The time for celebration is at hand. In just a few weeks, the Church of the Nazarene will reach its Centennial.
As 1.7 million Nazarenes gather in more than 20,000 congregations in 151 world areas, we will celebrate 100 years of holiness evangelism. We will celebrate our message of salvation by grace and a life of holiness through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We will celebrate our mission: To make Christlike disciples in the nations.
Seven short words define our celebration of the past, focus our present energies, and embrace our future. Seven short words compel us to fulfill the Great Commission. Those vital words lead us to share the gospel with people like Dulces Chavez: To make Christlike disciples in the nations.
The foreword of the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene says it a little more fully:
Our well-defined commission is to preserve and propagate Christian holiness as set forth in the Scriptures, through the conversion of sinners, the reclamation of backsliders, and the entire sanctification of believers.
In any language, making Christlike disciples is who we are and what we do. When the church first found Dulces Chavez, he was on the wrong side of the law. As an undocumented resident in the U.S., he had been arrested and convicted
and was serving a sentence in the prison at Leavenworth, Kansas. Some good laypeople from College Church of the Nazarene in Olathe, Kansas, had expressed their interest in a prison ministry. Perhaps they will go to a local jail or a juvenile detention center, I thought. But no, they stepped out in faith and began at the top—ministry in a federal prison. There they sang and preached about Jesus Christ and His power to forgive sin.
Dulces heard their message and, more importantly, he heard the soft voice of the Holy Spirit drawing him to repentance and faith. He was wonderfully converted and soon sanctified through and through as the God of peace cleansed his heart from sin and filled him with the Holy Spirit. Under the tutelage of retired elder Marvin Powers, Dulces expressed an interest in joining the Church of the Nazarene, a church he had never attended. It was unorthodox, but we received this converted prisoner into the fellowship of the church. Soon Dulces professed a call to preach, and Marvin approached me about giving him a local preacher's license. I was doubtful, but when I presented this request to the church board, they enthusiastically granted that ministerial license. An incarcerated person who had never attended a Nazarene church was now both a member and a licensed local preacher!
Sometime later, Dulces returned to Mexico, his home country. I felt I would never hear of him again. But after I became a general superintendent with jurisdiction in the Mexico and Central America Region, my wife, Patty, and I traveled to Juarez for the North Mexico District assembly. To our amazement, one of the ordained elders on that district who stood to report to the assembly was none other than Dulces Chavez! The man who came to faith in Christ in a Kansas prison, through the ministry of Nazarenes committed to making Christlike disciples in the nations, was now planting churches and leading people to faith in Christ in his homeland.
Around the world stories of others like Dulces are multiplied over and over. People who had never heard about God's love have come to know forgiveness of sin and the infilling of the Holy Spirit through the ministries of the Church of the Nazarene. Faithful contributions of Nazarenes worldwide to the World Evangelism Fund are sending people to make this possible. Our mission is not merely to sustain the life of an organization. Our mission is to make Christlike disciples in the nations, and most often we do that one person at a time!
This October, as we mark 100 years of holiness evangelism, let us embrace our future opportunities to make Christlike disciples. We have much to celebrate. I'll be celebrating Dulces Chavez. Who is your Dulces?
J. K. Warrick is a general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, Sept/Oct 2008