For all the talk of people leaving (stats don’t lie), divisive social issues, and politics taking greater role than Jesus in some churches (ugh… c’mon man), I am hopeful for the future of the Church of the Nazarene.
I am hopeful (although biased because of my current assignment) because…
1. Central Church’s recent ministerial students.
One of Central’s recent ONU grads (class of 2021) is now married and solo pastoring on our district. A 2022 Nazarene Bible College graduate from Central, will be pursuing a master’s degree while assisting our age-level teams. A Central church ONU senior, is our summer intern and an ONU sophomore, is interning at a non-denominational church as a worship leader. Besides these, there is at least one middle school student and one high school student who currently are sensing a call to ministry. If these young people are an indicator, the future is bright, Church of the Nazarene, very bright.
2. The young pastors with whom I minister alongside.
Three of our current pastors are under 35 (an executive, middle school and high school pastor). All three are ordained. All three are very gifted. I am proud to serve with them. They are energetic, creative and committed to the message of holiness. Stop the millennial bashing, these ministers are a blessing.
3. The older pastors with whom I minister alongside.
Central Church’s older-than-me pastors are our Senior adult pastor, former District Superintendent, Dr. Steve Anthony and his assistant Rev. Don Philips. They have been my biggest supporters. They have been the best cheerleaders for our younger pastors (Dr. Anthony’s grandson is the solo pastor in #1). Don’t look for these men in rocking chairs, they work wherever is needed to the advance the Kingdom.
4. The happy-in-middle pastors with whom I minister alongside are terrific too.
These pastors are committed to proclaiming the truth of God’s love with fervor and compassion. Worship pastors who minister to all ages; Children’s pastors who love boys and girls– one of whom is modelling to the entire church by fostering two children in addition to her other three children (her oldest daughter is married to Dr. Anthony’s grandson and the “solo” pastor in point #1); and our other executive pastor oozes leadership and wisdom.*
Pastors alone don’t make a great church—which is why I am even more hopeful.
5.) We’ve had a BIG Combined Sunday School Class for July all the teachers are young adults.
All our classes were suspended for the month of July with one teacher teaching everyone from ages 13 to 90. It’s a big, big class. The teacher each week has been a young adult. Our senior adults are the teachers’ biggest supporters. There are plenty of great young adults in the Church of the Nazarene ready and able to move with us old-timers into the future.
7. Committed lay leaders make or break a church, and like at Central Church in churches across the globe there are good people filling the seats.
Ministry could not happen without strong, loving, fruit-of-the-spirit-infused, generous laypeople. Our church board and pastors had their annual cookout at my house this week, it’s such a blessing when lay leaders and pastors enjoy each other and share a mutual goal of seeing God’s kingdom come “in Flint as it is in Heaven.” Our church is not alone. The Church of the Nazarene is blessed plenty of people that want to see Christ-like disciples made in the nations.
8. Central Church has tried her best to keep Jesus as our Central (no pun intended) focus.
Do we have differences of opinion about many of the divisive issues of the day? Yes. Has everyone agreed with every decision? No. But if we want to reach 100% of our city (not just 50% in our divided land) we must keep Jesus front and center. We truly believe that God will answer the prayer he taught us to pray (we’ve modified it for our setting, but it would be true throughout the earth): “May your Kingdom come and may your will be done in Flint as it is in heaven.”
9. The Church of the Nazarene will go as far as the local church takes it.
While every large organization has people in leadership roles that make you wonder about their abilities (and sometimes… yikes…their salvation), by far, the vast majority of our leaders truly love the Church of the Nazarene and message of the holiness. Our denominational leaders working at the Global Ministry Center and in regional offices across the world want to proclaim the Good News through evangelism and compassion. My current DS is working hard to keep our churches focused on Kingdom work. Other DSs are like him. I appreciate the genuine loving effort by our leaders. That being so, still the strength of the Church of the Nazarene is not in Lenexa, Kansas, regional or district offices. It’s the local church. We will move forward as local churches thrive.
As I look around my church, I am hopeful for the Church of the Nazarene. Look around your church and I believe many of us will be hopeful too.
*Understandably, I am biased and blessed to minister alongside such a wonderful team. Don’t poll my church folks as to who is the weakest link, I might not like the answer. Maybe not every church has a pastoral staff lineup as we have a Central Church. Still, there are thousands of older, middle aged and younger pastors who are qualified and committed to building the Kingdom of God through the Church of the Nazarene. There are far, far, far more good hard-working women and men in ministry than the few stinkers that make the gossip lists (err… prayer requests).