Summary: Shows how the church is a chosen people of God
THE CHURCH - A CHOSEN PEOPLE
OCTOBER 5, 2008
On October 13, 1908, under a large tent pitched on a Texas prairie, a magnificent vision began to form. After days of preaching, days of prayer, days of negotiation, and much debate, the delegates from churches scattered across the United States of America, received a final motion that was voted into adoption. A spirit of celebration gripped the people. They poured out of the tent, marching around it, singing songs, and praising God. Out of many, they had become one.
It was a message that brought them together. They were fervent proponents of the message of holiness of heart and life in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. And they represented approximately 10,000 members in their various organizations and congregations. Though relatively small, many of the groups had churches and mission work across the United States and Canada and some had missionaries in India, Cape Verde, Mexico, and Japan. Soon to be followed by work in Africa and China. Passionately committed to “spreading holiness across the lands,” they left Pilot Point, Texas, gripped with a sense of the radical optimism of grace. They were intent on taking the message to all the world.
One hundred years later, the church they launched on that Texas prairie has a membership exceeding 1.6 million people ministering in over 140 languages in 151 world areas. Out of one, we have become many.
That new Body of Believers realized that in their combined efforts, they had strength that none of them had alone. They were committed to the development of a strong sense of identity. They wanted people to know who they were! They were Nazarenes! They were confident in the leadership of the Holy Spirit. They were intent on compassionate ministry and evangelism. And they were passionate about the message of holiness.
But they were also realistic about the magnitude of their task. The world was soon fighting a Great World War. Resources were strained as a growing denomination struggled to enter opening doors of ministry. Courageous missionaries risked their lives for ministry in a world at war. Global depression brought finances to the breaking point. A young church faced the reality that great growth does not necessarily mean adequate resources. And soon, World War II halted mission work in many nations, with some missionaries captured and held prisoner.
But the church continued to minister and grow. In spite of massive world tensions, churches were planted, schools and hospitals were established, and the church continued its global expansion.
Following World War II, the church in America saw unprecedented growth. Churches were planted by the hundreds, new districts were formed, colleges grew, and Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs and Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City were established. The growing church poured people and finances into mission work around the globe. The missionary corps soon numbered over 800 under global contract - for a total of over 1,000 including global missionaries, interns, regional missionaries, and volunteers. The list of world areas with Nazarene work soared. So effective was the evangelistic effort worldwide that within the later years of our first century, church membership in other world areas exceeded membership in the United States and Canada.
Throughout the century, the passion that has formed the Church of the Nazarene ‘out of many into one’ has been to make Christlike disciples in the nations, through the message of holiness. The catalyst that united the church in 1908 was the message of holiness. And the hope for the future of this grand experiment in faith and obedience is the message of holiness.
We now are a people scattered around the globe. Passionately engaged in evangelism, discipleship, and ministries of compassion, we are still one people defined by a message.
But this message did not originate with us. And it is not ours to contain.
In his two New Testament letters, Simon Peter wrote to the Christians scattered across Asia Minor, located in territory that is now in the nation of Turkey. Peter challenged the believers to hold steady in the face of serious threats to their stability, their effectiveness, and their message.
Peter reminded them of their true identity. They were the New Israel. Through Christ they were related directly to the promises of God in the Old Testament. They were the new people of God. They were:
I. A CHOSEN PEOPLE
Peter made it clear to his readers that they did not come to be the people of God on their own initiative. He said that they were chosen people. They were a grace-formed people. They were not the source of their own existence or of their message. God had called them into being as His people.
In his opening words Peter addressed them as people who had been chosen by God (1 Peter 1:2). God had so provided for them that they had been brought into being “by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.”