Lengthening shadows and shorter days characterize the month of October in the northern hemisphere. For those living in places where daylight savings time is observed, October is the month when the time change occurs. We "fall back" to "normal" time. Sunset occurs earlier in the evening, and dawn, at least early in the month, disturbs our sleep. But October is also a time when the church is abuzz with activity.
Sunday School is at its peak! Children's and youth activities jam the church calendar. Classes are growing, teachers are challenged, new families are getting involved, and new believers are weeping their way into the Kingdom. There is hardly anything more exciting than a growing church and Sunday School in autumn.
That is, unless you are in the southern hemisphere where October presents lengthening days and warmer breezes. It is springtime, and the church is abuzz with activity. Sunday School is at its peak! Children's and youth activities jam the church calendar. And, again, classes are growing, teachers are challenged, new families are getting involved, and new believers are weeping their way into the Kingdom.
There is, you see, nothing more exciting than a growing church and Sunday School in springtime! That is the way it is in the Church of the Nazarene. The work of the Kingdom is going on in different places, in many different cultures, and in almost 200 languages.
It is easy for Nazarenes all over the world to assume that the church is the same for everyone else as it is for us. Well, it is and it isn't.
The message is the same, and the mission is the same, but the setting, the culture, even the seasons of the year are different—sometimes dramatically so! I have experienced something of the vast diversity that characterizes our church over the last three years. I have found it to be a richly textured mosaic of methods and approaches, styles and traditions. Much of our work is beautifully conditioned by the cultures in which the church operates.
Buildings reflect the styles and designs of the locale; the apparel of worshippers and visitors reflects the cultural setting. Music styles vary widely, often including both interesting adaptations of North American and European melodies and texts, as well as the unique tones, texts, and harmonies of the church's cultural setting.
And yet, in the midst of all the diversity and the cultural conditioning, there remains this constant and healthy emphasis around the globe: We are a people of hope and holiness, of compassion and evangelistic zeal. I have seen the banners and slogans in hundreds of assemblies and conventions, in churches and in camps. For this quadrennium, our global theme is the same everywhere: "Jesus—The Hope!" *
Nazarene Missions International is passionately promoting world evangelism in every culture, their recognizable themes and colors adorning walls in churches of every size. Sunday School is "Making the Connection" in many languages, and Nazarene Youth International is emphasizing to youth of all lands that in Christ, we are "One!" And rising above it all is that round Nazarene seal-in many places, the most recognizable single church sign you will see.
In some places it stands out as a bold and courageous statement of hope and purpose. "Holiness Unto the Lord," it proclaims. That is still the message! Today! Without that message, we have no mission! And without our mission, we have no message! Whatever October presents to you, live the message, fulfill the mission!
Jesse C. Middendorf is general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
*Holiness Today, September/October 2004