Summary: The eleventh article of faith of the Church of the Nazarene.
This morning, we are going to move to our eleventh Article of Faith, which is:
XI. The Church
Here is the description of this 11th tenet of our faith:
We believe in the Church, the community that confesses Jesus Christ as Lord, the covenant people of God made new in Christ, the Body of Christ called together by the Holy Spirit through the Word. God calls the Church to express its life in the unity and fellowship of the Spirit; in worship through the preaching of the Word, observance of the sacraments, and ministry in His name; by obedience to Christ, holy living, and mutual accountability. The mission of the Church in the world is to share in the redemptive and reconciling ministry of Christ in the power of the Spirit. The Church fulfills its mission by making disciples through evangelism, education, showing compassion, working for justice, and bearing witness to the kingdom of God. The Church is a historical reality that organizes itself in culturally conditioned forms, exists both as local congregations and as a universal body, and also sets apart persons called of God for specific ministries. God calls the Church to live under His rule in anticipation of the consummation at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God has always had a people. His people. It began the day that He chose Abram from the myriads of people that lived on the earth at the time. He made the covenant with Abram, whose name meant High Father, and changed his name to Abraham, which means Father of Multitudes. The Hebrews, the direct descendants of Abraham, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob, became God’s chosen people. God continuously restated His covenant with each generation of Abraham’s offspring, and renewed it again when Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt toward the promised land of Canaan. God has always had a people.
God also told Abraham that by his offspring, all nations would be blessed. That blessing came through Jesus Christ and all of those that have accepted Jesus as their Savior are those that have been blessed because of Abraham’s obedience. These people, as a group, are called ‘His church.’ This is the church universal. The first time that the church is mentioned is in Matthew 16:18. Peter has just spoken the revelation that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah. Jesus replied:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
When I first came here to CCCN, just over one year ago, I told you that it was not my job to build the church. That is Jesus’ job. He said that it is His church and He will build it.
The church universal is also called the Body of Christ, in the NT. The Apostle Paul was explaining to the Christians in Rome, the way that the church is supposed to work (Romans 12:5):
so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
As Paul goes on to describe the way that the church is supposed to operate, he talks about each of us using our skills to enable the church to function at its optimum level. As pastors, we tend to use this passage of scripture to describe the operation of the local church. While it is true that each local congregation of local churches should utilize the skills of its members and each member should use their skill to further the work of the local church, I believe that this formula can be used on the church universal as well.
This church cannot do some of the things that Harvest or Crossroads can do. We do not have the finances or the amount of people it takes to operate many of the programs that they are adept at. Harvest has been, and will likely continue to be fantastic at evangelism. We, however, can thrive by personally caring for each other and by having in-depth study of the Word. Imagine what could happen if all of the Christian denominations were to work together, helping each other to accomplish the things that each of them excelled at and fortified the areas that the others were weak at? I think that there are inklings that things are changing for the better when it comes to things like that. Harvest Crusade uses many churches to help with their massive events. Lifeway Worship, although it is a Southern Baptist entity, is being used by many denominations across the world. There may come a day when all Christians, of every denomination, will band together for the work of the church universal.
Jesus tasked the church to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sin to the entire world. The Great Commission is one of the most important works of the church. One of the things that I am most proud of is that the Nazarene church has taken that task to heart from the moment of its inception. Phineas Bresee began our denomination by reaching out to the homeless, the drug addicts, the alcoholics, and the prostitutes on skid row. He helped lead them to Christ and a better life and his vision for a church that reaches out has not diminished today. The Nazarene Church ministers in 150 world areas, has nearly 30,000 local churches and there are more Nazarenes outside of the US than in it. Through the work of our missionaries and through the funding from our budgets, the Nazarene Church is continuing to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, teaching them how to be disciples of our Lord in a torn and broken world. Will it ever be done? Doubtful. This is a work that will be ongoing until the day of His return.