What will Destroy the Church of the Nazarene? 

Politics (church variety)? There’s always been church politics, just ask Mathias in Acts 1. Make no mistake, church politics will be alive and well at the upcoming Nazarene General Assembly, but that was probably the case at Pilot Point too.

Politics (national interest’s variety)? There has always been that too—maybe it’s not been as divisive as it is today, but national politics have seeped its way into the church from the beginning. Often to its detriment, but not to its demise.

Sanctification? The adherence to our “cardinal doctrine” has changed. Entire sanctification is not preached as much. It’s not talked about as much. A case could be made, because of that, the Church of the Nazarene is weakened, but that’s not what will kill the church.

Alcohol? Is asking in some Macbeth-ian sort of way “To drink or not to drink?” going to kill the church? No, that ship has sailed and the church still stands.

LBGTQ+ issues? In spite of the 97% approval at the 2017 General Assembly, the discussions surrounding the Nazarene stance regarding paragraph 31 (Human sexuality) are real, but they are symptoms of the issue but not the real issue. 

Fundamentalism? That’s the opposite side of the same LBGTQ+ symptomatic coin. Discussions surrounding “anti-wokism” in the church, Christian nationalism and the rest are symptoms not the issue.

Social Media? Social Media is a tool. It may speed the demise along with its far-reaching dissemination of information (false and true). Social media is the lighter fluid, not the fire.

Heavy handed leadership? Power grabs are nearly as common as air. Why are there are more than 45,000 denominations in the world?  Someone else wanted to be in charge.

What is the real tripping point for the Church of the Nazarene?

It’s the via media, middle-of-the-road stance of Article Four regarding the Holy Scriptures. The Church of the Nazarene stands or falls on its view of scripture. Hear me, I’m not advocating a change in Article Four, but rather simply stating the tension regarding scripture leads to, well, tension. There are plenty of people who can’t exist in this middle path. 

Article Four states that Nazarenes believe the Bible is “inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.” Here’s the issue: Who decides what is “necessary to our salvation.” The individual? The denomination? Your “all things necessary” and my “all things necessary” might lead to two very different conclusions. That’s exactly what has the United Methodists to become the Divided Methodists. Their statement of scripture, similar to the Church of the Nazarene’s, has led to irreconcilable differences with in their ranks. Will we be next?

A denominational divorce does not have be the future. From an outsider, overly-simplistic view, what has led to the Methodists demise is a that the bishops stopped adhering to the church’s stated beliefs regarding “all things necessary.”  Once that happened, the end was near. Was the purpose of the recent BGS infamous memo an attempt to shore up the “all things necessary” question concerning the church’s doctrine? Who knows?

For the Church of the Nazarene to survive, it will fall on the senior leadership (read: General Superintendents and Regional Directors) and middle managers (read: Field Strategy Coordinators and District Superintendents) to know what we believe, why we believe it and be united as we live within the confines of the tension (emphasis on: “live within the confines of the tension”). Falling into one side ditch or the other (a Progressive-type of Christianity or Fundamentalism) will be the demise of the church. We need leaders who understand the tension of “all things necessary” and can navigate the future sticking points down the middle road without veering into the left or right ditches. 

This week’s BGS dust up over a memo is ultimately an “all thing things necessary” question. Will we land in the via media? Only time will tell.