We are in the middle of the ever-exciting (cough cough) Nazarene District Assembly season in USA/Canada. With the hand picking (as opposed to truly electing) of District Superintendents that has become more and more in vogue (I’m not expressing an opinion of this practice, simply recognizing its occurrence), even DS election years have lost their luster. I have been to 30 consecutive District Assemblies and the closest that any of them have ever come to anything that could be described as “exciting” was when a church split boiled over onto the District Assembly floor. Excuse me, holiness folks don’t have church splits (cough cough). That year, there was some fascinating discussion when a “church plant” had a disagreement over the property and money given or not given by the “mother church.” With that lone exception, it’s been tough to keep the mostly whited headed delegates awake, much less engaged in anything remotely considered missional.
There have been plenty of honest attempts to juice up our yearly gatherings: special speakers, workshops, and mission projects. For the most part, it hasn’t worked. So here’s my suggestion (Truth Alert: it’s not a new idea and it’s not even my idea. In fact, it’s ancient). How about if we followed the Acts 2:42 model for our District Assemblies? Luke wrote that the early church gathered and:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
Could we do that in our District Assemblies?
We already have good apostolic teaching (usually). I generally like the General Superintendent’s sermons and the DS’s report (when they stick to vision, mission and Jesus and not making excuses for the district’s and/or denomination’s decline). I love the ordination service. But what if like in Acts 2:42 we fellowshipped more? What if instead of scattering to the closest Golden Corral for lunch we all ate our meals together and we talked about the good things that were happening in our churches. No negativity and gossip allowed (if that is possible). What if we celebrated the Lord’s Supper together (do you ever remember celebrating the Lord’s Supper at a District Assembly? Me neither). What if (now I’m just getting crazy) we made baptisms a part of District Assembly? Baptisms at District Assembly? Why not? And what if we concluded with a great and boisterous prayer meeting where we confessed our faults and failures, thanked the Lord for his provisions and cried out to God for a Pentecost like renewal in all of our churches.
Could such a District Assembly change our churches, pastors and laypeople? If the manual changed and allowed me to make a wager, I’d bet such a District Assembly would do more good than the snoozefests that too often our District Assemblies have become.
Good start but too late. We wanted to join a movement and were employed to preserve an institution. Remember the 10 Year Decadel Emphasis on children and youth…You lost us
The first assembly I attended was a five day marathon on the Chicago Central District. Every elder reported, including retirees. Committees met and reported. By the time I was a pastor we were down to three days. My most recent assembly was a Friday evening and part of Saturday. We were done by mid afternoon. We had two ballots, one to re-elect the DS and a combined ballot. I like the idea of a greater emphasis on fellowship and prayer, but we have to be willing to invest the time. Somebody once asked me how I liked the new DA format, I said I felt we had become so efficient we were now irrelevant.
Rob, I actually enjoyed District Assembly this year. This is the first year I have had all of the ex-officio members present and not just those who are retired and have attended the last fifty district assemblies. Dr. Kraemers talk was right on what we needed to hear and there was actually some excitement around the lunch table. I have been on districts where we concluded with communion and it was wonderful. We need to make District Assembly available to those who are workers in the church but also work a 40 hour workweek and can’t just drop everything to go to DA. Good Points…we need to improve!
Great thoughts Rob. We have become more like a business meeting than a church gathering. On the other hand, Rev. Dave Ralph has done a lot of good things in our Colorado District Assembly Conference. I enjoy going. Great speakers! Workshops to train laypeople. We even eat together mostly. I do think it would help us to spend a little longer time together so these good things can happen rather than as little as possible for the sake of expediency.
Very familiar description, even outside the USA/Canada! Lord, revive our church. . .
come Holy spirit we need thee!!
Since I am unable to drive anymore and my spouse/chauffer has taken off on another doctrine I am unable to attend DA but I do remember the ten or twelve years in a row that I was a delegate which I enjoyed. Rob, your suggestions are well taken and I think DSs should take them into consideration for possible implementation.