Thursday, August 21, 2008

100 Years

A momentous day of celebration is quickly approaching in the life of our church. On October 5, the Church of the Nazarene will be celebrating its centennial as a denomination. This centennial celebration will be a remembrance of the uniting of several holiness groups that began in 1907 and culminated at Pilot Point, Texas in October of 1908. Since that time, the Church of the Nazarene, which began as an American denomination, has become a global church preaching the gospel of Christ around the world.

As we look back over the last 100 years of our existence, it is a time to give thanks for God’s faithfulness to us and the faithfulness of the saints who have gone before us. God has been faithful to our ancestors in the faith, leading and guiding the Church by the Holy Spirit. This celebration is a reminder that we are not the first ones to walk this journey of faith. There are so many faithful disciples who have walked this path before us, serving as living examples for us of what it means to be a disciple of Christ Jesus.

Of course, we are not likely to be the last to walk this journey of faith either. Therefore, remembering our heritage and identity is also a chance for us to consider how our past should guide us into the future. As we look back to that point of unification at Pilot Point we must remember that our unity as a denomination did not come easily. As is the case any time you attempt to bring together diverse groups, the various holiness groups that united to become the Church of the Nazarene had some substantial differences of opinion which could have served as insurmountable obstacles to unification. In response to these disagreements, Phineas F. Bresee, probably the most important leader in the unification process, was known for following the maxim “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.”

I believe that this simple principle will continue to be important for us in the next 100 years of our existence. The culture in which we live seems to become increasingly diverse with every passing day. As new technologies make it easier for us to communicate with people across the globe, we continue to become more aware that there are various way of seeing the world and understanding our life in it. There are a remarkable number of perspectives on God and his kingdom as announced by Jesus, outside the Church and even within it. As a result, it will be as crucial as ever that we take the time to understand who we are as God’s people in Jesus Christ. Only then can we begin to discern together by the guidance of the Holy Spirit what is essential to our faith and what isn’t.
This means that we will unashamedly proclaim the gospel in its fullness and we will be careful to hold our brothers and sisters accountable in the essentials of the faith. However, it will also mean that we will honestly confess where we have allowed our culture or our own personal preferences to impose heavy burdens on the gospel which only drive people away from the kingdom of God. Above all, it means that in all things we will be a people characterized by love because more than anything else, that is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

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