The Church of the Nazarene was born from a series of mergers among holiness-minded churches and associations between 1907 and 1908. The first merger took place in the U.S.A. when the Church of the Nazarene merged with the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America. One year later the Holiness Church of Christ, from the South, joined them for the unifying General Assembly at Pilot Point, Texas.
The spirit of that union was palpable.
David A. Busic, Chair
On behalf of the Board of General Superintendents
29th General Assembly
Indianapolis, Indiana, US
Church of the Nazarene
26 June 2017
At a critical moment, Bud Robinson, fondly referred to as simply “Uncle Buddy,” turned to the chairman of the assembly and said: “Dr. Bresee, we have been one all the time but we just didn’t know it. Now that we have found it out, it is still time to say so. I would like to make a speech, but that would delay the vote and I want to vote. I want to shout ‘Aye.’ I want to raise both hands; I want to march around and celebrate. I want to make it known …that the Nazarenes from east, west, north, and south are one. Can’t you hurry us along, Doctor, and let us celebrate?”
And so they did. They voted unanimously and enthusiastically: “Yes!” And then they marched around the tents as a sign of their unity and confidence that God was with them.
These diverse groups were able to unite because they steadfastly agreed on the possibility and necessity of personal and corporate holiness, a shared passion for evangelism, and many other theological beliefs. They greatly differed, however, in many other ways: governance structures, leadership styles, sacramental practices, and even particular ethical convictions.
These regional differences threatened to undermine the initial harmony that birthed the Church of the Nazarene. Recognizing this impending threat to unity, general superintendents Phineas F. Bresee and Hiram F. Reynolds prayerfully sought to integrate the varied groups around a common cause that would supersede the differences. Their unifying purpose, their “watchword and song” became, “We will be a holiness and a Great Commission church.”
We would not HAVE a mission; we would BE a mission.
This holiness mission to the whole world gave the Church of the Nazarene a unified trajectory. This guiding principle is what led the delegates of the Twentieth General Assembly in 1980 to embrace internationalization, an ecclesiology that envisions the church as a globally connected and interdependent group “of districts and congregations rather than a fellowship of autonomous national churches” (Ingersol, Past and Prospect, 86).
National boundaries would neither shape nor restrict our global connections, but every local church, regardless of proximity or geography, would be joined together in a tightly knit communion committed to the same mission and message. Early Nazarene pioneers would often refer to it as “the connection.”
It was an “audacious undertaking” (Culbertson). We chose to pioneer a new path among Protestant churches. We chose to fashion a church that would maintain its democratic ethos of consultation and collaboration, while simultaneously becoming truly international. And it means that the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene is likely, according to Nazarene archivist, Stan Ingersol, “the most racially [and culturally] diverse general meeting of any denomination . . .” (Ingersol, Past and Prospect, 86).
As a result, delegates from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eurasia, Mesoamerica, South America, and USA/Canada, representing 162 nations, 165 primary languages, and 2.5 million members have gathered as ONE in Christ to affirm once again the sacredness of a great global ecclesia.
From this hallowed vision the Board of General Superintendents has chosen as the General Assembly theme: “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Faith, and One Lord.” We are an international holiness communion, made ONE in Christ Jesus!
Many of you made great sacrifices to be here today. You represent a group many times larger than yourselves. We honor you today, and we thank you for the commitments you have made to our “connection.” You have made us a better people.
The foundation of our work at this general assembly is prayer. The elder statesman of the BGS, General Superintendent Emeritus Dr. Eugene Stowe, who served as a GS for over 25 years and is now 95 years young, prayed the following invocation:
O God our Heavenly Father,
We come humbly and hopefully into your Holy Presence as we stand on the opening eve of the 29th General Assembly. We beseech you to clothe Dr. David Busic, the Chairman of the Board of General Superintendents, with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit as he presents the quadrennial message from his board. May it sound the keynote of this General Assembly with clarity and unction,
In the strong name of Jesus we pray,
The theme of our General Assembly is taken from the Book of Ephesians. It speaks of the unity of the Church because there is one God and Father of all. It speaks of the gifts Christ distributes to the Church to fulfill its mission and build up the Body. It speaks of the ultimate goal of unity, which is fullness in Christ.
Maturity, or Christian perfection, in the Church is found in no other way.
ONE LORD is the foundation for all oneness.
Christianity is not simply another religious system. Christianity is about Jesus Christ from beginning to end and everything in between. Jesus is THE way! Jesus is THE truth! Jesus is THE life! He is central and supreme. Everything else is commentary. Jesus is Lord!
We do not proclaim “Caesar is Lord,” nor do we say “Government is Lord.” We proclaim “Jesus is Lord,” and no other. There are only two rightful responses to that declaration: worship and discipleship. We bow to Him and want to be like Him. We want to do what Jesus does. We want to live as Jesus lives. Jesus lives in and through His people.
Everything we do as a church must be Christ-centered, Christ-empowered, and Christ-exalting. He is, and forever will be, the best Nazarene who ever lived. That is why we have chosen the carefully worded statement of mission: “To make CHRISTLIKE disciples in the nations.” We are defined by three core-values: “We Are Christian; We Are Holiness; We Are Missional.”
We strongly reaffirm that mission and commend these values to you again. Jesus is Lord!
Irenaus, an early Church father from the second century, said “The glory of God is a person fully alive.” Surely, then, the glory of God is also a church fully alive.
It is a joy to tell you that in our 109th year as a church, it is the consensus of the BGS that the Church of the Nazarene is strong and alive to the glory of God.
The Church of the Nazarene began in 1908 with 10,034 members, 228 churches, 11 districts, and 32 missionaries commissioned and sent to 4 countries (Cape Verde, India, Mexico, and Japan). The total amount raised that year was $140,000 (USD), with $12,000 (USD) being raised to support what was then called “foreign missions.”
Today, the church reports 2.5 million members, over 22,000 organized churches, nearly 500 districts, and more than 700 deployed missionaries serving in 80 nations of the world. We say with John the Revelator: “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelation 7:12).
Each region of our connection has experienced the blessing of the Lord in the past four years. Numbers alone can never tell the full story of the good that was accomplished and the extent to which the kingdom of God was advanced. And we are glad that is true. But holiness people believe that “growth in grace” cannot exist without accountability. So we measure to pay attention to fruitfulness.
The Africa Region reports 82 different languages are used in its primary worship services.
- 705 new churches
- 147,062 new Nazarenes
- $916,951 (USD) given to World Evangelism Fund
- 170,768 profession of faith reported
- 76,842 baptisms
Asia-Pacific Region reports 28 different languages are used in its primary worship services.
- 144 new churches
- 27,241 new Nazarenes
- $1,360,477 (USD) given to WEF
- 37,357 conversions reported
- 12,039 baptisms
Eurasia Region reports 46 different languages are used in its primary worship services.
- 2,286 new churches
- 107,194 new Nazarenes
- $1,366,992 (USD) given to WEF
- 179,275 conversions reported
- 96,761 baptisms
Mesoamerica Region reports 13 different languages are used in its primary worship services.
- 305 new churches
- 93,189 new Nazarenes
- $1,710,337 (USD) given to WEF
- 110,369 conversions reported
- 52,132 baptisms
South America Region reports 6 different languages are used in its primary worship services.
- 201 new churches
- 80,712 new Nazarenes
- $1,041,951 (USD) given to WEF
- 139,254 conversions reported
- 45,592 baptisms
USA/Canada Region reports 33 different languages are used in its primary worship services.
- 543 new churches
- 104,217 new Nazarenes
- $146,573,497 (USD) given to WEF
- 203,379 conversions reported
- 78,253 baptisms
- The combined total of all regions indicates a global membership of 2.5 million (2,471,553).
There were nearly 600 thousand (559,615) new Nazarenes received into our fellowship in the past four years.
Additionally, there were 840 thousand (840,402) conversions and just under 362 thousand (361,619) baptisms administered.
It is important to note that 74.1 percent of our total membership is now located in global mission areas outside of the USA/Canada. There are currently 66 countries in the 10/40 window, considered to be the most Gospel-resistant and least-Christianized areas in the world. The Church of the Nazarene has work in 40 of those countries.
We have officially entered three new nations during this quadrennium: Curacao, Mongolia, and Singapore. We hope to announce more countries soon.
Jesus is Lord!
Churches and Districts
We believe in the power of the local church. The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene states: “The local church, the Body of Christ, is the representation of our faith and mission” (Manual Preamble to Church Government). That is to say, we recognize that the Holy Spirit works from the bottom up, more than from the top down. Methodist Bishop Will Willimon aptly notes, “Jesus reserves his best work for the arena of the local church” (Willimon, Bishop, 143).
The end goal of our God called mission is HOLINESS CHURCH DEVELOPMENT – to plant and strengthen healthy, indigenous holiness churches everywhere.
The BGS has designated the definition of a church: “Any group that meets regularly for spiritual nurture, worship, or instruction at an announced time and place, with an identified leader, and aligned with the message and mission of the Church of the Nazarene may be recognized as a church and reported as such for district and general church statistics.”
To that end as of the writing of this report) in the past four years 2,964 new churches were organized, and 23 new districts were established, giving us a global grand total of 22,392 organized churches, and 471 districts around the world. Additionally, we currently have 8,182 churches not yet organized in the pipeline – nearly 37 percent more churches moving toward organization! We celebrate these gains as evidence of the blessing of God.
The USA/Canada Region is seeing the beginning of a church multiplication movement. Regional Director Robert Broadbooks reports that during the period of 2012–2016 the region saw 653 newly registered churches, more than any other five year period since 1955–1959. These new churches totaled nearly 16,000 in morning worship, realized 7,104 conversions, and accounted for $28.5 million total income. A New Church Prayer Force, 2,000 strong, is praying for 10,000 new churches by 2030.
Our pastors are some of the finest to be found anywhere. We continue to be amazed by the quality of Nazarenes that God is calling into the work. The BGS had the privilege of ordaining 3,060 women and men during the quadrennium, bringing the total to 17,848 elders and 820 deacons (18,668 total), with an additional 10,006 district licensed ministers. We also report 127 registered evangelists and 436 commissioned chaplains. We give thanks for these prophets, priests, and shepherds of the flock.
In the last four years the General Board commissioned 41 new missionaries. This brings our total to 700 missionaries from 50 different nations including 253 Global Serve long-term volunteers. Additionally, there are 309 missionary children and 285 short-term volunteers. When we add 9,208 Work and Witness volunteers in 2016, there are currently 10,502 Nazarene missionaries and volunteers serving somewhere in the world. We are a “sent” and a “sending” church.
New doors of opportunity require us to ask again: “What is a missionary?” BGS has determined that “A Nazarene missionary is a disciple of Christ set apart by the Holy Spirit, prayerfully sent out by the church, and affirmed by Global Mission to cross geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers for the purpose of incarnational engagement in God’s holistic transformation of all people.”
All Nazarene missionaries, regardless of their status, receive support from the World Evangelism Fund and Global Mission. There is no such thing as a Nazarene missionary that does not benefit from our giving and our structure.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit with an apostolic leader in a Creative Access Area. He pastors the largest evangelical church in a city of millions. Drawn to the message of holiness he affiliated his congregation years ago with the Church of the Nazarene, teaching our Articles of Faith and using our Manual to organize their ministry structure. He said to me, “I have attended two general assemblies and was moved by the March of the Nations, when flags from the countries where the Church of the Nazarene has work are brought in. But I have also been sad, because my country was not represented. I dream of the day when my country will be counted in that march.”
This past February, in an historic moment of great celebration, prayer, and some tears, the BGS had the privilege of commissioning a new specialized district in that nation. With it came a flag, and that flag was carried in our March of the Nations this past Thursday night.
Jesus is Lord!
The missionary program of the church has evolved over 109 years, and undoubtedly will continue to do so. Be assured that any restructuring will hold fast to the core ideals of mission engagement and our commitment to being a holiness and Great Commission church. We cling to the promise of the risen Christ who says, “I have placed before you an open door which no one can shut!” (Revelation 3:7)
The World Evangelism Fund continues to be the lifeline of our global mission.
In an effort to strengthen our “lifeline,” the BGS sponsored a “Funding the Mission” study over the course of this past quadrennium in conjunction with the General Board. The findings of this study were many, with several significant conclusions:
- Funding is not about raising more money; it is about fulfilling the mission.
- Personal connections are important. People do not simply give to projects, they give to people.
- There is a lack of clarity about the current “missionary paradigm” and who is responsible for raising the World Evangelism Fund within the general church.
- Nazarene beliefs about giving vary along generational lines.
As a result of that funding study, Global Mission Director Verne Ward and the Global Mission team (including a strong partnership with Nazarene Missions International) are working closely with the general superintendents to initiate and implement the Nazarene Missions Project. The goal is to reframe our missionary enterprise with special consideration given to the increasing interest in short-term missionary volunteers, the limitations of financial resources, and the need for greater unified communication to the entire church.
Nazarenes are a generous people. Total giving for the quadrennium amounted to $3.5 billion ($3,464,813,283). We say thank you for “excelling in this grace of giving” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
We need every church from every nation to be faithful in giving. We call on Nazarenes everywhere to rededicate themselves to our shared commitment of global evangelization.
All the ministries that follow are supported by and benefit greatly from your prayers and World Evangelism Fund giving. This is your report:
Nazarene Missions International
If the World Evangelism Fund is the lifeline of our mission, Nazarene Missions International is the mobilizing catalyst in the local church through praying, communicating, giving, and educating for missions support. We are thankful that as Nazarene missions continue to adapt for maximum impact.
Nazarene Youth International
Nazarene Youth International (NYI) is a dynamic and vital aspect of our global family. There has been a great deal of research and discussion about the impact of millennials (those reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century) on the church and the impact of the church on millennials. In our frequent interactions with young Nazarene leaders, both pastors and laity, we are greatly encouraged by their love for the church and their commitment to the holy life.
Recent studies indicate that 94 percent of Christians came to faith in Christ between the ages of 4–30 (85 percent between the ages of 4–14). And yet, in 2016, 24 percent of organized Churches of the Nazarene reported having no “youth” in their congregation. This should be of great concern to all of us.
Many lament the fact that some young adults are leaving the church, but many are also staying. Just as the church must ask why some are leaving, it is essential to discover why others choose to stay and then find ways to replicate those reasons in our local contexts.
Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International
Becoming like Christ is our prayerful aim for every Nazarene. Our desire is to develop holy practices that will help our people grow in grace and shape the life of Christ in them.
We have heard a cry from around the world for a strong, cross-cultural discipleship curriculum to assist in the spiritual development of the thousands who are coming to Christ. The BGS has responded to that cry by creating One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism: Essential Teachings for Faith Formation in the Church of the Nazarene. This Nazarene catechism is a global initiative involving scholars and language committees from every region of the world. We believe this will be key to the faith formation of our people from multiple cultures, and we encourage every church to avail itself of this excellent discipleship resource.
International Board of Education
Nazarenes have stressed the importance of Christian education from the beginning. We have invested, often sacrificially, because we consider schools of higher learning to be an integral part of the faith formation of our children. In 1923, General Superintendent H.F. Reynolds said: “The sacrifice by faculty and students [in our schools] will go down in history as one of the great assets of our movement.” That prophecy has been fulfilled. Today the International Board of Education for the Church of the Nazarene has 52 colleges, universities, and seminaries in 35 countries with a total student population of approximately 52,000. We give God praise!
Nazarene Compassionate Ministries
The Church of the Nazarene is engaged around the world in compassionate, transformational ministry through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM). NCM exists to mobilize local churches everywhere to live out Christ’s call to care for “the least of these” in their communities. Over the past four years, NCM has supported the efforts of local churches and districts in responding to 40 natural disasters and emergency situations including the Ebola crisis in West Africa. More than 195 church-led development projects provided food security, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. Additionally, efforts were made in economic development, health care, HIV and AIDS ministries, and work to lift up women and girls and to fight against human trafficking.
Over the past four years, more than 19,000 children have gained education, health care, life skills, and spiritual formation through 164 Nazarene child development centers in 37 different countries. Nearly 12,000 of those children are also receiving support through NCM’s child sponsorship program. Through support of Nazarenes around the world, these children are now connected to local Nazarene congregations.
Six years of war in Syria have destroyed communities and torn families apart. In that time, more than 11 million people have been displaced from their homes due to violence and persecution. Five million people have gone to other countries where they are now living as refugees.
While many only started paying attention to this refugee crisis in the past few years, the Church of the Nazarene has been engaged in caring for refugees since the crisis began. Since the war in Syria began, local churches in Jordan and Lebanon have regularly provided food and household supplies for more than 3,000 families living as refugees. Four Nazarene schools in Jordan and Lebanon have been providing education for more than 400 children displaced by the war in Syria. This was possible because Nazarenes around the world gave toward scholarship funds to embrace these children.
JESUS Film Harvest Partners
This year JESUS Film Harvest Partners (JFHP) is celebrating 20 years of transforming hearts and lives around the world. Since this initiative began, JESUS film has reached a milestone of 14 million decisions for Christ. Of those 14 million, 22 percent were in the last four years – 3 million conversions! Since 2013 JESUS film teams have done 118,895 presentations, allowing nearly 13 million to view the film. Over 2 million people have received discipleship follow-up.
Nazarene Publishing House
Nazarene Publishing House (NPH) has served our church for 105 years and continues to be the world’s largest publisher of Wesleyan-Holiness literature. After facing some operational and fiscal challenges, NPH has made great strides toward regaining financial stability. Actions to stabilize the company and the launch of new products have resulted in operating income in the black over the last two years.
With a primary focus to serve the Church of the Nazarene, NPH will, in February 2018, rebrand itself to the wider Wesleyan-Holiness community as The Foundry Publishing — a place where faith is forged.
Recommendations from the BGS
I count it a personal privilege to work alongside five highly motivated, uniquely gifted, Spirit-led servant leaders. They have become more than colleagues; they are friends.
Our board will miss the strong, perceptive, and creative leadership of Drs. Jerry Porter and J. K. Warrick. Their combined 32 years of service in the general superintendency has been a gift to the entire church.
The request of the 2013 General Assembly to study the Future of the General Superintendency has been fulfilled in this quadrennium. We express our deep appreciation to General Superintendents Emeriti, Drs. Jim L. Bond and Jesse C. Middendorf, for leading a task force to consider this important issue.
We strongly affirm the need for the general superintendency to remain as one of the three visible reflections of unity in the International Church of the Nazarene, along with the General Assembly and General Board; that ordination and global itineracy are integral to the role of a present and future general superintendency; and that the projected growth of the denomination only increases the need for an incarnational jurisdictional presence of the general superintendents.
And so we prayerfully and humbly submit the following in service to the church:
Recommendation No. 1: Nazarene Essentials
Fully one-third (approximately 800,000) of our membership has come in the last 10 years. Every region requested basics of our church’s teaching, history, theology, mission, funding, and interdependent connections to be provided in a brief and easily understood and accessible publication. The BGS introduced Nazarene Essentials in 2014 in order to help the church understand “who we are” (identity) and “what we do” (mission). The response has been overwhelmingly positive from pastors, educators, and laypersons alike. Thanks to the diligence of our translation teams, it is now available in 33 languages with others on the way.
Recommendation No. 2: Articles of Faith
The Church of the Nazarene has determined that our Articles of Faith are the centering point, anchoring the church in the midst of ever-changing philosophies and beliefs.
The 2013 General Assembly voted that the BGS appoint a group to study various Articles of Faith over the quadrennium. Composed of some of our finest theologians and pastors, the study group met on several occasions to review and recommend revisions. We have received their work, and after careful examination, we believe that the revisions strengthen the Articles, and we are recommending them to the General Assembly for adoption. We want to be clear that these resolutions are not a redefinition of our doctrine, but a restating of it for greater clarity. The Articles of Faith have been translated into 44 languages, with two more in the final process.
Recommendation No. 3: Human Sexuality and Marriage?
The BGS appointed a global group of Nazarene theologians, ethicists, pastors, psychologists, and counselors to study our Manual statements, prepare a position paper, and propose legislation on human sexuality from a Wesleyan-Holiness perspective. The Covenant of Christian Conduct Study Committee was composed of thirteen people with representation from every region of the church. Conversations about human sexuality are some of the most important and challenging the church faces in this generation. These conversations were “full of grace and truth.” The BGS has received their work with gratitude and wholeheartedly commend it to this General Assembly with our full support.
Because every word of the legislation has been carefully vetted, and to change any part can nuance the meaning of the whole, we request the General Assembly to consider adopting the legislation as a whole, or to reject it, without editing from the assembly floor.
Whatever we decide to say as a denomination, let us say it with the tone of perfect love. Let our actions extend generous hospitality befitting the people called Nazarenes.
Recommendation No. 4: Urban Ministry
Historian Rodney Stark states, “All ambitious missionary movements are, or soon become, urban” (Rodney Stark, Cities of God).
The BGS has a growing sense of urgency for the work of the church in the urban context. The World Health Organization projects that by 2030, six out of every ten people will live in a city; and by 2050 this proportion will increase to seven out of ten people. These projections will double the global urban population to 6.4 billion people. The Asia-Pacific Region of the Church of the Nazarene reports 153 cities over one million with a Christian witness of 5 percent or less.
We must lead with mission rather than structure. With the help of Global Mission, we have already convened urban consultations and forums to begin this discussion. Every region has identified ten megacities to help extend missional focus. The world is our parish. As Timothy Keller aptly says, “As cities go, so goes the world.”
Phineas Bresee wrote in his journal, “It had been my long cherished desire to have a place in the heart of the city, which could be made a center of holy fire, and where the gospel could be preached to the poor.” Join us in praying for centers of holy fire in every city of your region.
Recommendation No. 5: Vision 2020
Vision 2020 projects a goal of 3.5 million total members, with 2.5 million in worship attendance, 2.5 million in discipleship attendance, in 50,000 churches. Every region has embraced this vision, and many hundreds of churches and districts have asked God to do something unique.
This will require a renewed emphasis of intentional holiness evangelism. We will need a new heart that integrates both Word and deed.
A Movement of God
Can we become a movement again?
We are living in unprecedented times. There are seismic cultural shifts affecting every continent on earth. In two decades we have seen the shift from industrial to information – from Gutenberg to Google; from rural to urban; from modern thinking to post-modern thinking. It is a hinge of history that our grandparents and those before them could never have imagined. We will not return to what once was.
We are in mostly uncharted waters. We appreciate the legacy of John Wesley, but Wesley alone will not do. We are grateful for the vision of Phineas Bresee, but Bresee alone will not do. We have to go back to the first Nazarene, Jesus. He is our calibration point. We must “re-Jesus” the church. Too much is at stake for anything less. The seed of the future is in the womb of the present (Hirsch).
This kind of movement thinking will require a radical discipleship at every level of the church. It will require us to make mission our organizing principle. It will require us to believe that Jesus really is Lord and to have the strength and courage to act on it.
Nazarene Essentials are helpful but not enough. Thankfully we have THE Nazarene essential: Jesus is Lord! And we are not afraid. We are radical optimists of the grace of God and “prisoners of hope” (Zechariah 9:12).
Hope has a Name.
He is Emmanuel – God with us.
He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
He is our Great High Priest.
He is our Deliverer.
He is the Light of the World.
He is the Chief Cornerstone.
He is the Head of the Church.
He is faithful and true.
He is the Alpha and the Omega.
He is the Resurrection and the Life.
Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).
Prayerfully and respectfully submitted,
Board of General Superintendents
Church of the Nazarene
Jerry D. Porter
J. K. Warrick
Eugénio R. Duarte
David W. Graves
David A. Busic
Gustavo A. Crocker
All scripture references are from the NIV.
Holiness Today, Sept/Oct 2017