Summary: From 1908 to 2018, the Church of the Nazarene grew from 10,000 members to 2.5 million. They surrendered. They heard the call, the Great Commission given to every Christian, and they submitted. I think this is the problem that Christianity in general is facing today. Christians stopped surrendering.
The Church Manual states that “The Church of the Nazarene recognizes all believers are called to minister to all people.” I love that statement. I love it because it really sums up how the Church of the Nazarene from its earliest days really felt the burden of the Great Commission and from the beginning wanted to follow that call and spread the Gospel across the world.
In his book, Our Watchword and Song, Stan Ingersol states, “Nazarenes took Matthew 28:19-20 as their Great Commission. A firm belief in the eternal ‘lostness’ of people apart from faith in Christ coupled with the desire to obey Christ pushed missions forward.”
I just finished my class on the History and Polity of the Church of the Nazarene. Most of you know that I did not grow up in the Church of the Nazarene. I actually grew up in independent Baptist churches, and as a result of my wife bugging me to find us a church after we were married, I wound up visiting this one, which we ended up joining afterwards. There was always one thing that I have loved about the Nazarenes since I first started learning about the Church, and that is that they were always so devoted, from the outset, to the Great Commission in Matthew 28. The Great Commission is of course “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The Church of the Nazarene, all the way back in 1908 grabbed onto this and stamped it on their heart, fully believing this was their mission, all members embracing it and doing whatever they could to contribute to that call.
And it worked. Within the first twenty years of the founding of the Church of the Nazarene, there were churches in Canada, India, Cape Verde, and Japan, soon followed by work in Africa, Mexico, China, the British Isles, Cuba, Central America, South America, Syria and Palestine. Here in America, the Church of the Nazarene was distinguished by their willingness to minister to the homeless and alcoholics. This was in the age when alcoholism was beginning to be recognized as a true issue. After World War 1, there was a dramatic rise in the abuse of alcohol among veterans who had just witnessed and endured war on a scale never before experienced, which gave rise to drunkeness. It was this issue that would give birth to both Prohibition, and later to Alcoholics Anonymous, but before either of these two events occurred, the Church of the Nazarene was already on the scene, giving out blankets, feeding the homeless, and ministering to those in need. The Church of the Nazarene was also instrumental in advocating for women’s rights, publicly supporting and pushing for the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, giving women the right to vote. The Church of the Nazarene has never been afraid to engage the culture, affect society, and spread the gospel. Because of this, the Church of the Nazarene, in just 110 years, has become the largest Church in the Wesleyan tradition, with over 2.5 million members worldwide.
That just amazes me! How did just one church organization accomplish so much in such a relatively short amount of time? From 1908 to 2018, the Church of the Nazarene grew from roughly 10,000 members to 2.5 million; from 200 churches to over 30,000 worldwide. It is really amazing, but how? The answer is pretty simple. They surrendered. They heard the call, the Great Commission given to every Christian, and they submitted.
I think this is the problem, not just in the Church of the Nazarene, but one that Christianity in general is facing today. Somewhere along the way, Christians stopped surrendering. They stopped selling out to Christ. Go ahead, and open your Bibles to the Book of Jonah.
I think it would be fair to say that most of us if not all of us know the story of Jonah. We probably learned the basic story in Sunday School, have probably heard it taught and preached many times over the course of our lives. It is one of the most popular and widely told stories in the Bible, and because of this, I am not going to go through the whole thing, but just touch on a couple points that I believe are worth noting. We all know the highlights of the story; God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach, Jonah hates Nineveh and refuses, he tries to sail away, there’s a storm, Jonah gets tossed overboard and swallowed by a big fish, he prays while in the fish, gets vomited up on shore after three days, goes to Nineveh, preaches, and the people all repent and turn to God. Those are the basics. But I had a question when re-reading it.