I don’t want to be “that guy” who lists the problems (my previous blog) and offers no solutions. If the last post was the “gloom,” then think of this post as ways the Church of the Nazarene might avoid the “doom.” Here is my offering of what the Church can do to stave off the coming storm of less USA/Canada dollars to fund the global mission of the church.
Strengthen the local church. The local USA/Canada church is the backbone of the global mission funding (USA/Canada accounts for 94% of the funding of the global church). Everything rises and falls with the local church. If USA/Canada churches die, so will the global funding. Hence, the local USA/Canada churches need to be strengthened. Each church should have a mission strategy to reach its community. Instead of reporting what has happened in the past year, it is more critical that churches report a strategy for the future. Have they identified people they are going to reach with the gospel? How will they reach them? How can they be the best neighbors in their community and how will they be relevant to this generation? District Assemblies need to be constructed to strategize for the future, not memorialize the past. District Superintendents will need to be more like Mission Strategy Coordinators and less like keepers of the status quo.
In a reversal of the local church trend of the ’80s and ’90s to sell off parsonages, districts should start buying parsonages. Use the sale of closed churches to buy homes (in small towns and rural areas) and apartments (in congested cities) then raise up an army of bi-vocational pastors who will live and serve rent free planting house churches. The 2030 USA/Canada church needs to have 1000 new house churches if we are going to survive. We need a House Church Revolution. Some of these house churches will fail, but many won’t. Ecclesiastical entrepreneurship should be encouraged (too often I’ve seen the opposite).
Greatly ramp up and invest in the on-line offerings of the Nazarene Bible College. Ecclesiastical entrepreneurship’s biggest short coming is theological confusion. So we will need to train these kingdom-building pastors to be Nazarenes. Reduce the tuition and increase the advertising budget of NBC. Our traditional colleges could offer a no cost option to those going into pastoral ministry (possibly a 10% elimination of school debt for each year of ministerial service). If the emphasis will be on house churches in rural and urban areas, then we will need a low cost (no cost) option for those ministers-in-training, who are planting a house church and working another job.
Maintain a clear theological identity. Specifically, don’t change a word in Article 4 on the Holy Scriptures (we are not fundamentalists), but there is a need to re-write Article 10 on sanctification to a more readable, understandable and teachable statement. The message of Holiness is more needed today than ever. Our preachers need to preach it. Our people need to be empowered with the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It’s remembering who and why we are Nazarenes.
More international missionaries to the USA/Canada. An area of growth in the USA/Canada is cross-cultural ministries. Every district should have a cross-cultural ministries director and every district should subsidize (while it still can) cross cultural ministries/missionaries. The “browning” of America means the church should invest heavily in cross cultural ministries and pray in greater measure to reach the various ethnic groups represented on each district.
Emphasize the Nazarene Foundation. While the generous boomer generation is contemplating leaving a legacy and continuing the mission of God after they have been promoted to glory, the Nazarene Foundation is a necessary piece in maintaining our viability. Even as members become a part of the Church Triumphant, their generosity in such a time as this may be vital in sustaining the church through the upcoming decadal challenges.
Reduce the General Superintendents’ travel schedule (i.e. making the GS presence at USA/Canada district assemblies biennial—like it is for the other regions). Allow the BGS to have more time for prayer, vision casting, donor generation and leadership development and less dollars and energy spent on the GS’s presence at every assembly and church anniversary potluck.
Most importantly, churches across the USA/Canada region (and the world, really) need to be in prayer. Pray like never before. The USA/Canada church clearly needs reviving—not simply for the spiritual well-being in North America, but for the good of the global church.
The coming decade will be by far the most challenging decade in the history of the Church of the Nazarene. Sticking our collective head in the sand is not the answer. Like when the weather channel predicts a major storm and people make necessary preparations, we too in the Church of the Nazarene, need to prepare for the coming storm. We must take a serious look at our failures in the past, the financial apocalypse that awaits us in the future if we do nothing and move on to greater efforts to build a strong USA/Canada church which can then bless our global brothers and sisters.
The Church was Jesus idea. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. The Church will move on in 2030 (if our Lord hasn’t returned). The question is will the Church of the Nazarene as it is currently configured have a viable voice in 2030?
I really enjoyed reading your ideas! I have been a Nazarene all my life with a Nazarene pastor/father, husband was Nazarene pastor, my two sons attended Olivet as I did and are pastors today, and my granddaughter just graduated from ONU this past May. I say all that to let you know I have a good background in the church and feel like many of the things you suggested would be of great help for us. I am one of the last few Deaconess people in the church today. I pray for my church and know that all “old” ways are not always bad. For instance your suggestion of giving scholarships to potential pastors to attend our colleges as we NEED more pastors as do a number of other denominations. My husband and I always thought that the church should provide a parsonage and not a parsonage allowance for the pastor to buy his own home. This is not good management for the church budget and in the end, sometimes is detrimental to the pastor as he sometimes cannot sell his house when he is ready to move. Also your idea of starting churches in homes worked back in the 50’s and 60’s and we need to open our homes and get closer to people. You have a lot of good ideas and I hope and pray that the ones in the church that has some clout, will help do some things to help preserve our church and it’s heritage. Thank you!
Rob I really appreciate this analysis and I think these ideas are are important and workable. I especially think the house church idea is great and the financial assistance toward NBC and our ministers in our colleges is important.