Posts Tagged ‘Church of the Nazarene’

Why We’re Called the Church of the Nazarene

Archives’ Answers: The Denomination’s Name

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Friday, June 8, 2012
Global Ministry Center
By Stan Ingersol, Church of the Nazarene Archivist
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In a new segment, Nazarene Archives answers a question about the history of the Church of the Nazarene denomination. This month: “Exactly how did the Church of the Nazarene get its name?”
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The Hebrew name for “Jesus,” derived from “Joshua,” was common in first-century Palestinian Judaism, so “Jesus of Nazareth” specified which Jesus, and Acts references the early Palestinian Christians as followers “of the Nazarene” and “the sect of the Nazarenes.” The term “Christian” developed outside Palestine, in Syria according to Acts, in conjunction with the mission to the Gentiles. It is derived from “Christos,” a Greek translation of the Hebrew “messiah” or “anointed one.” As Gentile Christianity spread through the Mediterranean basin, Jesus became known as Christ and references to “the Nazarene” diminished.
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Nineteenth and early 20th century European writers produced numerous biographies of Jesus, re-popularizing the term “Nazarene” and setting the stage for how the Church of the Nazarene received its name.
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In 1894, some California Methodists became associated with the Peniel Mission in inner-city Los Angeles. These included Phineas Bresee, a minister, and J. P. Widney, a prominent Los Angeles citizen.
J. P. Widney


J. P. Widney, who gave the Church of the Nazarene its name.
(Nazarene Archives photo)

Widney, a physician, had founded the Los Angeles Medical Society and had served as president of the University of Southern California. Widney and Bresee had been friends for a decade. Bresee was the Peniel Mission’s preaching pastor, while Widney taught medical courses to nurses and taught a series of studies on the life of Christ, a subject that fascinated him, for he was an avid reader of “the lives of Jesus” literature.

One year later, Bresee, Widney, and others established a new church among the poor in October 1895. At an early business meeting, the name “Church of the Nazarene” was adopted upon Widney’s suggestion. Other proposed names included various uses of “Methodist,” but Widney told the congregation that, after praying all night about the matter, he liked that the word “Nazarene” identified the church with the “lowly, toiling, ministry of Jesus the Nazarene.”

West Coast-based Nazarenes later merged with other denominations, forming the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, but the 1919 General Assembly deleted “Pentecostal” from the church name, since the word was increasingly understood in reference to charismatic gifts like speaking in tongues, which Nazarenes never practiced or approved. Thus, since 1919, the denominational name has been identical to that of its western parent-body — a name that originated because J. P. Widney read “lives of Jesus” books, and his imagination had been captured by a strong personal vision of “the Nazarene.”

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For more information about Nazarene Archives, click here. To submit a question for the next Archives’ Answers, email submitnews@ncnnews.com.

For a larger version of the above photo, click here.

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This article is copied from and can be found at at the Global Ministry Center site of Nazarene Communication Network News site.
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Why I Stayed in the Church of the Nazarene

Why I Stayed

by Jonathan Russell

Jonathan Russell is shown with his wife, Jan, and children Harrison, Sawyer, Graham, and Campbell. (Holiness Today)

There have been many discussions, anecdotes, and studies surrounding how the church has failed to capture the imagination and hold the attention of young adults. When I was recently asked to share my testimony, I began to realize the debt that I owe to the church and why the church continues to be relevant to my spiritual journey.

I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene. My parents modeled well what it meant to be a Christian and did their best to communicate the same to me and my sisters. They were part of the committed core at our local church. Mom and Dad co-taught an adult Sunday School class. Dad was secretary of the church board and Mom was missionary president. Our lives literally revolved around the cadence call of the church. When the doors were open, we were there.

It’s hard to remember a time when I was not aware that God loved me. My conversion experience was more like walking into the sunrise rather than being hit by a bolt of lightning.

At the age of five or six, I remember going to the altar to accept Christ into my heart and asking him to forgive my sins. When I was in the fourth or fifth grade, during a children’s camp in Northeast Maryland, I remember having a second spiritual experience of committing my life to Christ, expressing a willingness to go wherever and do whatever God asked of me.

While I attended public school until college, the strength of the connection to my local church caused me to understand that my values and identity were not to be found in a secular curriculum and culture. Although I enjoyed activities with non-Christian friends, from soccer to band to the National Honor Society, I knew that we were different. In some ways, I was like a foreign exchange student—speaking a different language, coming from a different culture, and having an allegiance to a different sovereign. I was reminded of this fact at my high school reunion when a soccer teammate of mine curiously asked my wife if I still didn’t curse.

However, in many ways, those high school years were defined by what I didn’t do, rather than what I did do. It wasn’t until college and then law school that I was stretched to think more about what I believed than what I was to avoid.

Attending Eastern Nazarene College (ENC) provided me the opportunity to sort through the issues that were fundamental to my faith and in what areas I needed to be more gracious. I was given the freedom to test out my faith and to disassemble and reconstruct my beliefs, without leaving me worse off for the process. This is not to say that I always made the best choices, but ENC was a safe place where I could grow and at times fail, while moving forward in my spiritual development.

During law school, I went on a two-week mission trip to Iquitos, Peru, and experienced that sweet spot in life where I found my vocation to be fully integrated with the tasks of my every day. As we laid the foundation for a Nazarene ministry center, I think the foundation was laid for me to look for a legal career with other believers who shared my world view. In this regard, I’ve been privileged to be partnered in my law practice with attorneys whose conversations about faith and spirituality are the norm and not the exception.

The church has been the vehicle through which I have found a place to serve and be connected to the body of Christ. The church has provided an environment for me to grow spiritually at every stage of my life. As a child, it was through Sunday School, VBS, talent programs, Bible quizzing, and camps. Entering adolescence, it was through a vibrant teen program, Festival of Life, Nazarene World Youth Congress, and teen and family camps.

As a young adult, I benefited from a church-supported college where there was, as Dean Bertha Munro said, “no conflict between the best in education and the best in our Christian faith.” The church was where I met my wife and it’s where I want my kids to be raised within a community of believers who inspire them to live a life for Christ in service to his kingdom.

Looking toward the spiritual journey that lies ahead, my deepest concern relates to what I am contributing to the next generation of followers of Jesus Christ, especially my children. While the church’s mission has never changed, the way in which we demonstrate relevancy in the meaning of the gospel must. J. B. Phillips said, “The real danger for professing believers lies not in the more glaring and grosser temptations and sins, but in a slow deterioration of vision, a slow death to daring, courage and a willingness to adventure.”

My prayer is that I will have such courage, and that the church will continue to be the place where the adventure begins.

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Jonathan Russell is an attorney and layman who grew up in the Collingdale, Pennsylvania Church of the Nazarene and is presently a member of the Immanuel/Lansdale, Pennsylvania Church of the Nazarene, where he, his wife, Jan, and their four children worship together.

Holiness Today

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This article first appeared in the January/February 2013 issue of Holiness Today. It is now available at the Holiness Today website. -iChurch of the Nazarene

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Ministry to Individuals With Special Needs

Here is a good article about what a church is doing for the people with special needs in their community and how the Church of the Nazarene was originally interested in reaching out to the poor, addicted and marginalized in the world.

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Can Anything Good Come from Nazareth?

by Julie Keith

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I am a transplant into the Church of the Nazarene.  While growing-up, and even as a young adult, I heard about the Church of the Nazarene but never really knew much about its beliefs or history.  I came to the church through a variety of circumstances, the most recent being an interview for the special needs pastor position at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena, California (PazNaz).

Since high school, I have been involved in some kind of ministry to individuals with special needs, as well as with their families.  Prior to coming to PazNaz, I was serving at a church experiencing financial problems.  I believe God used this set of circumstances for me to discover the church I now call home.

Pastor Scott Daniels shared the history of the church during my initial interview.  He shared how Phineas F. Bresee, the first general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene, wanted to do more for the poor, the addicted, and the marginalized in society.  Of course, individuals with special needs are still marginalized in the world.  As I listened and learned how we obtained our denomination’s name I knew the position was a natural fit and I had come home.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.  He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”  Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’  Philip said to him, ‘Come and see” (John 1:43-46 NRSV).

Can anything good come from Nazareth?  These words were the foundation for the name, Church of the Nazarene.  Nazarenes are named after Jesus the Nazarene.  Our church has its core the belief that something good can come from “Nazareth.”  Nazareth was considered the pit of the earth (my definition).  No one believed anything good could come from Nazareth.  The same is often said about children, youth, and adults who have varying kinds of disabilities and special needs.

The majority of the people in our world do not truly believe anything good can come from individuals who have special needs.  While there are more programs and services becoming available in the U.S., individuals in other places around the world with special needs are kept hidden.  They are not allowed in schools and typically not in places of worship.  The work that is being done to make an impact in the lives of the countless girls, boys, men, and women is largely being done by the community of faith.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to go to Romania on a mission trip to provide training and education to local churches and Christian organizations to better equip them to reach those with special needs for Christ.  The second part of this trip was to go into the orphanages and provide training and encouragement to the staff who wee providing care for orphans, many who had severe disabilities.

One particular day stands out in my mind as we were visiting a state-funded orphanage.  None of the orphans had anything that belonged to them.  On community outing days, the staff would go to the store closet and pull out clothes that were appropriate for the children to wear on outings to the community.

The next day we saw some of the exact same clothes on different children.  We then had the privilege of visiting an orphanage that was funded by a local church.  The contrast was amazing.  In this orphanage there was a row of  wheelchairs.  Each child had his or her own wheelchair.  It was nap time so most of the children were sleeping.  The facility was clean and attractive.  Children who were there had been rescued from some of the orphanages because if they had not been moved to this facility they would have most likely died.

After that visit, I was impressed with what happens when the people of God truly live into god’s kingdom and reach out and believe that something good can come from Nazareth.

This past June, at the Los Angeles District Assembly, we were reminded again of the call God has placed on us as the Church of the Nazarene.  It is our call to reach those from whom the world thinks nothing good can come.

Who are the children, teens, and adults in your life who have special needs?  What is God calling you to do?  What can your church do to begin to dream and plan to show God’s love and compassion to these individuals?  Begin to seek God’s face about how to reach out to those who are marginalized in most societies.

No matter where you live, there is at least one child or teen or adult and their family who need to know something good can come from them.

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Julie Keith is special needs pastor at Pasadena, California, First Church of the Nazarene. This article first appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of Holiness Today.  You can follow Julie Keith’s blog at JulieKeithsReflections.

What’s So Great About Being a Nazarene?

This article by David Young, pastor of Clinton (IL) First Church of the Nazarene, was originally posted at his blog site, “All Things New.”   (Reposted here with with permission)
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What’s So Great About Being a Nazarene?

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In our Sunday evening services, I have been responding to questions that individuals in my congregation have asked. One of those questions was this: With so many different churches and traditions to choose from, 12 churches just in our own little town, what is the benefit of belonging to and attending the Church of the Nazarene? The very first thing I want to say in response to that question is that I regard all Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ and I think we can learn a lot from other denominations. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy participating in our minster’s association here in town, why I always strongly encourage our members to attend the community services we have with other churches every year, why our teens are currently learning about and visiting other churches in town, why we combined with the Methodists and Presbyterians for VBS this past summer, and why we are happy to have those same two denominations participate with us in our community 4th Wednesday meal. As the priest at the Catholic parish we visited just last Sunday reminded us, there is much more that unites us than divides us.
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That being said, there are meaningful differences between the different denominations within the body of Christ. Furthermore, while our allegiance to Christ should always be held in higher regard than our allegiance to a given denomination, I do think there is something to be said for digging in deep and putting down roots into a single tradition. This is not because one denomination is without fault or superior to all the rest but because the only way to truly know Christ is to know his Church in all its humanity and brokenness. Our loyalty to Christ inherently entails some loyalty to a local congregation and, therefore, the tradition of which that congregation is a part.
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I confess and rejoice that I was born into a family of Nazarene parents and grandparents and that this has a lot to do with me being a Nazarene today. In spite of that, I could have found a home somewhere else at any time. Instead, I have not only remained but become a minister in this denomination. That doesn’t mean that I think the Church of the Nazarene is perfect or without the need for Spirit inspired change. But it does mean there are good reasons I have happily stayed. Here are my top ten.
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10. We affirm historical Christianity. This may seem an odd way to begin a list of what makes us distinctive as Nazarenes but I think it is important. There are some traditions and non-denominational groups which acknowledge little or no connection to the history of Christianity which has preceded their own fellowship. As Nazarenes, we confess the historic creeds of the Church and acknowledge that our story does not skip directly from Jesus and the apostles to our founding as a denomination in 1908.
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wesley9. Our Wesleyan heritage as a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism. We typically refer to ourselves as protestants and John Wesley certainly wasn’t Roman Catholic. However, as an Anglican, he was part of a tradition that had found a blended, middle way between the Catholic and Protestant traditions which had alternately prevailed at different times inEngland. Since we often look to Wesley as our theological father, that moderate, catholic spirit has been passed down to us. The earliest Nazarenes followed the maxim “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity”.
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8. We believe that God’s prevenient grace makes salvation available for anyone who will accept it. This is not an attempt to put down our Reformed brothers and sisters. They remind us of the important reality that salvation is not first and foremost a matter of human will. It is primarily an act of God. However, we do not believe that God chooses to elect only a few for whom that act is efficacious. We believe that God’s work of salvation in Christ has freed every human will to the extent that they can choose to accept or reject Christ. While salvation is entirely by the grace of God, we believe that God’s Spirit enables our spirit to cooperate with that grace.
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7. We Are Not Fundamentalist (but neither do we exclude fundamentalists from our fellowship). Nazarenes have an extremely high regard for Scripture. We confess that it is “inerrant in all things concerning salvation.” Wesley described himself as “a man of one book.” Yet we also recognize that one can not read this one book without making use of reason, experience, and tradition. Our understanding of Scripture does not require us to choose between a faithful interpretation of Scripture and modern scientific and historical research. We believe that the two can easily co-exist. However, neither do we make an attempt to exclude those from membership who do see a conflict between modern science and their faith. We believe there is room for both approaches in our tradition.
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6. Global Fellowship and Missional Unity. In a time when “denominational loyalty” is in decline and “church hierarchy” is often viewed with suspicion, I actually think our denominational structure is one of our great strengths. Nazarenes enjoy a fellowship and mutual support structures across a district that independent congregations do not. Furthermore, even denominations which have such a fellowship often go no further than a district or conference level. By contrast, Nazarenes from around the world gather every four years. Our most recent General Assembly was the first to consist of more delegates from outside the United States than from within and also the first to elect a General Superintendent (the highest office in our denomination) from outside the United States (Eugenio Duarte of Cape Verde, Africa). Additionally, while some churches see the budgets we pay to the district and the general church as a drain on local resources, I see them as an opportunity to pool resources and carry out ministries in other parts of our district and the world that simply would not happen if it was left up to each local church to plant churches or send missionaries.
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5. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. I am proud to be a part of a denomination that has an organization dedicated specifically to compassionate ministry to those in need across the globe. NCM works in impoverished areas throughout the world, especially providing nourishment and education for children through their sponsorship program. In times of disaster, NCM is often quick to respond because they have already been working in the area where the disaster struck. When they do not already have resources in place, they are quick to funnel resources to those who do.
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Church_of_the_Nazarene_Seal4. The Church of the Nazarene began with the stated mission of serving the poor of the inner city. In contrast to the “white flight” pattern of many churches in North America today, Phineas Bresee (usually considered the founder of the Church of the Nazarene) envisioned America’s cities as “centers of holy fire.” As such, service to the disadvantaged in the urban core of America cities has been a part of our identity from the beginning. In fact, the name “Church of the Nazarene” was chosen to reflect the humility of Christ who called lowly Nazareth home and was to be reminder that Nazarenes were always to find themselves among those of humble means as well. To be sure, we have not always lived up to that heritage but it is an encouragement to know it is a part of who we are. A renewed insistence on the presence of Church of the Nazarene in the urban core is not a strange, new development for us but a reclaiming of our ecclesial DNA.
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3. The Church of the Nazarene has ordained women for ministry since its inception. In a world where a large number of denominations still do not allow women to serve as ordained ministers (and others won’t allow women to hold any office of authority whatsoever), I am thankful to minister in a denomination whose ordination practices reflect Paul’s words when he says that in Christ “there is neither male nor female.” In its 100 year existence, the Church of the Nazarene has always held that women are just as fit for every office of ministry as are men. While there is certainly more work to be done in this area (since female ministers still make up a very small percentage of senior pastors in the Church of the Nazarene), the ordination of women is certainly one of the reasons I am proud to be Nazarene.
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2. Our Colleges and Universities. This one is especially personal for me. I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Eastern Nazarene College. My time at ENC changed the course of my life in a number of ways. Obviously, my faith already played an important role in my life before college since I chose to go to a Nazarene school but the “conversion” which took place in the way I understood my faith while I was at ENC was, I believe, no less significant than the life changing stories we often hear from others when they first come to Christ. The existence of eight colleges and universities (in addition to the Bible college and seminary) spread across the country where Nazarene young adults (and many non-Nazarenes as well! Two other ministers in Clinton attended Nazarene schools when they were younger.) can find a “safe” environment, full of trustworthy mentors, in which they can ask the hard questions of the Christian faith while also gaining competence in their various future vocations and professions is an invaluable resource for our denomination and the Church in our country as a whole. So many of the graduates of our schools go on to become the lay leaders of our local churches as well as Christian professionals who engage others in their field in thoughtfully Christ-like ways. I know that we are not the only ones with great schools but the schools we do have are, in my opinion, one of the most encouraging things about being a Nazarene.
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1. Entire Sanctification and the Possibilities of Grace.  Our doctrine of Entire Sanctification declares that we are a people who are optimistic about the transformative power of God’s grace in this life. Our optimism does not stem from a naivety concerning human nature but from the hope that the Holy Spirit can make us truly new creatures in Christ thus fulfilling God’s promise to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. There is little doubt that we have overstated this claim at times in our history. Even as our article of faith on Entire Sanctification has been recently revised in positive ways, I have made no secret of the fact that I believe it needs to be revised further still. Nevertheless, I think we are right to continue to proclaim that it is possible for the Holy Spirit to turn all of our affections toward the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, even in this life. Even as I am painfully aware of our many failings to live up to our calling as Christ’s body in this world, it is good to be a part of a denomination that boldly declares that those failings do not have to be the norm of our existence. We believe that the possibilities of God’s grace are so great as to include a whole and complete sanctification of our lives for God’s purposes in this world. For that I say, “Thanks be to God.”
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This article by David Young, pastor of Clinton (IL) First Church of the Nazarene, was originally posted at his blog site, “All Things New.”  Visit Pastor Young’s site.    (Reposted here with with permission)
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