Reversing the downward trajectory in the Church of the Nazarene

It’s no secret that attendance in the Church of the Nazarene in the USA is in decline.  There is also no shortage of explanations of why this might be the case: It’s tougher these days; people aren’t interested; culture has changed; every denomination is losing members, blah, blah, blah.

I understand the challenges of leading a church are far different today than when I started pastoring 30 years ago.   Having written that, I hope that my solution is not simply a reminiscing of the “good old days.” I don’t want to be the old guy saying, “Hey you kids, get off my lawn! I remember when…” Still with that disclaimer, here it goes:

We need make evangelism a priority again.  Not church growth (although as evangelism happens churches grow). Not planting churches (although evangelism happens when churches are planted).  My observation has been that most church growth and church planting growth comes from disgruntled church attenders finding the hip new church to attend. It’s mostly fat and sassy sheep changing pastures, not lost and hungry sheep being found.

What we need is pure and basic evangelism.

On a personal level, it’s always remembering that we believe that this world determines one’s eternal accommodations and acting accordingly.  We have friends and loved ones that are on their way to hell if something doesn’t change. Let’s quit saying society has changed and admit that we have changed.  We aren’t as bold as past generations.  We aren’t as committed.  We don’t sacrifice like our grandparents did. We have other interests (distractions) and other priorities.  We need to confess that we have failed at living into the Great Commission and determine to become friends with sinners (it seemed that Jesus was accused of keeping such company) so that we might have the opportunity to share the love of Christ.

Local churches can never be satisfied with the status quo or decline, but having a healthy dose of shame when conversions and baptisms are in decline. Local churches need to be training people (and pastors?) in personal evangelism. We need to count what counts: contacts, conversions and baptisms. We need less emphasis on cool and more emphasis on warm. Less café’s and less wood pallet backdrops and more biblical preaching. Less politics and more holiness.  Less excuses and more Jesus.

On a denominational level, it’s returning the “M” events back into evangelism workshops and evangelism strategizing. Let’s create an Evangelism Department again (I think that office morphed into the USA/Canada office years ago). Let’s produce curriculum in the colleges and seminary that create a fire within the bones of our young people to do the work of an evangelist.  It’s becoming downright Bresee-like in going to those whom society has rejected.  Joining with the poor, the burdened, the disenfranchised and saying. “You are welcome here!” It’s confessing that our last 20 years have been mostly a disaster when it comes to evangelism and the way we have done it (or haven’t done it) has been wrong. Let’s get creative again!

While we are going back to the good ol days of evangelism emphasis, remember keep off my grass you young whippersnappers!

15 thoughts on “Reversing the downward trajectory in the Church of the Nazarene

  1. Ruth Kile

    It is my understanding that the Church of the Nazarene is growing in other parts of the world. Might we take a lesson from how those areas are doing it? My guess is evangelism is alive and well there.

  2. Jack Wagner

    Hello Pastor Rob: what a great Blog today! You have a gift…not only in ministering to your flock but also being able to write in a funny, clever and thought provoking way…while at the same time getting your Evangelism point across! Thank you and God bless your ministry which I believe He truly does! Jack Wagner P.S. How tall was that impressive cross we could ponder and focus on during Lent??? It was an amazing attention getter!😊

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Duane Brush

    Good word, Pastor Rob! I have never been part of a soul-winning church that wasn’t a joyful church. Sometimes the crying and whining of the baby Christians would get loud, but that is just the sound of new life. How exciting it is to see them grow!

  4. bkcook6

    I wholeheartedly agree. We have focused way too much on our preferences (young and old) and not enough on carrying out God’s mission. Please pray for me that I might bear fruit and see people reached for Jesus.

  5. Jim Hanson

    Perhaps some of this trajectory comes from identity confusion. When I study the history and calling of Bresee, the holiness revivals and the Church of the Nazarene, it seems we have strayed from our roots which opened doors for evangelism.

  6. David D Smith

    I agree with much of what you said, although, not all Nazarene churches in the USA are in decline.

    Perhaps the church I have pastored for the last 14 years is now an annomoly. The first 4 years were flat, but with one exception, the last 10 have seen growth. It is true, some of it is transfer growth, but some of it is just getting to a realization, if we did not change our comfort level and remember we are here to live Hod with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves, we are just flat out missing why we are here. The second realization we came to was that Loving God and our neighbors meant we would actively make disciples in tangible, touchable, knowable and measurable ways.

    I led multiple people to Christ in a children’s Saturday, pre Easter event and baptized 9 Easter Sunday morning. We have built a discipleship/multipurpose building and are now outgrowing it. For the last 8 weeks we have implemented 2 Sun. AM worship services to expand our capability at reaching more people for Christ. One is similar-traditional and the other contemporary with the majority of the band being Jr High and some adults sprinkled in to do vocals. I have a pool of about 9 ministers to help serve with only 3 of us ordained and the rest in training. For the second time we have started small groups to make more disciples. Last Sunday was the first one and there were already raw, unchurched folks in our people’s homes examining the fruit of the Spirit and experiencing the first expression of that fruit called love. The excitement and drive to make disciples here is palpable. I am just sure I have the best pastors job in the world!

    Some have said we are an annomoly, I think we are normal and perhaps even a bit behind the NT curve on making disciples, in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the rest of the world. We are mightily struggling to answer the call to be sent and to send.

    We have assisted with 2 church plants in a Cienfuegos, Cuba partnership, we are trying to revive our mother church with a Hispanic church plant, and we would like to start another church in the town just East of us.

    This coming Sunday we celebrate our volunteer youth pastor leaving us after 3 years of development to take a full time paid Yourh Pastor position in a church much like we were 3 years ago. He has this passion for souls and we’ve instilled a make disciples, sent and send mentality in him. We will miss him, but we already have 3 lined up candidating to take his place and 2 of the three are already in some measure products of our discipleship.

    While I see the part about decline in the US, I also see a move of God that I feel like I am holding on for dear life to keep up with. We have used some modern methods but our core convictions, purposes, and values have not changed. As long as I have the privilege of pastoring these awesome people, I don’t see that changing.

    I pray God uses your call to awaken many to get busy making disciples by getting off their backsides and finding what will accomplish the Kingdom purposes of our King!

    1. Rob Prince Post author

      What is happening at your church is awesome David. We need your church to be the norm, not the exception to the rule. Praise the Lord for what God is doing in and through you and your people!

  7. Beverly Hermann

    Loved the blog! It isn’t a secret that the church attendance and deep commitment of believers is declining fast! I believe we are living in a society where people are moving so fast we as Christians are not taking the time to refuel and be still and let God speak to us. We are Doing what makes sense in human terms and forgetting there is power in the blood! Allowing the Holy Spirit to work, trusting what God says and believing He has the power to do what He calls is to do is mandatory. Family dynamics have drastically changed. In one school classroom it was found that one child had 10 siblings. They had the same father but there were four different mothers. Another child who’s parents were divorced, the mother did not remarry or even date, the father was on his third marriage with a woman who’s first marriage was to another woman and so this child’s 1/2 brother had two mothers and no father. Another child had two fathers and no mother in the home. Another child was being raised by his grandparents and had no involvement with the mother and the father only once in a while. In our public schools it is being taught same sex marriage is an option and honored in our Society, just as long as you love each other. As it has been for many years children are our future! I believe as a society we Christians need to dive into The lives of these children and show them how much God loves them. Show these children God is faithful and will always keep his promises and his love will never end. Never miss the opportunity to tell them God knows their name and he desires a relationship with them! Some of these children just want to know somone loves them. There is no normal, no more right and wrong and these children are growing up in a hopelessness that nothing ever lasts most of all a family….. what is family? Who do I need to be loyal too? My dad? My mom? My grandma? Myself? What matters in this life? Myself and nothing else? These are all questions kids ask today. God is good and faithful all the time and there is so much we can do to be faithful to Him. If we are Christians we are called To obedience and walk in the light God gives us and not pass judgement on other Christians. We are all members and representatives of Jesus Christ and are called to share the gospel, all members of the body of Christ we all have different roles. We are so blessed in our free land to have the scriptures and can pray (without seaseing) seek God and those same scriptures give us direction in this life. Take heart my fellow Christians, revival is coming! Reach out and love a child and bring him/her to Your local church (Jesus said to let the children come to him), show them Gods love! It will change them, it will change you and it will change the world.

  8. Lysa, aka Karen Alyse Fischer

    Pastor Rob,

    Each week, I’m grateful for your heart that’s burdened for the salvation of the too many who are the walking dead, lost and wandering comatose in circumstances of hopelessness, drowning spiritually in despair, or focused on me-ful-fill-ment.

    Based on a plethora of multi-denomination stats, I believe you’ve nailed it – as the universal church, we aren’t even treading water. We’ve willingly gone down for the count because Peter-like, we’ve taken our eyes off Jesus, mesmerized by the gilded-glitter of a world tap-dancing to the beat of a self-serving drum.

    We may have initially climbed out of the boat but in the process of living life, we’ve either abdicated our roles or developed spiritual amnesia concerning our commission as His Living Church charged to embrace mission fields as the paths we ourselves personally walk. Myself included, if I’m going to be honest, and that is what I think we’re discussing – the need to be brutally transparent in self-reflecting.

    Well-meaning perhaps, but misguided, we’ve been propagandized to join in hot pursuit of the disappearing American dream or to be content with a teaspoon of Jesus, pausing to erect Asherah poles as we text or tweet the DYI directions to others.

    To sound the alarm with brutal honesty takes a shepherd’s heart, the commitment of a John the Baptist (minus the camel hair clothing and diet of locust – you’re welcome, I’m sure), and a willingness steeped in courage to call sheep to repentant accountability. Sometimes it may even feel as though you need to leave the one to go looking for the 99.

    A meaningful response on our part takes the painful partnership of gut-wrenching humility and brokenness, and the realization that to own our shame at a depth of impacting change is non-negotiable if we truly call ourselves servants of the Living God. The decision to commit to change can be neither seasonable nor fickle, and can only be ignited through the flame of the Holy Spirit burning within us.

    How we get there, now THAT is the $64,000 question – make that the $1,000,000 question, given inflation.

  9. Michael

    Hmmmm. Our church does both the old and the new. Were are growing and growing for the right reasons. we are hip yet with great bible study, great groups, great outreach to the community. Personalty I see it as a heart issue in many churches. Either like God you are someone who is of the heart or you’re not. THE CHURCH HAS OFTEN FORGOT HOW TO LOVE. It’s a verb to go out and do. Not just sit and wait for others to come in while you fling money at missions and just support others doing the work. You should support AND ACT! Not support and sit.


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