Entry into heaven will not require a Nazarene membership card or knowledge of the secret Nazarene handshake (there isn’t a secret Nazarene handshake). Plenty of people will make it through the Pearly Gates who have never heard of Phineas F. Bresee (the founder of the Church of the Nazarene), Pilot Point, Texas (where the Church of the Nazarene was formed) and have never taken a Nazarene Nap (strange but true). Still, I am thankful for the Church of the Nazarene.
The following events in my life took place in a Nazarene church or on a Nazarene college campus:
• Dedicated as a baby.
• Encountered many loving people as a boy that shared with me Jesus.
• Asked Jesus to take up residence in my heart at the altar of the Elmwood Church of the Nazarene.
• Baptized (Well, actually I was baptized in the “girl’s lake” on a Nazarene Campground. What does it mean when you are baptized in the “girl’s lake”? I don’t know, but I was. On that same Nazarene campground, I first recognized God’s call upon my life and, on a far less spiritual level, first held the hand of a girl that wasn’t related to me).
• Preached my first sermon.
• Sought the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
• Received two diplomas.
• Met a pretty airline employee and asked her for a date.
• Said, “I do” when the preacher asked if I’d marry that same pretty girl.
• Dedicated one son (and later baptized him) and baptized the other as an infant.
• Had a General Superintendent place his hands on my head with a group of godly ministers surrounding me and was ordained as an elder.
• Held services to celebrate that godly lives of both of my parents at their passing.
At the Nazarene Publishing House, God continued to refine me into the person He wanted me to be as I worked my way through seminary as a janitor. It was that same publishing company that would print my book and several articles in Nazarene publications.
Five Nazarene churches have had people refer to me as “pastor,” and allowed me to minister alongside them as we made Christ-like disciples in our community and the world. I have been blessed to preach in Nazarene pulpits in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Dominica, Russia, El Salvador, Swaziland, Israel, Jordan, Cuba and Panama.
It’s not always popular to claim denominational loyalty these days. Some folks view denominations as an out dated expression of the Church. But I’m all in. Our call to holy living and making Christ-like disciples is needed now more than ever. I’m not claiming that the Nazarene church is perfect. (They let a guy like me be a member for crying out loud). It has some flaws. Still, I don’t know where I would be if not for the Church of the Nazarene. In every significant event in my life, the Church of the Nazarene has been there. I owe the church a lot.
As we move forward I want to be a blessing and help see the church that has given so much to me continue to be a significant Kingdom difference maker throughout the 21st century. How that works in real life means addressing our issues and celebrating our victories. It’s not settling for the status quo but its also not tearing down what God has already done. I’m convinced the Church of the Nazarene has great days ahead and I’m excited to see what God has in store for His people called “Nazarenes”! But for now, I think I’ll take one of those “Nazarene Naps.”