The Church of the Nazarene is a global church. Consequently, every district, local congregation, and member forms a fragment of that global structure. Together more than 2 million Nazarenes all over the world shape who we are as a global body. That is a beautiful thought—and at the same time a frightening one.
It’s beautiful because it reflects in so many ways the kingdom of God and gives us a glimpse of heaven. It’s frightening because here on earth it seems to mainly cause aggravation with the potential for undesirable consequences.
We are faced with different cultures, contexts, backgrounds, political views, moral standards, social and economical standings, opinions and convictions. Biblical interpretations and theological assumptions are shaped by all that, and more.
Do you feel the tension?
Just what is the advantage of being a global church? Why is it important that every member, every local church and every district are aware of being a global church, and fervently practice being a global church?
A global church is a beautiful field of tension, caused by the worldwide fellowship of believers’ very diversity. And that tension is our greatest strength.
Typically, our human tendency in encountering conflict caused by differences is either to fight or run. Both responses are born out of fear because we attempt to avoid the unfamiliar. We prefer the discovered—the known—and feel threatened by the unknown. We tend to hold on to known contexts (our comfort zones) even if that locks us into opinions derived from our social setting. Sometimes this safe living means we lose grasp of our essentials in a cultural sea of non-essentiality.
But while we might endure in the confinement of a known context, we are surrounded by this beautiful field of tension that invites a global church to step out in faith. We venture beyond our personal margins. Stepping out is difficult because in life, every step we make that will gain us something will also cost us something. We have to surrender the known to enter into the unknown to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture.
When we leave our comfort zone we enter into the field of tension. Suddenly, our space increases. In that space some of our convictions might find themselves under pressure. We might feel immediately compelled to withdraw to the safety of extremes. In many cases residing in the comfort of extremes is equal to avoidance. Avoidance is stagnation of growth for an individual, a congregation, and a global church.
But what eventually happens in that field of tension is that while we surrender the known we gain wider perspectives, we discover new things, we see God actively being at work in so many different ways, and we experience the Holy Spirit encountering us in new ways.
A holiness church can invite people from all nations to experience transformation.
Isn’t that part of our essential theology of holiness? Our character and being in Christ expands and grows through discovering the treasure that only diversity can reveal. It is in that very space that holiness is fostered, enabled, and empowered through the Spirit. Through His grace, we learn to love well people unlike ourselves. Otherwise we cease to endure as a holiness church.
We therefore need this tension because it is our greatest strength. It is where the status quo—the known and the familiar—is challenged to be transformed into the image of Jesus the King. I believe that it is essential to our holiness theology that we remain in this beautiful field of tension. It is there that a holiness church can invite people from all nations to experience transformation.
Dennis Mohn is the senior pastor of Church of the Nazarene Vlaardingen, Netherlands.