At the Center or In the Margins

At the Center or In the Margins

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The Church of the Nazarene is truly a remarkable denomination. It has centered its theological focus on the critical issues relative to holy living, engaging mission, and growing local congregations. Our Articles of Faith keep us linked to the original springs of New Testament Christianity.

So what's behind the concern evidenced in the title of this editorial? Simply put, the Church of the Nazarene faces a complex challenge, both in the present as well as in the future. Many readers of Holiness Today are long-time members of the church. For some of us, our Christian faith and living are combined in a neatly wrapped package that can too easily calcify into tradition. Unless our traditions are invested with courage to face reality, we could slip from the center to the margins, especially when it comes to providing significant influence regarding the challenges we face.

If you are over the age of 50, spend some time conversing with your children, grandchildren, or friends who are under the age of 30. Discuss the kinds of entertainment in which they regularly engage. Ask them how they determine right and wrong. Find out what they think about worship formats, frequency of church attendance, etc. It won't take too many conversations for many of us to realize that the complexity of our times may actually exhaust our store of pat answers!

The Church of the Nazarene is living through momentous changes, especially in Canada and the U.S. Cultural change and shift is both swift as well as seismic. Changing demographics in our congregations and the pervasive influence of value systems outside traditionalist perspectives, pose new challenges for all churches. It is at this point that we must have the courage to proactively and intentionally engage the world head-on. If retreat is the best our faith can suggest, we shall move from the center to the margins quickly.

Clearly, we must not abandon our convictions nor jettison our Christian beliefs and values. Resistance followed by retreat will lead to isolation. In isolation, our influence—our potential for contributing to the dialogue—will diminish. The practices, even behaviors of those around us may convince us that theirs is a deep-seated spiritual need. Ascending the steep steps to the throne of judgment, however, will deny us the privilege of being agents of instruction, reconciliation, and recovery.

Our message is too good. Our mission is too important. Our story is too compelling to enclose ourselves in the comfortable confines of yesterday's perspectives where we rehearse yesterday's experiences. It is much safer on the margins. It is also much lonelier.

David J. Felter, Editor in chiefHoliness Today, November/December 2004