The Trouble with being in the “International” Church of the Nazarene

My church, the Church of the Nazarene, has long made attempts to be an “International Church.”   For the record, I am very glad for those efforts.  I am glad that our mission statement as a church is “to make Christ-like disciples in the nations.” I am glad we take serious Jesus’ call to go to the ends of the earth with the Gospel message.

Whether we are truly “international” in all aspects or not is a matter of debate.  Our leaders can point out the fact that two of our highest elected officers are non-North American and both  our newly elected International Youth President (Mexican) and our newly elected Missions President (United Kingdom) are also not from the USA/Canada region.  Like a slow-moving snail could have told his slow moving turtle friend, “I think we are making progress.”

Of course, the magic number we like to tout to prove our “internationalness” is 159.  We are in 159 world areas.  That’s more countries than McDonalds (100 countries) and Walmart (a measly 27 countries) combined.  Woo Hoo!  159! 

But that’s where my problem lies.

One of those 159 world areas is Syria.  The country that is the topic of much debate in Washington DC and around the world this week.

I was in the Middle East for a conference a few years ago and some Nazarenes from Syria were there.   One of the Syrians I met on the trip was a doctor.  His business card is sitting on my desk reminding me to pray for him.  I can’t help but wonder how he has fared the last couple of years.  Is he overworked tending to the injured and dying?  Will he be safe if more bombs start to fall from the sky? Is he one of the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have fled the country?   I wonder about the children that attend the Nazarene Christian school in Damascus– how have they manage through the war?  Then of course, the best man in my wedding lives in Beirut.  The U.S. government has said US citizens should leave Lebanon just in case the fighting moves past the borders of Syria.  What will happen to him and his wife and two step daughters?

So this week as our political leaders are debating to bomb or not to bomb, I’m thinking of people– the people I’ve met and know that live in that area. People who believe like I believe– my fellow Nazarene brothers and sisters.  They have the same core values that I espouse and yet live in a far more difficult, dangerous place.

I know the plan (no matter from which side of the political divide the debater is on) is not to bomb churches or schools or innocent victims– but instead to lay waste to the mad man’s military complex that enables him to gas his own people (How nuts do you have to be to gas children?). But bombs no matter how “smart” and sophisticated are not “smart” enough and sophisticated enough.  They occasionally miss their target.  Unlike golf– with bombs there are no mulligans.  Unlike horseshoes, with bombs close isn’t good enough.  When a bomb misses its intended target usually children or other innocents die.  (This happens mainly because mad men who gas their own children also put important military targets by schools or hospitals knowing full well that innocent people will be the victims of an errant bomb). All this to say, war is never good. The decision to bomb should not be met with rejoicing and pride but rather with confession and prayer.

So if you don’t mind, while political leaders and pundits debate to bomb or not to bomb, I will be praying a lot for my fellow Nazarene brothers and sisters living in a few of those 159 world areas. I will be praying that the Prince of Peace and the One that calls us to love our enemies– would somehow win this day.  I will be praying that God’s will be done in Damascus as it is in heaven and, likewise, that God’s will be done in Washington DC as it is in heaven.  Call me naive (I like to think of it as  hope filled) but I happen to believe that God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven does not include bombs.  I will be praying for all those making decisions and all of those people that will have to live with the decisions being made this week.

Come, Lord Jesus come!





3 thoughts on “The Trouble with being in the “International” Church of the Nazarene

  1. revmikeyg

    Thanks for this Pastor Rob. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to live in that part of the world and wonder what the day might hold. We tend to forget the human element to war. It is tragic and painful. It can be all too easy half way around the world to say let’s go and fire off some missiles. These are people whom God loves, people who love Jesus. Can we take a moment to feel their worry, their pain, their loss, and pray for the hope and peace that can only come from Jesus despite the circumstances?


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