Monthly Archives: January 2020

Will the Church of the Nazarene Face a Similar Demise as the United Methodists (just a few years later)? Part 2

In my previous blog I asked: Will Article Four (the Nazarene Statement on Holy Scripture) lead the Church of the Nazarene down the same path as the United Methodists?

 Both the Church of the Nazarene and the United Methodist churches have similar statements regarding scripture. The coming United Methodist split is in part because both sides of their divide site scripture as their authority for their particular position in the debate. Common sense leads one to conclude: if it could happen to them, it could happen to us.

Here are a few options to avoid a similar United Methodist schism within the ranks of the Church of the Nazarene:

 Change our position on Holy Scripture.

The easy answer is to move to a more fundamentalist stance toward the Bible. Point out the four or five statements from the Bible regarding homosexuality and declare: “If the Bible says it that settles it for me.”

The problem: Nazarenes are not fundamentalists and most don’t want to be. We don’t believe for example when the Bible talks of “four corners of the earth” that we need to look for four corners on our round planet. The inspired authors of the Bible thought the earth was flat, like a sheet of paper (hence four corners) and were simply stating that God’s love covers all the earth.  All this to say, we don’t believe the Bible is a science book, rather it is a faith book. Its purpose is to bring people into the saving faith of Jesus. We don’t cherry pick verses to build straw man arguments on the topics we deem worthy.

If Fundamentalism isn’t the answer, then how can Nazarenes not follow in the United Methodist footsteps and remain united?

Emphasize the “plenary inspiration” of our statement.

Unlike fundamentalists and those of the opposite end of the spectrum who pick and choose what scriptures to emphasize or eliminate to build their case; Nazarenes moving forward will need to rely on our common plenary inspiration view of scripture.  Our emphasis on looking at the whole scripture from an eagle’s eye view and building our foundational truths from the whole of scripture seem to be the way forward.

We believe the whole of scripture is inspired. We believe that there is a common thread running through the Bible and that all of Scripture leads to Jesus.  As such, we are called to love everyone, everywhere. As it relates to the current United Methodist rift, we must maintain a deep understanding that the whole scripture describes marriage as between a man and a woman and the whole of scripture calls all sex outside of marriage sin. We aren’t cherry picking verses to come to this conclusion, but looking over the full inspiration of the entirety of Scripture to draw this belief.

Be Committed to Loving All

Everyone (heterosexual or homosexual or everyone else) is loved by God. Everyone is created in the image of God, no matter how they identify themselves. But not everyone is called to the married life. Just as Jesus walked on the earth, unmarried, but completely fulfilling God’s purposes, we believe all people can fulfill their purpose in the Lord. Our stance regarding Human Sexuality and marriage does not leave room for judging or holding ill regard toward those walking the path of singleness as Jesus did. Our call is to love, not judge. Build bridges, not walls. All of this done in the whole of scripture’s description of marriage, singleness and sexuality.

A humble North American Church

There seems to be a western Christianity sense of superiority or arrogance rearing its ugly head in the Methodist debate. The last general conference vote to remain true to the Discipline as written was upheld mostly because of African and other world areas refused to conform to the prevailing Western practices and beliefs. Yet, with its anemic numbers and rapid decline, rather than looking at the other world delegates as unenlightened or incapable of discerning biblical truths, the North American church can learn much from our other world area brothers and sisters. A great need for humility from the North American church as it comes to the realization that other world area brothers and sisters have much to teach us (not the other way around).

 Emphasize Unity

Clearly, unity is missing in the United Methodist Church and presently unity (97% voted in favor of the current statement on Human Sexuality and Marriage at the 2017 General Assembly) is what the Nazarenes enjoy. The Nazarene church must do everything possible to remain united. A continued emphasis on the global nature of the church, and a continued (as expensive as it is) regular four-year General Assembly family gathering to bolster that unity is imperative. Unity comes as the church is more international at all levels and listens to all world areas in Biblical interpretation and practices. Meanwhile, thinking of ways to further emphasize and celebrate our unity in a greater measure in all publications and gatherings will help avoid a Methodist type split.

The happenings in the United Methodist church should call all Nazarene to our knees as we pray for our fellow Wesleyans as they seek a path through these troubled waters. It should also call all Nazarenes to work toward greater ways of unity amidst our diverse backgrounds and experiences if Nazarenes wish to avoid the same fate.



Will the Church of the Nazarene Face a Similar Demise as the  United Methodists (just a few years later)? Part 1

As you know, the United Methodist church is spiraling toward a denominational split later this year. The Divided Methodist church seems a more accurate moniker for our brother and sister Wesleyan denomination. Here’s the rub as it relates to the Church of the Nazarene: The United Methodist Articles of Religion regarding scripture and the Church of the Nazarene’s Articles of Faith regarding scripture are similar. Very Similar.

The Methodist statement on Scripture contained in Article Four (“Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation”) and Article Five (“The Holy Bible”) say they following:

 We believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation. It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation….

 The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church

The Nazarene Article of Faith regarding Holy Scripture (article four) states the following:

We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.

 The Methodists are wordier, but the statements are similar.

What’s the big deal you say?

In the Methodist split that is (probably) coming in May, both sides in the great divide over the LBGTQ questions cite scripture as the basis for their argument. Both believe that they are standing firmly on the Scripture, but they have come to very different conclusions. Their issue ultimately is about the interpretation of scripture as it is expressed in the question of whether to be affirming or not toward homosexual lifestyles. I apologize for this oversimplification of a complex issue, but after all is said and done, it’s mostly about differing interpretation of Scripture.

Do you see the little Nazarene dilemma that could rear its head in the future?

We mostly agree with the Methodists on our theology of Scripture. But currently, Nazarenes are mostly united regarding this issue (97% of the delegates of the 2017 delegates to Nazarene Assembly approved the statement regarding Human Sexuality and Marriage). One can legitimately ask the question: How long will the Church of the Nazarene remain 97% unified regarding human sexuality? How long will it take for someone much smarter than me to stand before a microphone on the floor of the General Assembly and declare, “I know that 97% of Nazarenes voted in 2017 for the statement on Human Sexuality and Marriage, but when I read the Bible I draw a very different conclusion.”

I have heard in discussions both public and private how the Church of the Nazarene generally lags behind by 20 years the United Methodist Church. Will we be debating this question in 20 years?  Is a split in the Church of the Nazarene just as inevitable as the United Methodist church just 20 years in the making? In our social media driven, instant news generation will it be that long before the issue is debated?  Probably not in 2021, but will there be an outcry in 2025 or 2029?

In tomorrow’s blog, I will offer a few options that Nazarene’s might take in avoiding the fate of our United Methodist brothers and sisters.



In my previous blog, I posed the question: What if we thought differently about the future church and ministry in the Church of the Nazarene in the USA/Canada region.

I offered a new scenario of normalized ministry. If indeed you can call it new. Paul, a tent maker (see Acts 18:3), was bi-vocational and still managed to plant a bunch of churches and write a major chunk if the New Testament. Maybe better stated, I asked what if normalizing bi-vocational ministry and the planting of 5,000 house/in-an-operating-business churches by 2030 in the USA/Canada could happen?

Here are some possible answers to a few questions that might have been raised:

What could happen (through this method)?  Many of these churches could grow beyond their house or business meeting place– to that we’d say, “Hallelujah.” But even if that didn’t happen there would be 5000 new house churches or gatherings meeting in a business place averaging 25 people or more for a total of at least 125,000 new Nazarenes.

What else would happen… a smaller, viable, reproducible, faith community where non-Christians meet up with theologically trained pastors on a daily basis all over the country.

What else wouldn’t there be… church buildings to maintain; pastors’ salaries; students’ debt that hinders financial stability of the minister and other expenses that drain a church budget but have produced little or no results (remember for all the money spent last year in churches around the USA/Canada, the church has been in decline… for more than the last decade the church has been in decline).

What’s the worst that could happen?  The coffee shop, thrift store, business venture/house church goes belly up or the pastor has proved to be a goober… then you pull up stakes, sell the building and move to the next small town or to the other side of that same town or urban area and do the same thing,

What’s the next worst thing that could happen?  We burn out our people. Pastoring, running a business or working a job, having a family…. there aren’t enough hours in the day. This problem could be helped with more and better delegation of responsibilities in the local gathering, better support from the District or partnering with more established churches and efficient time management from the pastor.


How could the denomination pay for it? If USA/Canada church model must be strengthened to keep the global mission of the church operating then envisioning a way forward to make that happen must be a priority.

The homes/buildings for this new church venture would be purchased from District funds that have been acquired from the sale of other properties.

The college tuition would be covered by an increase in the USA/Canada portion of the WEF funds. Increasing the USA/Canada portion of the WEF funds is necessary if the goal is to strengthen the local churches by providing an educated clergy who are also able to sustain themselves without church budget funds.

If strengthening the USA/Canada church is priority #1 (and it is my contention that it must be for the long-term well-being of the global church) then this should be reflected in the WEF allotment to USA/Canada region. WEF dollars could be spent not only on educating a new hoard of pastors at NTS or NBC but also in bringing in missionaries from other world areas to reach the various ethnic groups in the USA/Canada region.


Honestly, what has to happen to start 5000 churches?

More than money or finding pastors—there will need to be some major shifts in thinking.

 A) Church buildings are not necessary for Kingdom growth. This goes against the now debunked theory “If we build it they will come.” No, they won’t. A more accurate moniker is “If they build it, they will have a huge debt and will be unable to invest in ministry.”

B) Pastors must be compensated by the church. No, they don’t. Paul and many more modern tent-makers, show that bi-vocational ministry can be done successfully. The fastest growing church on the district where I serve (Eastern Michigan District) Family Community Church in Goodrich, Michigan, has no paid church staff and averaged 295 people in 2019.

C) The USA/Canada must be strengthened now (yesterday actually). The ship is sinking. If the USA/Canada Church is not strengthened the whole global church will be impacted negatively. The situation is critical and the needs are immediate. Taking our collective heads out of the sand is needed.

D) Who am I kidding? (Take 1). Nazarene churches (and pastors) are too territorial. Too often when an existing Nazarene church is in a town and a church plant is suggested there is major push back. Like it was played out in the old Western slang vernacular that says, “This town ain’t big enough fer the both of us.” But the truth of the matter is that nearly every city could use more churches preaching the message of holiness. We need a more “What’s good for Kingdom” mindset and less worry or contention over territorial boundaries.

E). Who am I kidding (Take 2). There are pastors just like me, who have earned our living off the church for 25+ years and are too old to learn a new trick (i.e. “we ain’t changing” and we aren’t about to open a coffee shop anytime soon). This is the biggest hurdle. I get it. The shift to make bi-vocational ministry the norm, not the exception, will take my generation and the generation behind me to retire.

In the meantime, pastors in my bracket need to cheer on those who are stepping out on faith. Applaud the adventurous, worthy millennials and iPhone generation pastors (OK, Boomer) who will do the hard kingdom work of bringing the church back to the center of ministry again. The ministers who willing serve without pay, in house churches or in various places and build the Kingdom of God in coffee shops, restaurants and public meeting places.


We need a new era of evangelism. Probably the old way of Biblical tracts and four spiritual laws isn’t going to have the same effectiveness in USA/Canada. Instead, the Jesus model of moving in and living among the people; the Paul model of being a tent maker and living off their secular work; and, the Stephen model of Kingdom before self is what is needed (and repeated 5,000 times) if the USA/Canada church (and in turn the global church) is going to be strengthened in the coming decade.


How to strengthen the Church of the Nazarene (USA/Canada) by 2030? Part 1: The Plan

What if we thought differently about the future church and ministry in the Church of the Nazarene than the way we currently think?

Here are the facts as I see them (Some antidotal. Some not):

Fact 1: A strong USA/Canada church is essential for the good of the global church (currently the USA/Canada funds 94% of the mission of the global church)

Fact 2: The USA/Canada Church has been in decline for over a decade and the coming decade could be worse.

Fact 3: The ONLY way to reverse the trend is to open more churches (5,000 new churches).

Fact 4: Seminary enrollment is down (way down from when I was a student 35 years ago). I haven’t seen the Bible College numbers. If we are opening churches we need trained pastors.

Fact 5: Many of the seminarians/ministry majors who are enrolled, aren’t thrilled about reviving a church in small town U.S.A. or planting a church in an urban area. Many don’t want to pastor a church at all.

Fact 6: Getting a job in small town USA can be difficult.

Fact 7: Finding affordable housing in urban area USA is difficult.

Fact 8: Jesus words in Matthew 9:37 are still true.“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” People in both small town USA and urban area USA need Jesus. We need churches and pastors.

What if we actively tried to change the current reality…

  • What if the term “bi-vocational pastor” was looked upon as a normal, regular ministry option rather than one inducing sympathy or being viewed as “second rate.”
  • What if we thought of the bi-vocational pastor as the most honorable pastoral position and held these sacrificial women and men pastors in high regard. Conversely, what if the idea of a “full-time” clergy role was viewed as a somewhat questionable pursuit?
  • What if seminarians/Bible college students were taught how to open a coffee shop (don’t all ministry students love coffee?) or a thrift store (who doesn’t like a good thrift store/consignment shop?) or some other venture and taught how to play the guitar. Singing has always been a part of Christian worship (Live music > Youtube sing alongs). And what if simultaneously these bi-vocational ministers were taught how to craft a sermon and be a pastor?
  • What if Acts 2:42 became our model of these house or inside a business space churches? The followers devoted themselves to Biblical teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and to prayer. That’s it.
  • What if the district leadership could convince the twenty people or so remaining in a dying church that is on hospice care that they could sell their building and open a coffee shop or thrift store. That instead of the lost folks never stepping in their church, those that don’t know Jesus would regularly walk into a coffee shop or thrift store. (Note: this sales job from the district leader might take an act of God to actually happen).
  • What if we made the Bible college or seminary tuition FREE for those going into (or already doing) pastoral ministry.
  • What if districts started buying houses for the pastors to live and the house churches to meet.
  • What if the being trained, guitar playing, coffee making, thrift store operating, theologically sound seminarian or Bible College student with free education and free housing in the apartment above the coffee shop and income from the coffee shop with a steady stream of potential Jesus followers coming to get their coffee or find a bargain– could actually make a difference for Jesus in small town USA. (I know that was a long, run on sentence, I don’t care…). What if all that could happen and…
  • What if this model was repeated again and again and again all across USA/Canada?

If that model was repeated, say 5000 times in the next decade, then attendance numbers and declining dollars would be dramatically reversed. We would see revival in small town USA and urban areas and everywhere in between.

No doubt, I’ve raised a lot of questions. In tomorrow’s blog post I will attempt to answer some of those questions.


Why 1000 new Church of the Nazarene House Churches in the next decade is too small of a vision

In my previous two blogs concerning the need to strengthen the Church of the Nazarene’s USA/Canada region in the next decade for the good and health of the global church, I made a critical math error.

Sort of.

Let me explain.

The stated goal in the blogs was that by the end of the decade there would be 1,000 new USA/Canada house churches, but my math was not totally accurate. The Church of the Nazarene does not need to start 1,000 new churches in USA/Canada. The Church of the Nazarene needs to start 5,000 new churches in USA/Canada. Now, in a moment of full discloser, I felt if I originally wrote that the church needs 5,000 new churches (when there are only approximately 5,000 existing churches in USA/Canada), I would have been written off as a lunatic and everyone would have stopped reading. I don’t think I am crazy and I do think we can start 5,000 house churches in USA/Canada in the next decade.

Here’s the “How” and “Why” of 5,000 new house churches?

OK, let’s say the number was 1,000 new house churches. I couldn’t locate the number of districts (or any other meaningful stat on the new website. Wikipedia says 80 districts. Thank you, Wikipedia, for providing info not found on the Nazarene website… ugh), so the number is 80 districts.  80 districts planting 12.5 house churches in 10 years will get to 1,000 churches. Yawn! If a district is only planting one house church a year (and maybe twice in the next decade it plants two or three house churches), they need to re-read the Great Commission. They need to re-hear Jesus words that “the Harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

But what if all 5,247 churches (again Thanks Wikipedia for the stat) planted one house church?  Just one. In ten years. Some of these churches currently ARE house churches… don’t you think in a decade they should be able to duplicate themselves?  Some churches could plant many, many more than one. For argument sake, let’s say each church plants one house church that averages 25 people.

1,000 house churches with an average attendance of 25 is 25,000 new Nazarenes. (We will have more Nazarenes die off in the next decade than that).  But 5,000 new house churches with attendance of 25 is 125,000 new Nazarenes. 125,000 Nazarenes contributing to WEF can make a big difference and greatly help the global church. If the USA/Canada per capita income stays the same as it was just reported ($1233.33), and if these 125,000 new USA/Canada Nazarenes gave at the same rate (maybe they will, maybe they won’t) then amount raised would be (drum roll please): $154,166, 250.  You read that right… over 150 million dollars if they gave at the current per capita giving rate.

Of course, not all of that 154 million would go to WEF… but what if 5.5% of it did?  That would mean the WEF would get an additional $8,479,143.   Do you think the global church would benefit from an additional $8.5 million? Moreover, if these house churches are not encumbered by huge church building mortgages payments and multi-staff salaries they might catch fire to this global mission fire and give at a higher rate for world evangelism.

Is it worth the investment in the USA/Canada region and strengthening the USA/Canada churches?  The answer is simple.