregations during these six years, we have already reached our centennial goal! We may well report more than 21,000 Nazarene congregations by 2009.
- We celebrate the nearly 700,000 new Nazarenes who have joined our church since 1999. Unfortunately, due to death or removal, during these six years we lost two of every three who joined our denominational family. To report 2 million Nazarenes in 2009 we will want to welcome 800,000 new Nazarenes during the next four years. At the same time, we need to "close the back door" and decrease our losses due to removal from membership by at least 30 percent. We will reach our goal as every two Nazarenes reach one in four years!
- We rejoice to report an increase of over 100,000 in Sunday School attendance since 1999. By 2009 we want to increase by 170,000 the new weekly students of the Word in Sunday School and discipleship classes. Again, this can be accomplished if every Nazarene attends a Sunday School or discipleship class each week.
By God's grace, we will reach the Centennial Faith Projections as we embrace two commitments:
- Every two Nazarenes reach one person in four years, and
- Every Nazarene attends weekly worship and Sunday School or discipleship classes.
What does this mean to the church and to our Lord?
Numbers for numbers sake is idolatry and is condemned in Scripture. Humbly studying gains or losses enables us to evaluate the best methods for fruitfulness. Each number represents an immensely valuable person.
What's on the other side of the Centennial Faith Initiative
? Going forward, the main message of the Board of General Superintendents underscores the following characteristics: new, strong, and Nazarene.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations"
The multidimensional mission of the Church of the Nazarene is:
- To make known to all peoples the transforming grace of God through the forgiveness of sins and heart cleansing in Jesus Christ.
- To make disciples
- To incorporate believers into fellowship and membership
- To equip . . . for ministry all who respond in faith
- (2005-2009 Manual)
Three often-overlooked components of our mission are "making disciples," "incorporation," and "equipping."
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? It is to be a continual student of Jesus-guided, instructed, and helped by the Lord through fellow believers in every aspect of our life, and reproducing other disciples as a natural part of our total devotion to Christ.
The Church of the Nazarene believes in membership. We value not only the need to believe
but also the call to belong
to the visible body of Christ. However, the time has come to move beyond membership to discipleship. The goal is not to make believers, or even members, but to make disciples
Author and Wesley scholar Mike Henderson insists that we have things turned around. "Jesus said, 'I will build my church. You make disciples.' Instead, we try to build the church; and who is making disciples?"
Programs do not make disciples. Disciples make disciples. The real cost of discipling is investing time in someone's life-giving ourselves away. It means spending more
time with fewer
people, the basic principle taught by Christ.
disciples do not become strong
disciples, much of the increase will dissipate.
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit"
During the past six years we lost two of every three who joined our denominational family. This does not include new converts who were never incorporated into a local community of faith. Evangelize we must. But these dramatic losses clearly show us the urgency of assimilation and making strong disciples.
One Nazarene congregation in Cali, Colombia, is passionately embracing the call to make disciples. They are "closing the back door" by moving from retention rates of 5 percent or less to nearly 50 percent. Retention rate is the percentage of new converts who are incorporated and still active in the local church one year after conversion.
No wonder the Cali House of Prayer Church of the Nazarene recorded a record Sunday worship attendance of 12,000 on December 11, 2005, with over 500 new converts. From that one service over 200 new disciples will be incorporated into discipleship cell groups throughout the city.
We can no longer justify carelessness in assimilating new believers. New Methodist converts were immediately assimilated into small groups where they were discipled and taught the way of Christian perfection. This is our Wesleyan heritage.
We may have become careless as we focused on an instantaneous, sanctifying work of transforming grace as the only goal. Our calling must also include the disciplines of the holy life as we continue to be transformed into the very image and character of our Lord.
Imagine 20,000 congregations worldwide where there are increasing numbers of disciples-enrolled in the school of Christlikeness-whose hearts, minds, and spirits are becoming ever more like our Lord!
Disciples Called Nazarenes
The most common image for the Church in Paul's writing is that of the Body of Christ. He makes the point that the Church is not like
the Body of Christ. Rather, the Church is
the Body of Christ. We are called to incorporate these new, strong disciples into this visible Christian, holiness, and missional Body of Christ.
Disciples exercise their spiritual gifts in the community of faith. We all need a place of service and a system of support. The Church of the Nazarene is just such a place.
Who are the Nazarenes?
A Praying Community
: We intercede for a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit on the church. Prayer is the key in our hand.
A Holy Community
: We are a people seeking after the righteousness of God. We embrace the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives-living in "entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect" (Manual
, paragraph 13). We are Nazarenes, called for God's purpose and abandoned to our Lord's will and way in radical transparency.
A Sent Community
: Being missional includes an encounter with culture. Some will be missionaries. Some pastors. Some evangelists. Some teachers. All are witnesses on a mission.
We celebrate those who respond to God's call. But how are these Christian servants and missionaries sent? Through our prayer and generous contributions.
An Inclusive Community
: Every local Church of the Nazarene is called to be an inclusive community, embracing any and every person who may seek love, grace, and hope among us. It is possible, as a denomination, to be international and not be inclusive. The Board of General Superintendents would like to see an international and
inclusive church. This means incorporating the rich variety of cultures of Nazarenes into all aspects of denominational life in the unity of the Spirit.
A Caring Community of Faith and Hope
: This past year saw an incredible loss of life and destruction of property. An estimated 87,000 were killed and 3.5 million left homeless by earthquakes in Pakistan alone. Over 1,400 people died in seven U.S. Gulf Coast states. Entire communities were destroyed from hurricanes in the summer of 2005. The Caribbean, Yucatan Peninsula, South Asia, and parts of Europe also witnessed terrific destruction and loss of life from severe weather.
What was the Nazarene response? Once again the church rose to the occasion as congregations, college students, and others gave an amazing $6 million (U.S.) to disaster relief. We gave of ourselves, working on-site in these locations, offering shelter and an encouraging word.
We embrace compassionate ministry as a way of life. At the same time, we know that our long-term contribution will be to guide all people to Jesus . . . the Hope!
Board of General Superintendents
|James H. Diehl||Jesse C. Middendorf|
|Paul G. Cunningham||Nina G. Gunter|
|Jerry D. Porter||J.K.Warrick|
, May/June 2006