Except for the two years as a seminarian when I served as a youth director at a Presbyterian church, the only church I have ever regularly attended is the Church of the Nazarene. All of my siblings and their spouses have attended Nazarene colleges. All of my parents’ grandchildren and most of their grandchildren’s spouses have also attended Nazarene colleges. As a baby, I was wheeled in a stroller to be dedicated in a Church of the Nazarene, and they’ll probably roll my casket into one when I die. The only way we Princes could be more Nazarene is if we were born in Pilot Point, Texas and named our dogs “Phineas,” “Schmelzenbach,” and “Wynkoop.”
My loyalty does not mean that I think the Church of the Nazarene is perfect. It clearly isn’t perfect. It can’t be perfect because every four years we have a General Assembly where there are over 200 proposed changes for our manual and by-laws. It can’t be perfect, because I know of too many leaders (pastors and laypeople) who have failed. It can’t be perfect, because I am credentialed elder in the Church of the Nazarene and I am not perfect.
My loyalty does not mean I view the Church of the Nazarene through rose colored glasses. Clearly, we have work to do. Our numbers in the USA/Canada are headed in the wrong direction. Our clergy are old and getting older (myself included). Many churches are staring at financial crises as older, tithing members die off while their younger counterparts aren’t giving at the same level. Every district has several churches in hospice, ready for last rites. There are too many hypocrites, bullies and carnal members filling the pews and pulpits. Our methods don’t work like they once did. Our views are too partisan. Our love is too conditional. Our mission too convoluted. Our comfort with the world is too cozy. I get it. I’m not oblivious to the challenges we face. To modify astronaut James Lovell’s famous quote, “Lenexa, we have a problem.”
Loyalty in response to these and other challenges means not grumbling, quitting or sticking our heads in the sand. Instead, it means it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Love God and our neighbor. Proclaim the Good News. Make Christ-like disciples. Reach the unreached. Serve the troubled. Be the church that P.F. Bresee and so many others dreamed we could be— the church that wears well the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene!