In a previous issue of Holiness Today, we posed the question: Where do we go from here? I would like to suggest the consideration of five key areas and some possible responses.
In order for a GPS to work properly, one first needs to know the present location and desired destination. Where are we as the Church of the Nazarene?
Over our history, we have asked this question in numerous conferences, revivals, books, and assemblies. And the follow-up question is where are we going?
Our journey in the coming decades of our second century may truly be demanding. It will take us through the thickets, badlands, and deserts of increasing secularization, global instability, and widespread change in the spiritual health of the West. Such a journey will require us to be spiritually fit, carrying less of the flab of materialism, and focused on the "critical few" described in our three core values: Christian, Holiness, and Missional.
Second, we must address the economics of being an international church committed to global evangelism, church development, and the discipleship of believers. An era of financial collapses and the mantra, "too big to fall," has taught us lessons that underscore fiscal responsibility. The General Assembly has responded to the needs of local churches by both standardizing the local church formula and lowering the amount for World Evangelism Fund commitments. The pressures this has exerted on global evangelism are not insignificant. We must combine aggressive economic policies that reflect biblical stewardship with frugal behaviors that build on the symbiotic relationships between global mission and individual stewardship.
Third, the Church of the Nazarene is growing-not everywhere, nor in equal proportions-yet the record is undebatable. Membership, attendance, and the number of local churches are growing around the world. But this too raises questions. With our presence in 156 world areas, perhaps the time has come to think of continued growth and enlargement in terms of missional enterprise areas, collaboration experiments, and new ministry efficiencies.
The mission never changes: To make Christlike disciples in the nations. Our methods, however, must respond to ever-changing realities and the opportunities they present us. After all, we are not the only Wesleyan-Holiness group bringing hope through transformation in Christ to this world.
Fourth, whenever an organization is thriving, its adherents are often so busily employed in the mission of the organization that they have little time for critical discourse and introspection. In some areas, the luxuries of spiraling advantages and the paucity of persecution have combined to give us the luxury of nit-picking and criticism.
Handing off the church to successive generations is fraught with both danger and opportunity. We of the older generation need to step back and think about the future of the church we're handing off. We need to fear change less, affirm our focus on the essentials of our message and identity, and release a new generation to imaginatively explore and innovate for new relevance as a missional people in the world.
Finally, a word about being connectional: May our pastors rediscover the center that binds us together in the missional command of Jesus to make disciples throughout the world.
At the same time our Global Ministry Center seeks to strengthen connections with the periphery as more than partners, but as members of an indissoluble family in Christ, committed to His ministry. In this way perhaps we can reconstitute our beloved church for the future and answer the question, "Where do we go from here?"
David J. Felter, editor in chief
Holiness Today, March/April 2011