Prayer of Adoration

Father, we humble ourselves before you today in the name of Jesus. We praise you because you’re worthy of all glory and honor. You’re a good Father. You’re a God who makes all things possible. You make miraculous promises that always flow from your goodness and grace. We praise you, Father, because you provide love, joy, and peace that surpasses our ability to comprehend.

Father, we praise you that you’ve made us citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are not of this world. You promise a life ruled by a King who loves and cares for every person, everywhere, all the time. Your love is so expansive, beyond our ability to grasp. We adore you, Father.

We praise you that you’re faithful in fulfilling all of your promises. We praise you, God, that you have the power to ensure that not one word of your promises ever fails to accomplish your purposes. We praise you that even when we frustrate your intentions toward us with our sin, distractions, and waywardness, that you love us anyway. You love us so much that you cause all things to work together for good for those who love you and are called according to your purposes (Rom. 8:28).

We praise you for Jesus; He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. He is Emmanuel, God with Us. We praise you that we can have complete confidence in your promises through Christ, including the promise that one day we will see our Lord face-to-face in all His glory.

We praise you, Father, that Jesus is our everything and our all. He is the Rose of Sharon, the Lilly of the Valley, the Bright Morning Star, and the Fairest of Ten Thousand to My Soul. Jesus is the Righteous Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, and the Second Person of the Trinity enthroned in eternity.

We adore Jesus. He is the Great “I AM.” Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door to the Sheepfold, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the only True Vine. We praise you, Father, that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the One who was, and who is, and who is to come.

We praise you, Father, that Jesus came down from Heaven on the first Advent, lived His life fully human, yet fully divine. He was tempted in every way just as we are; yet lived a sinless life and paid a debt on the cross that we were unable to pay. He took the sin of the entire world upon Himself.

We praise your holy name, Father, that the veil was torn from top to bottom. Direct access has been granted. We can come boldly before the throne of grace and obtain mercy, and discover grace to help in our times of need, which is continually (Heb. 4:16). We glorify you, Father, that on the third day Jesus rose from the grave, He ascended to heaven, and continues to make intercession for us even now. We eagerly anticipate the second Advent of Jesus and we honor you in advance for the eternal reign of His Kingdom.

We praise you, Father, that though we like sheep have gone astray, rejected your plan for our lives, and refused to give thanks for your provision, you’ve promised us an eternity under your perfect rule where justice and mercy will reign forever. We praise you that we are promised the hope of an eternal destiny where we will abide in the manifest glory and presence of Jesus forever.

We praise you, God, that you’ve done everything necessary for the promises of your Word to come to fulfillment in tangible ways in our lives. We praise you that you’ve sent Jesus to seal the covenant of your promises in His own blood, so that we may have confidence that, though our sins are scarlet, you will wash them white as snow.

Father, we praise you for the presence of the Holy Spirit. We praise you for the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit as they manifest themselves in and through our lives. We thank you that the Holy Spirit still sanctifies and instructs us toward a life of holiness. We praise you, Father, that every blessing we receive from your hand stems from the overflow of your grace and goodness as displayed in the life of Jesus and made known to us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God!

We pray all these things in the most holy and precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and for His eternal glory.

Amen.

Spirit of the AgeThe “world” is a spirit or a force that opposes, attacks, and outright rejects the Spirit of Christ. Don’t be fooled by the spirit of this present age, it’s not good. In fact, Scripture teaches that the spirit of the world is antichrist: “Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:3).

When a society becomes addicted to comfort and consumed by wealth, it enters into a state of self-indulgence where its citizens are overcome with the spirit of the world: pride, lust, greed, vanity, violence and the likes. The current condition of America affirms the truth of Jesus’ words, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).

When feeding the flesh becomes the primary ambition of a given society, individualism replaces any real sense of community. In this state, God is essentially forgotten. This is what’s happening in America right now.

Our corporate conscience is seared. We are desensitized. Nothing’s shocking. Bloodshed doesn’t faze us. We live with a sense of entitlement. We don’t believe in boundaries. Nothing’s off limits. We demand privilege. We fight over politics as if we can legislate righteousness. We offer shallow condolences and “prayers” in light of tragedies like the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, the worst in our nation’s history, yet after a few days life goes on as usual.

We have everything we need; we actually have a lot more than we need. In our attempts to gain the world I’m afraid we’re losing our soul (Matthew 16:26). Evidence of this is an increasing lack of satisfaction. We medicate our emptiness with drugs, alcohol, porn, shopping, gambling, sex, cutting, overeating, television, video games, work, and various other addictive behaviors. Looking for fulfillment, we become ever more empty. Some end up so empty that their last resort is sitting in a hotel room with an automatic machine gun opening fire on people before taking their own life.

In all of our alleged enlightenment, the fabric of American society is being stripped away. The spirit of the world is deceiving the masses. Our insensitivity to sin and unwillingness to confront it has left us near reprobate. We believe if we pass the right laws that “love” will become the chief expression of the human heart. We think we can end systemic evil with never-ending conversations about human rights. We believe fighting for social justice will bring real change in people’s hearts. We’re delusional.

It’s impossible to legislate depravity. Sin is the condition of the human heart, and it’s a spiritual condition. Outside of leading people to a personal life-transforming relationship with Jesus, there is no hope. No amount of dialogue, reasoning, legislation, protesting, or social justice will ever eradicate the sin that feeds on the spirit of this present age. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be involved in these things, it’s only to point out that they don’t offer a solution to the sin problem.

There’s only one answer, and we don’t like to talk about Him very much anymore. In fact, we’ve all but kicked Him out of the country. We’ve disguised self-righteousness with political correctness and made it near impossible to invoke the name of Jesus in the public square.

Conservatives think if they create wealth and economic growth then everyone will be happy because money makes people happy, right? Wrong. Liberals live under the illusion of legislating a sense of equality because passing the right laws will erase the lines that divide us and bring peace, right? Wrong. Neither of these imaginary utopias can remedy the problems of our nation.

In fact, the current Republican Party is so far removed from conservative values that many have labeled them the “new liberals.” And the Democrats are nothing more than social elitists who don’t even speak the language of common people anymore. They’re socialists at best and communists at worst.

Without a deep sense of repentance all of our marching, protesting, propagating, tweeting, posting, politicizing, and debating is waste of time. We can create imaginary enemies all day long, but the real enemy isn’t flesh and blood. Remember, Lucifer was also a social justice warrior fighting for his rights in the heavenlies.

The power of the Kingdom comes in the form of a person. Yet, in America, we’re forced to pray publically without citing His name. Even in times of tragedy, we play the political-correct card because we don’t want to upset those who practice other religions. Think about that, we claim to worship the One who is the way, the truth, and the life, yet we’re afraid to invoke His name in the presence of those who bow down to idols, demons, and false gods.

As long as the spirit of this present age continues to gain ground our words, condolences, and prayers mean nothing. If they aren’t directed to the One who holds the keys to life then they’re vanishing in the air as soon as they leave our lips. We know the truth, yet because of the hostility of this age, we’re afraid to speak.

Beyond the social and political spheres, the spirit of antichrist has also invaded the ranks of the church. By and large, the progressives within the church align with the liberal political agenda of the day and call it the gospel, and the conservatives do the same with the Republican platform. No political party will ever change the spiritual climate of this nation, that’s the church’s job.

Revival is our only hope: A Great Awakening. An authentic move of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that’s going to heal our land. Until we become courageous enough to look the world in the face and proclaim: “Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life, and nothing changes until we turn back to Him,” our dilemma will only worsen.

Make no mistake, the spirit of the age steers the ship that is the United States of America. Revival is the only hope for a better tomorrow. Let’s unite, humble ourselves, and pray for the Lord of all Creation to heal our land.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

prodigalDialogue is important. It’s healthy to discuss issues, express convictions, and voice opinions prayerfully. However, when dialogue leads to continually questioning biblical truth it becomes problematic. The reason for this is there are certain teachings that are so central to Christian faith and practice that there’s no need to debate them. In fact, we shouldn’t debate them according to scripture.

The biblical expression for those who keep debating sound biblical doctrine is “morbid questioning.” This phrase appears in the New Testament as a sign of false teaching infiltrating the church (1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:23). There are several passages, but 1 Timothy 1:3-11 illustrates this point well. These verses provide a list of “strange teachings” that directly oppose sound biblical doctrine concerning a right relationship with God.

The list in 1 Timothy 1 includes lawlessness, rebelliousness, ungodliness, sinners (e.g. justification of willful and habitual sin), the unholy and profane, killing of fathers or mothers (e.g. hatred and rejection of authorities), murderers (e.g. hatred of our brothers/sisters), sexually immoral, practicing homosexuals, kidnappers (e.g. the basis of the slave trade), liars (e.g. those who intentionally deceive) and perjurers (e.g. those who distort the truth).

What I have experienced among people who want to “dialogue” is it usually means they want to spend time specifically debating the things 1 Timothy 1:3-11 says not to debate, or even question for that matter. You don’t have to spend much time in certain online “discussion groups” to find ordained pastors debating these very issues. Essentially, it’s an endeavor that undermines scriptural authority. This should concern us, especially when it’s allowed to continue without accountability.

The church needs to lovingly stand firm on these biblical issues. We should absolutely refuse to allow cultural shifts and human reasoning to sway us in our doctrinal positions. Sound biblical doctrine is not up for debate; it never has been and it never will be for those who are sincere about following Jesus.

“Love” is the very thing we keep hearing will be gained through this ongoing dialogue. The irony is 1 Timothy 1:5-6 teaches that “love” is what we lose when we compromise sound doctrine. In fact, minimalizing the effects of sin is the most unloving thing we could ever do. According to 1 Timothy 1, minimalizing sin reduces one’s ability to grasp the fact that God is our only source of hope and deliverance.

The following is a true story that gives us a glimpse into the far-reaching consequences of the ongoing debate of sound doctrine and biblical truth.


A True Story

In January 2016 Crossroads Tabernacle in Fort Worth, TX began praying for prodigals to return to faith in Christ. Much to their surprise, within a few weeks of focusing specifically on prodigals, a young man walked into the church that hadn’t been seen in years. Unfortunately, he was in very bad shape. He was mentally unstable, drug addicted, HIV positive, and desperately lost.

The good news is that in a very short time God rescued this young man, delivered him from his sin and shame, set him free from his addictions, restored him to his right mind, and healed his body. Today, he is pursuing a call to full-time ministry. Pastor Corey Jones and the people of Crossroads Tabernacle celebrate the miracle that God has performed in this young man’s life.

In October 2016 at The Awakening: A National Prayer Conference, Pastor Corey shared his church’s burden for prodigals and invited others to come forward and pray for their lost loved ones. More than 800 came forward out of the over 1,000 in attendance. Over the next three days, people wrote the names of their lost loved ones on a canvass portrait representing prodigal children that had abandoned the Christian faith.

Since the conference, the prodigal portrait has had numerous names added by people all over the nation. Beyond the sadness of the many names covering the portrait, an even more painful truth is that a large percentage of these prodigals are pastor’s kids. We’ve discovered that we are literally fighting for the sons and daughters of countless pastors, evangelists, and leaders in the Church of the Nazarene and beyond. While this reality is sad enough, the consequences are even more profound.

Most of these prodigals aren’t simply struggling with their faith; they’ve completely abandoned it. In the last few years, Pastor Corey has kept a written record of these pastors and their lost children so he could pray more specifically. Of the pastors who have openly shared, the majority goes on to explain the nature of their kid’s choices after walking away from their faith. Specifically, large percentages of these prodigals currently profess to be atheists and/or practicing homosexuals, and the list continues to grow.

You can imagine the heartache of these pastors. Many have shared that they feel demoralized, defeated, and are contemplating leaving ministry altogether. One pastor indicated that every time he preaches he feels the taunts of the enemy harassing him and telling him that the gospel he preaches has no power to save even his own kids. Most of these ministers have no idea that this same attack is affecting so many other pastors and their families.

It’s actually even more disturbing. Another aspect of this battle is that a large percentage of these pastor’s kids had a call on their life to full-time ministry before turning away. In fact, when the data is compiled we’ve discovered that many of them attended one of our Nazarene universities to prepare for ministry. One pastor shared that his son, who went to a Nazarene school to be a pastor and is now an atheist, won’t allow him to mention Jesus’ name in his home.

This is not an attempt to place blame on anyone; it’s simply an effort to demonstrate that this isn’t a random obscure occurrence. Rather, it is more systemic and systematic than we realize, revealing a calculated scheme of the enemy against the church.

Why share this so publicly? Several reasons: (1) To let pastors know they’re not alone in the battle; (2) To call the church to pray for a revival that reaches the hearts of prodigals and restores them to faith; (3) To identify the schemes of Satan to destroy a generation; (4) To call for accountability for the “strange teachings” in our pulpits and universities; (5) To offer hope to all who are praying for their children to return to faith in Christ.

Over the past few years numerous prodigals, who had once abandoned the faith, have been restored to a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ! There are also a growing number of people who walked away from the faith and identified as homosexual, who are now testifying to experiencing complete deliverance through an encounter with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

In Isaiah 49 there is a promise that many of us are claiming as we pray for prodigals. We invite you to join us in this battle: “Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives be rescued from the fierce? But this is what the LORD says: ‘Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save’” (Isaiah 49:24-25).

We are contending against a culture of “morbid questioning” and the Lord is contending with us! Strange teachings are causing our children to turn away from the faith and be taken captive by idle talk and continual debate (1 Timothy 1). We live in an age that believes nothing is settled and truth is relative. Nonetheless, we rejoice in the midst of this unbelieving generation over the fact that God is still calling prodigals home.


(Sources: Pastor Corey Jones of Crossroads Tabernacle, used with permission; 1WordSword Blog, adapted with permission)

 

Static - Dan Bohi

Growing up, on Saturday mornings my brother and I would pour ourselves a gigantic bowl of cereal and lay in the floor in front of the television watching cartoons. We had the rabbit ears antenna on our television set; if they weren’t aimed in the right direction static interfered with the signal. However, we were usually enjoying our cereal too much to actually get up, walk over to the TV, and adjust the antenna. Thus, we grew accustomed to watching cartoons with static.

Static distorts our ability to see clearly. It’s the same in our relationships with people.

There’s a name in Nazarene circles that elicits a lot of relational static. People hear the name and typically either respond with endearment and support or with opposition and skepticism. I’ve heard the conversations, followed the online discussions, and been privy to the criticism that undermines this man’s ministry and defames his reputation. Until recently, I have largely remained silent because for many years I too was a skeptic.

Let’s back up a few years… In February 2011, he was one of the plenary speakers for the Church of the Nazarene’s M11 Conference in Louisville, KY. Up to that point, he had been preaching around the country, but the M11 Conference was the first time many of us heard him. The word on the street was that God was using this man in a mighty way. Therefore, the leaders of the denomination asked him to speak at M11.

I was in attendance at the now infamous Tuesday morning service. In fact, I was a presenter at a workshop at the conference. I remember him preaching a bit long that day. His sermon was too “Pentecostal” for some of us well-versed Nazarenes. He talked about a baptism of fire, a fresh anointing, miracles and healing, signs and wonders, and spiritual breakthrough. He even had the nerve to say that his sermon would probably interfere with the afternoon workshop schedule. That really got under my skin… Who did this guy think he was?

I remember standing at the back of the auditorium as people went forward to pray after the service had already exceeded the hour and a half mark. I watched high-level leaders, including District and General Superintendents, fall to their knees crying out to God. In fact, the front of the auditorium was filled with people praying for the Holy Spirit to fall fresh on the church.

As for me, I just stood there… and I wasn’t alone.

There I was, in a room full of church leaders praying for revival, yet I was offended because the service was infringing on the workshop schedule that afternoon. I thought to myself, this guy isn’t even a licensed evangelist; he’s just a layman. Who gave him the right to speak with such authority?

There I stood, sorting through my feelings about this “strange occurrence” at a Nazarene conference. Then my attention turned to the back of the room. While the front was filled with people on their knees weeping and crying out to God, the back of the room was filled with skeptics. These folks were sitting in the bleachers with folded arms and disgruntled looks on their faces.

Then something else caught my attention.

One of my closest friends was about thirty feet away from me on his knees with his hands in the air and tears streaming down his face. We had traveled to M11 together. There we were in the same room; I was conflicted and he was worshipping Jesus. The image of my friend worshipping so freely brought tears to my eyes; however, my pride quickly stepped in and dried them up for me. Although I was standing in the aisle, in my spirit, I was sitting with the disgruntled folks sneering from the bleachers.

When the service finally ended, my friend and I walked out of the auditorium together. He was overflowing with joy, saying, “That was so good! This is exactly what we’ve been praying for. Praise the Lord.” While he was rejoicing, I was trying to hide the fact that I was annoyed.

I left M11 confused about the direction of the Church of the Nazarene. I felt like I wanted revival as much as anyone. I’d been reading a lot about the beginning of our movement and praying for the spirit of our forerunners to be unleashed in this generation. In fact, I’d been praying for another Great Awakening for over a decade; I longed for that kind of spiritual revitalization. Nonetheless, I thought I knew what it would look like when it arrived, and I’d determined that what we experienced at M11 wasn’t it.

Fast-forward… In 2013 while sitting in my office I received an interesting phone call. On the other end of the line was none other than the guy who’d caused so much controversy at the M11 Conference. I remember feeling anxious about talking to him. This was the guy that messed up the workshops and irritated a lot of people back in 2011. This was the guy that many were calling a “false prophet.”

As we talked, God began to reveal some things to me that I wasn’t even aware of. In those moments my heart began to soften toward this man. I didn’t realize it, but I was harboring resentment toward him and his ministry. I was still upset over the events that transpired three years prior. While we were on the phone tears began streaming down my face.

This guy shared stories about how the Holy Spirit was moving in churches all over the country. He shared the vision God laid on his heart to wake up the church. As I listened I found myself agreeing with him. I began to realize that I had judged him based on a religious spirit of offense. After that conversation, we spoke on the phone several more times over the course of a year. Each time we talked God revealed more about how I had allowed feelings of resentment to distort my perception of someone that I was beginning to consider a friend.

After the third or fourth conversation, I fully recognized that I’d sinned against my brother. Although he didn’t know about the negative feelings I’d been concealing, it was weighing heavy on my heart. My ability to see this man for who he really was had been impaired by spiritual “static.”

I judged Dan Bohi without knowing Dan Bohi.

Over the years I’ve taken the time to get to know Dan. Today, I consider him a dear brother. In January 2016, I was at a retreat with about forty other leaders. One evening God provided an opportunity for me to publically confess how I had allowed gossip and offense to influence my perception of Dan. I repented openly in front of the entire room.

Although I had never spoken poorly of Dan, and although he didn’t realize I’d dealt with feelings of offense in the past, God showed me that I needed to take another step and openly admit my resentment. I had allowed religious static to impair my vision, and up until that point, I had been unwilling to adjust the antenna. That day, the Lord provided an opportunity for me to move the rabbit ears and clear up the signal.

Since then God has revealed that I hadn’t gone far enough in validating my friend, Dan Bohi. This is a man who has been terribly misrepresented by a lot of people in the Church of the Nazarene. So let me say this, if you don’t know Dan Bohi, you should take the time to get to know him. If you’re not willing to get to know him, you should refrain from ever saying another word about the man.

I’ve heard people slander his name who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. I’ve read the threads in the online discussion forums where people literally spend hours, and even days, picking his ministry apart when they’ve never even had a conversation with him. I’ve also seen the people who say, “I’m staying out of it.” These are the ones who genuinely want revival but are too afraid of what people might think to actually connect with those on the frontlines.

Listen carefully; if you really want revival, “staying out of it” isn’t an option.

I’ve heard all the excuses: “He’s not a licensed evangelist,” “He has no accountability,” “He’s too charismatic,” “He’s a neo-Pentecostal,” “He makes his living doing revivals, but isn’t ordained.” I could go on and on with the ridiculous commentary that’s based on nothing but conjecture and gossip.

Dan Bohi is more Nazarene than most Nazarenes I know. The man’s father, Rev. Jim Bohi, is an ordained minister in the church. His wife, Debbie Owens Bohi, is the daughter of a former General Superintendent. Dan was a longtime member of College Church in Olathe, Kansas: a church that’s produced more General Superintendents than any other church in recent history. His son, Chad Bohi, is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene in Santa Maria, CA, where Dan is now a member. Beyond that, Dan recently received his local minister’s license and started the process of ordination.

Dan has been a committed layman his entire life. He served on the church board, sung in the choir, taught Sunday School, went on mission trips, and a whole lot more. He reads the entire Bible through every two months. He goes wherever the Lord sends him and tells people about Jesus. He has a board that oversees every aspect of his ministry. In fact, Dan has more accountability in his life than most leaders I know. I wish every church I’d ever pastored had ten lay leaders like Dan Bohi.

Did I mention that Dan’s ministry is fully funded? He has a team of ordained Nazarene ministers that travel with him fulltime, including Craig Wesley Rench, Hal Perkins, Dave Flack, and Jay Jellison. God has provided a way for his team to travel together with a vision to “wake up the church” a no cost to the church. In fact, if you would like to host an Awakening/Revival, Dan’s team will come to your church or district without charging a dime. All they ask for is a love offering. What God is doing through this ministry is absolutely amazing.

You may ask, “How do you know these things, Brian?” I know because I, along with several other leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, currently serve on the board that oversees Dan Bohi Ministries.

For those of you that have interacted in the gossip circles about Dan, maybe God is speaking to you about the need to repent. That doesn’t mean you have to book a meeting with Dan. However, maybe you need to simply call him and have a conversation. Maybe you need to adjust the rabbit ears and clear up the relational static.

We need revival. It isn’t going to happen sitting on the bleachers with our arms crossed. It isn’t going to happen standing in the aisle between the bleachers and the altar like I did at M11. The only way it’s going to happen is if we fall on our faces, admit when we’re wrong, and cry out, “Come Holy Spirit.”

Dan Bohi.jpg

DanBohiMinistries.com

 

 

 

Remember the methodists

The call to pastoral ministry is often depicted with the metaphor of “Shepherd and Sheep.” The shepherd is one who leads, serves, and protects the flock. In every church I’ve pastored I have taken that call very seriously. I stress the word “protect” as it relates to the shepherd’s staff. The staff was used to ward off predators and get the sheep out of precarious situations.

Since coming into the role of District Pastor (Superintendent) there have been times when I’ve been very vocal about what I perceive as “dangers” lurking in the shadows. No differently than I would have confronted those dangers in the local church, I’ve confronted them as they’ve influenced the network of churches that I’ve been called to serve. I suppose it’s my shepherd’s reflex responding to what I identify as threats.

My concerns have largely been informed by recent developments in the United Methodist Church. Many people are heartbroken over the harm caused by the lack of accountability among their clergy. The unfaithfulness of some UMC pastors and bishops has caused damage that will be difficult to ever repair, which is why groups like the Wesleyan Covenant Association have been established. I am encouraged by such alliances. Revival is breaking out in many pockets of the UMC because of the faithfulness of a few. All it takes is a remnant.

In the midst of my efforts to “protect the flock,” God recently reminded me that He doesn’t need me to defend Him. He’s shown me that making a statement and arguing a point are two very different things. So, while I’m not going to stop speaking (I’m a preacher for goodness sake), I am going to stop debating as if there’s a fight to win. This battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of this dark world and the forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6).

I’ve been very loud at times over these issues. Not debating is difficult for some of us; it’s how we process and learn. However, in the age of social media, we lack the relational equity to have difficult conversations without constant offense. Sometimes volume isn’t nearly as effective as simply handling matters in a way that isn’t seen or heard beyond the boundaries of the people we’ve been called to serve. Nonetheless, in my opinion, a higher level of accountability is needed across the board.

Accountability for ordained ministers has been a topic frequently discussed as it relates to these issues. Ordination has traditionally been understood as a sacrament (i.e. “Holy Orders”). That means the covenants taken by ordained and licensed members of clergy matter greatly. Remaining faithful and striving for unity is a big part of the job for those who’ve been entrusted to serve the church.

When I think of ordained ministry, and especially the call to preach, I’m reminded of the sacred charge that many of us carry. Think about it, preaching is a form of public speaking unlike any other. The preacher is one who has answered a divine call to proclaim eternal truths from God’s Word to a gathered group of listeners. There are serious implications involved with preaching; we are liable for shaping people’s lives with our words. The words we speak foster an ongoing Christian worldview among those we shepherd. This is an amazing honor, but an even greater responsibility.

With unorthodox teachings increasing in popularity they’re becoming more commonplace among pastors and leaders in every denomination. These issues are infiltrating our university classrooms, making their way into our pulpits, and taking center stage in many forums (remember the Methodists). Personally, I think we should put a stop to it. Every member of clergy should be accountable to the covenants they’ve made a promise to support. If they can’t they should surrender their credentials; it’s not difficult.

Some people believe I’m overreacting. Again I say, “Remember the Methodists.” We’d be naïve to think it couldn’t happen to us. Of course, I realize that nothing will ever destroy the Church; the gates of hell won’t prevail against Her (Matt 16:18). However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a great price to pay if we’re not faithful with what we’ve been entrusted to steward.

Most of the conversations that I’ve engaged pertaining to biblical unorthodoxy are with faithful pastors who feel extremely misrepresented. These pastors aren’t looking for a fight; they’re just serving faithfully and bearing fruit. Yet many are struggling with spending the rest of their life at odds with the people they’re supposed to be partnering with to advance the cause of Christ. I’ve spent hours explaining “why” the unfaithful among us aren’t held to a higher level of accountability.

The mission of Jesus is something we should be willing to die for; it’s the difference between life and death. Getting sidetracked with negotiating biblical truths in light of cultural shifts does nothing more than taint the mission of making disciples. Maybe I’m too extreme. One thing I’m certain of, however, the Kingdom means too much to forfeit a single minute debating with unfaithful co-laborers.

Bottom-line: we need a higher level of accountability. Actually, I believe it would lead to greater unity, church growth, and denominational revitalization. Yet, I concede from responding out of “protection mode.” While there are many who share my concerns, I also understand the wisdom of not speaking so loudly.

With all due respect, at times it seems like pastoring has become synonymous with “being a nice person” and “not offending anyone.” Interestingly, that’s not the model of Jesus, the disciples, or the prophets. Pastors are called to represent a Kingdom that’s not of this world, not get in bed with the world. It may be more important that we start taking a stand instead of going with the flow. Remember the Methodists.

Repentance & Holiness

Becoming vulnerable is the first step toward freedom. Vulnerability exposes our weakness and enables God to break down strongholds. We cannot function in freedom until we become brave enough to confront the strongholds that hinder the advancement of the Kingdom in our lives.

God is so much better than we give Him credit for. I confess that I’ve done a poor job representing His goodness at times. The older I get the more inadequate I realize I am. The Lord has revealed Himself to me in new ways in recent days. I often find myself laughing and crying at the same as He makes His Presence known. These fresh encounters with God have left me more humble, grateful, and free than I can ever remember. There is so much to discover about following Jesus; it’s a never-ending journey. I’ve asked God to help me become a better example of His goodness along the way.

I’m currently living in a place of great paradox. On the one hand, I’ve never felt closer to Jesus and I’ve never been more aware of the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Yet, on the other hand, I’ve never felt more burdened; I live with a constant sense of heaviness for the state of the Bride. In the midst of my burdens, I’ve discovered the power of weakness and the freedom that exists when we come to the end of ourselves.

At the heart of repentance lies vulnerability. True freedom in Christ requires that I constantly confess my faults, that I lay my inadequacies on the altar. Building an altar in our lives is so important. I’m not saying that we sin every day as in “willfully transgressing against God.” However, I firmly believe that when we fail to love well that we sin against God and others. That means my attitudes, actions, words, and thoughts matter deeply. It means the things that I should be doing that I neglect to do matter in my relationship with Jesus.

I’m convinced that a lifestyle of repentance is the foundation of holiness. The minute I don’t think I have anything wrong in my life is the moment I set myself up as God. I have so many things to constantly repent of; at the top of the list is busyness and distraction. Beyond that, I often repent for not praying enough. I repent of being impatient. I repent for not always responding to my family the way I should. I repent of making decisions, even small decisions, without adequately seeking Jesus. I repent of developing preconceived notions about other people. These are all things that I need to continually lay on the altar. Again, the altar is so important.

True repentance is the only way to break down strongholds. Being in a relationship with God is important, but being in a right relationship with God is essential, especially if we’re going to live the life He’s called us to live. Indeed, repentance and holiness go hand in hand.

Dying to self and taking up the cross daily is about killing the little hedonist that’s kicking and screaming inside of us all. The flesh is one of our biggest foes; it’s always seeking pleasure that lasts for a season. We’re called to kill the flesh every time it raises its ugly head by nailing it to the cross. And when it reappears, we have to do it again. For holiness to become a lifestyle repentance must become a regular practice.

Have you ever considered the corporate hedonist that often appears among the Body of Christ? When the church begins warring against itself Satan takes the throne. When we refuse to corporately take up our cross we take up our quarrels. The Apostle James tells us that this infighting comes from the desire to please self over the desire to please God (James 4). It’s always rooted in our inability to believe that God can give us everything we need.

Many of you know that I’ve given my life to the Church, and in particular, the Church of the Nazarene. My heritage is grounded in the Church of the Nazarene. I love the people called “Nazarenes” very much. However, at times I’ve loved her too much. I repent of ever making my denomination an idol. I repent for allowing the boundaries of the Church of the Nazarene to limit my perspective of the Kingdom. I repent of the times I’ve allowed my identity to become more wrapped up in the Church of the Nazarene than the Kingdom of Jesus. We’d all do well to remember that God is a lot bigger than our little tribe.

With that said, I am burdened for the church. I’m troubled by the lack of passion for revival and what seems to the protest against it by some. I’m burdened over the unfaithfulness and pettiness. I’m burdened over the toxic environment that exists in some places. I’m burdened over the manifestation of pride. I am praying that God breaks down these strongholds; and when I say break down, I mean crush.

I’m praying for people to be delivered from rigid fundamentalism because none of us is the judge. I’m praying for people to be delivered from dead religious formalism because God is alive and He needs room to move among His people. I’m praying for people to be delivered from progressive intellectual elitism because it’s opposite of the posture of humility. It saddens me to see so many places negatively affected by legalism, liberalism, antagonism, and a host of other “isms” that no doubt breaks the heart of God.

We need to become a “movement” again: one that’s led by the manifest Presence of the Holy Spirit. God forgive us for allowing the church to become a religious enterprise. Forgive us for turning the church into a business instead of a house of prayer. Forgive us for trying to climb the latter of success. Forgive us for being more concerned about what people think than we are what God thinks. Forgive us for trying to be something we’re not. Forgive us for not living by the principles of corporate prayer and repentance that You’ve prescribed in Scripture:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

It’s time to cry out to God corporately. For the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fall on us again we must repent of our failed business strategies, hollow philosophies, lack of accountability, and broken theological constructs. The Father won’t settle for being an afterthought. He desires to be intimately involved in everything we do.

I hope you hear my heart. In the midst of my brokenness, my longing to be a better follower of Jesus is increasing. Brokenness is a good place to be. There’s a lot of freedom when we learn to live like there’s nothing to lose. Vulnerability that leads to repentance is the only thing that’ll break down the strongholds preventing us from experiencing the intimate Presence of the Holy Spirit.

God is so good. He’s better than I’ve ever imagined He could be. There are parts of His goodness that are easily noticeable, yet often overlooked. I want to spend the rest of my life paying closer attention to who He really is and what He’s really like. For that to happen, vulnerability and repentance must become a common way of life.

stench

Well, it’s that time of year again. I’ll never forget my first February in Kentucky; then last February I noticed the same thing, and now this year. Let’s just say some things never change. What am I talking about you ask? The early spring invasion of SKUNKS! In their efforts to cross the road these poor animals get hit by passing cars and inevitably leave a smell that, as the old southern expression goes, would knock a buzzard off a gut wagon. I actually have a skunk living in my backyard. When I take the trash out at night I’m always fearful that she’s going to be standing by the garbage can cocked and loaded.

The potency of skunk stench travels a great distance. When I ride over their carcasses on the highway the odor oozes into my car and remains for several miles. The power of a skunk’s particular smell has the capacity to linger in your nostrils for an uncanny amount of time.

My friend, Eddie, once had a pet skunk named, “Pierre” (although it was a girl). He tells me that Pierre was one of the best pets he ever owned. He found her when she was 6-8 weeks old and had the scent glands removed. Pierre was housebroken and trained to walk on a leash. He kept her for two years before getting married. However, his wife-to-be put great pressure on him to find Pierre a new home. Pierre spent the rest of her days entertaining children at elementary schools as part of a traveling zoo.

If you’ve ever viewed a skunk up close (preferably in pictures), you’ll likely agree that they’re adorable little animals. I’ve pondered recently why God would create something that appears so sweet yet give it a scent that will scar you for life. A few days ago that familiar smell seeped into my car once again; as the odor lingered God reminded me of a few things.

Scripture speaks a lot about “smells” and “aromas.” When dealing with unfaithfulness among His people God says, “These people are a stench in my nostrils, an acrid smell that never goes away” (Isaiah 65:5, NLT). The Bible suggests a similar idea in 2 Peter chapter two when the Apostle writes about Believers who turn back to sin as “A dog that returns to his own vomit, and a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

All of us are wonderfully made in the likeness of a loving Creator. Every one of us is a much-loved child of the most caring Father in the entire universe. Yet many of us are like the prodigal son before he realizes his need to return home: We smell like a pigsty. We are beautiful in God’s eyes, yet all of us have the capacity to stink. When we willfully choose to live in sin we produce an aroma that reeks in the nostrils of God.

For many, the smelly aroma comes from their efforts of self-preservation. We’ve learned to function in ongoing protection mode. Like a skunk, we let off an odor when we try to defend ourselves against what we perceive as a threat. Something presses in on our lives and we lash out, lie, cheat, attack another person, think we deserve something we actually don’t, justify our bad behaviors and habits, and the list goes on. In these moments we produce a scent that not only distances us from the Father, it also separates us from the people we love.

My friends, sin is a serious problem. When it goes unchecked it has the capacity to derail our lives in a way that leaves us dead on the inside. Without God, the aroma of death lingers. We’ve all been affected, which means we’ve all smelled like a dead skunk in God’s nostrils at one time or another.

Like Isaiah, our very best efforts are like filthy rags compared to the righteousness of God. In other words, we don’t deserve the goodness and mercy of God because of our stench. We often live in denial of the fact that we have the potential to smell like a skunk carcass lying on the side of the road. Denying the potential to smell like sin means one likely thinks more highly of themselves than they should. This is a dangerous way to live.

At the end of the day, we all smell like road kill without Jesus. Paul says in 2 Cor. 2:14-16, “Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life…”

Wow! In Christ, we are called to manifest His sweet fragrance everywhere we go. That means the Kingdom of God is touching down everywhere we stand. Now, when I smell a dead skunk I think about the fact that I’m dead to myself, yet alive in Christ. Without Jesus, we stink in the nostrils of God, but IN HIM we’re a sweet savor unto the Lord. Let people smell the aroma of Christ being manifested through your life every day.


(Sources: Eddie Estep)

i-believe-literally

The Bible… It’s been a source of lively discussion for centuries. It’s a shame when it moves from being a source of healthy dialogue to a form of division, especially among those who claim to represent what is contained therein.

I love the Bible. I trust the Bible. I believe the Bible is reliable. I believe God has preserved it so that His children can use it as a source for living the life He’s called them to live. How we read the Bible, however, is another topic.

There are those who believe it is nothing more than a collection of ancient documents. There are also those who believe it’s merely a compilation of sacred stories meant to reveal divine purposes. Someone who views the Bible primarily as a collection of metaphoric fairytales likely does not believe Adam and Eve actually existed, but that they only symbolize the creation of mankind. Those who write off Adam and Eve as supernatural fables also likely deny other biblical miracles such as “Moses Parting the Red Sea,” “The Fiery Furnace,” “Jonah and the Big Fish,” and many others.

Then there are those who are literalists in the strictest sense, meaning they refuse to recognize allegorical language in scripture. I’m uncertain as to what they do with hyperbolic passages like: “If your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out…” We certainly don’t see very many Christians walking around looking like patch-eyed pirates. Metaphor is used as a literary device throughout scripture. For example, Isaiah 64 teaches us that we are like clay in the hands of the potter; this is metaphor. Matthew 5 teaches that followers of Jesus are the salt of the earth and the light of the world; this too is metaphoric language. We are not actually clay, salt, or light; we are human beings. These metaphors serve as literary devices to reveal deeper meaning pertaining to our relationship with God and His call on our lives.

Personally, I believe the Bible is it’s own best interpreter. If one can understand the difference between literary genres, the Bible isn’t overly difficult to read. While it’s certainly not a mindless task, scripture is organized in such a way that assists the reader in understanding if they’re reading poetry, history, prophecy, allegory, theology, etc.

So what’s the best way to read the Bible? Through the lens of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify Jesus on every page and in every story. In fact, I believe we read the Bible irresponsibly if we’re not recognizing the salvific message of Christ throughout. Everything in the Old Testament points forward to Jesus. Everything in the New Testament builds off the foundation of Jesus.

So much for the introduction, let me tell you what I believe.

I believe in the beginning was the Word, literally. I believe God spoke the universe into existence, literally. I believe God created man and woman, and placed them in the Garden of Eden, literally. I believe God destroyed the earth with a flood because mankind had become extremely wicked, literally. I believe Noah really did build and Ark (can you imagine how much faith it took to cut down the first tree?). I believe God actually scattered people all over the earth at the Tower of Babel. Yes, I believe these things actually happened.

I believe God literally made a covenant with Abraham. Part of that covenant was to make His children like the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea, metaphorically speaking. I believe Jacob literally wrestled the Angel and walked with a limp for the rest of his life. I believe Moses literally led the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, not a few inches of water, but ground as dry as a desert floor. I believe God led the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years with a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.

I believe Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho and the walls literally crumbled to the ground. I believe Gideon actually defeated the Midianite troops numbering over 100,000 after God reduced his army to only 300 valiant men. I believe Elijah literally left this earth riding a chariot of fire in a whirlwind and never experienced death. I believe Daniel spent the night in a Lion’s Den, maybe cuddled up beside them, and lived to tell the story. I believe Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego hung out in a fiery furnace with Jesus and not a hair on their head was singed.

I believe everything in the historical books really did happen. I believe the books of poetry provide great imagery and give us deeper insight about the nature of God. I believe the prophets received visions from God that reveal His plans and desires for His people. And yes, I believe Jonah really did spend three days in the belly of a fish!

I believe Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. I believe He lived a perfect life. He healed the sick, raised the dead, performed miracles, and preached with authority. I believe Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, shed His blood and died on a cross at Calvary for our sins. I believe the Cross works and nothing else does!

I believe Jesus defeated death, hell, and the grave. I believe He rose from the dead on the third day and the tomb is still empty. I believe He literally levitated into the sky when He ascended to the Father. I believe Jesus is at this very moment making intercession for anyone who expresses faith in Him.

I believe everything described in the Gospels and the Book of Acts actually happened. I believe the Book of Acts provides the model we should strive for as the New Testament Church. I believe God gives us a picture of how the Church should proceed theologically through the writings of the Apostle Paul and the other NT authors.

I believe Heaven and Hell are literal places and that every person will end up in one of those two destinations. I believe Jesus will return, literally. The dead in Christ will rise first and we who remain will be called up together with them in the air, and from that time forward, for all eternity, we will forever be with the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.

I believe God still saves, sanctifies, and sets people free, literally. I believe God is omnipresent, but that He also manifests His presence in unique ways as He has throughout history. I believe we should strive to walk in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, literally. I believe we can know Jesus personally, literally. I believe we should be diligent and relentless at reaching people with the love, power, and presence of Jesus, literally. Hope that clears up any confusion.

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Passionate, mission-minded, revivalistic, evangelical, Spirit-filled followers of Jesus that started in a Glory Barn believing in the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit… That’s who we are. It’s who we’ve always been. It’s what makes us unique.

For some time it seems we’ve been struggling with an identity crisis. Some within our tribe lean toward Pentecostalism, others toward Anglican traditions, and many are left somewhere in-between. As we wrestle with diversity I hope we’ll remember what makes us distinct. If we ever lose our distinctiveness, we’ll lose our identity altogether. If we lose our identity, the Church of the Nazarene as we’ve known it will cease to exist.

In the early 1900s, visitors of Dr. Phineas Bresee’s congregation in Los Angeles, CA often testified of the powerful expressions of God’s glory. It’s been said, “You never saw anything like it. The people sang and shouted and stood up and said they were sanctified, and it was the greatest thing you ever saw.” These holy encounters empowered early Nazarenes to go into the world much like the believers did in the Book of Acts.

Dr. Bresee and other founders believed the Methodist Church had moved too far away from the message of holiness. They considered the Church of the Nazarene a faithful return to this essential calling. Their vision was to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the experience of entire sanctification to all of society.

Now that we’re four generations in, it may be a good time to take inventory. Pastor Corey Jones of Crossroads Tabernacle provides the following generational descriptions. Although I’ve expounded on some of these portrayals, if you’d like more information on Pastor Corey’s original accounts you can contact him through his website at www.ctgiveshope.com. Now, let’s talk about the generations of the Church of the Nazarene.


First Generation: The Pioneers

Early Nazarenes were pioneers: revolutionary leaders who pushed forward like Israel out of Egyptian bondage to Mount Sinai (Exodus 24). They were prophets: catalysts of the holiness movement. They experienced God’s Shekinah glory and were consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Like Isaiah in the temple, the pioneers had a holy encounter with a Holy God (Isaiah 6). The sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit inspired them to take the gospel to the world with passion and courage. Like the early believers who waited in the Upper Room, the pioneers experienced the manifest presence of God. Like the prophets of old, the glory burned in their bones.

The first generation began in the desert of desperation. They sacrificed everything. They lived with a holy discontent. The corporate cry of their heart reflected the desire of Moses toward God, “Show us your glory.” They were relentless in their pursuit of an ongoing encounter with the Holy Spirit. Holiness was not merely a message to be preached, it was a reality to be experienced.

One historian wrote the following about Phineas F. Bresee: “For Bresee, the only thing of importance was the Shekinah, the indwelling presence of God among the people. Shekinah, in Jewish literature, referred to the direct presence or glory of God, as in the Tabernacle, the Temple, or in Jerusalem. It is the word underlying Revelation 7:15, ‘He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.’ One of Bresee’s oft-spoken exhortations was ‘Get the glory down.’” (Carl Bangs)


Second Generation: The Propagators

The second generation of Nazarenes grew up in the glory like Joshua in the Tent of Meeting or Samuel in the Temple. They treasured it like a precious possession. Holiness of heart and life was their soul’s deepest desire. They were propelled by the vision of the first generation and believed everyone should encounter the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Steadfast in their call to proclaim the experience of holiness, they believed it had the potential to transform all of society.

If the first generation were pioneers who spoke prophetically, the second were propagators devoted to expanding the message at all costs. This generation also lived with a holy unrest. They proclaimed holiness from coast to coast, border to border, and beyond.

The second generation witnessed a numerical explosion of people and churches. Along the way, the need arose to organize and perpetuate the message of entire sanctification. Therefore, pastoral and biblical training schools began to surface across the country. Schools like Peniel were founded to prepare holiness preachers.

Toward the end of this generation, General Superintendent, J.B. Chapman shared a message called, “All Out for Souls,” at a district superintendent’s conference in 1948. This message warned of declines being experienced in the church. Chapman called the leadership to come back to the altar of prayer and fasting.


Third Generation: The Perfectors

The third generation saw glimpses of God’s presence. They heard stories about the Glory Barn, but most never experienced it in the same way as the first and second generations. The third generation spoke largely of what they had heard. They received the holiness message as a heritage to be preserved.

This generation produced some of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church of the Nazarene. By default, with a new emphasis on perfecting the message, scribes replaced prophets. Increasingly, they spoke of what they had read more so than what they had experienced. The Holy Spirit became a doctrine to be articulated more than a Person to be encountered.

This generation shifted away from holy encounters toward intellectual understanding. Incidentally, the need to develop new strategies on how to grow churches began to materialize. Until the third generation, there had never before in the history of the movement been a focus on church growth.

During this period the Church of the Nazarene began to decline. The Department of Evangelism was renamed the Department of Church Growth. Ironically, when a movement has to start talking about growth, it typically means it’s stopped growing. When the church shifted away from focusing on God’s presence to methods of perfecting the doctrine of holiness and how to attract people to a building, it went into decline.


Fourth Generation: The Protestors

This generation, by and large, has never experienced the manifest presence of God. They have only heard whispers. The stories of God’s glory resonate like folklore with the fourth generation. Sadly, they have increasingly departed from the church. Many of those who have stayed have resisted the notion of a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit.

The fourth generation could easily be called one of protest. Although that’s not indicative of all, it’s not a secret that they often dispute the very things the first and second generations fought for and believed in. They also contest much of what the third generation wrote about, especially as it pertains to the experience of entire sanctification.

I’ve personally engaged conversations where some from this generation have called revivalism a “failed experiment.” They say that the American Holiness Movement has done more harm than good. They often leave me scratching my head. I wonder what Bible they’re reading that leaves them void of considering the manifest presence of God? It seems the primary convictions of the first generation have become the main points of debate for the fourth.

Generally speaking, this generation grew up with very little manifest presence of God. Thus, they protest something they’ve never experienced. They’ve heard messages about holiness without evidence. They’ve been told about entire sanctification devoid of an encounter with the Sanctifier. There is a form, but it denies the power.

This generation is hungry for an encounter. They’re desperate for God’s glory whether they realize it or not. They’ve sought his presence out of tradition rather than experience. Tradition has left them wanting. Sadly, we have lost the vast majority of this generation, not simply from the Church of the Nazarene, but from Christianity altogether.


How do we become a Holiness Movement again?

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it…” Phineas F. Bresee preached this message from Jeremiah 6:16 as it related to the early Nazarenes. For Bresee, holiness is the ancient path. For the Prophet Jeremiah, the call to prayer is the first step.

So, here we stand, but what will we do?

Return to the ways of the pioneers. Become prophets that proclaim the possibility of an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Pray for an uprising of visionary leaders that are willing to do the hard work of blazing a new path in the spirit of the first generation.

I’m not calling for some irrelevant form of old-fashioned religion. In fact, I don’t think any of us have experienced God the way the first generation did. Yet, I believe it’s possible. Call me crazy, but I think we need the power and presence of the Holy Spirit more than we need anything else. Maybe we need to pay more attention to what’s happening in the southern hemisphere.

I’m advocating for something as new to us as it was to the first generation. If we get a glimpse of God’s glory we’ll never have another conversation about church growth. However, for this to become an authentic movement we must return to the abandoned altars of corporate prayer. We must unapologetically preach the experience of holiness and believe that the manifest presence of God has the power to change absolutely everything.


(Sources: “The Generations of the Church of the Nazarene and How We Lost the Glory” by Pastor Corey Jones; “Phineas F. Bresee” by Carl Bangs; “Our Watchword and Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene” by Floyd Cunningham, ed.)

(Background: Rev. Corey Jones provides these generational descriptions. They are based on a vision he received in October 2010, 70 miles south of Pilot Point, Texas, 102 years after founding of the Church of the Nazarene)

Big Tent

Comparing the church to a ‘big tent’ has become an interesting conversation piece. Big tent theology teaches that God is calling the church to open her arms wider than ever before. Expanding the tent calls for a diversity of thought, the inclusion of varying stances on nonessential issues, and erasing lines that could potentially divide. Jesus died for all and therefore all are welcome to have a seat at the table.

“Unity in essentials, diversity in non-essentials” would probably be a good way to frame the discussion. At face value, this is a virtuous notion. We all want to make room for more people at the table. Great leaders aspire to build bridges, not walls. However, the ‘big tent’ expression means different things to different people, which makes it worthy of further consideration.

Many would say that the ancient creeds (e.g. Apostles, Nicene) offer a basis concerning the essentials of the Christian faith. I would agree that the creeds provide everything necessary to affirm faith in Jesus Christ. However, the creeds lack in areas of discipleship and orthopraxy. In other words, they tell us ‘what’ to believe, but don’t teach us ‘how’ to practice what we believe. Thus, a more robust understanding of timeless biblical principles must also be included in the big tent conversation.

Certainly, it’s a healthy move to navigate away from the legalism of years past. Distancing ourselves from fundamentalism is a shift in the right direction. It isn’t beneficial to associate holiness doctrine primarily with rule keeping. We don’t come to Jesus by following rules, nor do we grow in faith by adhering to specific codes of conduct. Legalism has wounded many people over the years and has proven to be obstructive to the process of making disciples.

We come to Christ by grace through faith (Eph. 2). He invites, we accept. Once we enter a relationship with Jesus we become a disciple. When we become a disciple our behavior begins to change. If someone comes to faith in Christ, but his or her behavior is never altered then something’s missing. God never leaves people as He finds them.

God not only saves and sanctifies, He also delivers. That’s not saying that Christians don’t make mistakes, but it does mean they don’t have to yield to ongoing habitual sin. Spiritual victory is available to anyone who calls on the name of Jesus. This is what it means to walk by faith. This is the essence of sanctification. It’s a life so turned toward God that one is constantly aware of their need for repentance.

Centered:Bounded Set

The big tent conversation often leads to distinguishing between a ‘centered set’ and a ‘bounded set.’ The bounded set is fixed and includes boundaries. The idea is that if one believes and behaves the right way then he or she is a Christian, and those who don’t aren’t. The centered set, on the other hand, is dynamic. It focuses on constantly moving toward Jesus with no boundaries. Although I think these illustrations reveal great insight, I don’t think either is suitable for fully understanding the mission, nature, and responsibility of the church.

In and of itself, the notion of a ‘centered set’ is lacking. To emphasize the goal as moving toward Jesus is meaningless without defining the purpose of the gospel. Once we start defining terms and ideas, by default, we construct boundaries. Thus, it becomes a catch twenty-two. The truth is that all centered sets have boundaries and all bounded sets have a center.

In a recent conversation with one of our General Superintendents, he indicated that he didn’t particularly like the ‘big tent’ imagery. Instead, he illustrated with the idea of a ‘tetherball.’ With a tetherball the rope is far-reaching, yet it’s always connected to the center. The tetherball stretches high and low and reaches far and wide, but it’s always anchored. It has boundaries, yet it’s always centered.

Personally, I like the idea of a ‘doorway.’ Faith is the hinge that opens the door. Disbelief causes the door to remain closed. The church never locks the door and never turns anyone away. However, we are charged with upholding the orthodox teachings that reveal Jesus as the only entrance. Everyone is welcome, but no one can tear the door off the hinges and force their way inside.

In the Church of the Nazarene, we have a family business meeting every four years. It’s called General Assembly. At this meeting, we celebrate what God is doing and make decisions about the most effective ways to move forward together, on mission. As the Holy Spirit leads we often amend our stances on social issues (i.e. dancing, swimming, movies, etc.). However, we never weaken our views as they pertain to foundational issues, such as biblical doctrine. Example: Article IV in our Articles of Faith states that we believe in the inspiration and authority of Holy Scripture. This position does not change.

I liken General Assembly to meetings within my own household. We’ve had family meetings in years past to discuss the dynamics of our relationships. As my son got older, he and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye; we would discuss our differences often. My wife and I realized that our relationships with our children had to change with time. The older they become the more decisions they got to help make. How we interacted with them as toddlers was not the same way we interacted with them as teenagers. The foundational values of our household never changed, but how we interacted relationally did. Relational shifts are needed for social structures to thrive.

Hypothetically, if after a family meeting my son decided to influence his sisters to defy his mother and me, we would have a serious problem. If he started tearing down the moral foundation of our home because he felt we were wrong on an issue, we would have to part ways. I would still love him, but I would move him out of the house. I would do my very best to help him land on his feet. He would always be welcome to return. However, he wouldn’t be able to stay unless he could agree to abide in harmony with the family.

So, we can illustrate with a big tent, a centered set, a tetherball, a doorway, and many other things. It doesn’t matter what description we use as long as we understand that all are free to come. Beyond that, when the family meets and makes decisions about the best way to move forward together, then each of us has a responsibility. We can abide in peace, nurture the family, and help advance the mission, or we can move out. What we cannot do is tear the house down.

Everyone is invited. Come one, come all. When someone decides to move in, let’s help him or her feel welcome. If they have a few bad days and decide to start ripping up the floor with a crowbar, let’s try to help them get back on track. However, if they are absolutely set on burning the house down, then we have no choice but to help them find somewhere else to live. There are too many lives at stake to allow anyone to hold people hostage, hijack the mission, or burn the place to the ground.


(Sources: Various conversations with General Church leadership, “Who’s In And Who’s Out? Christianity And Bounded Sets vs. Centered Sets” by Tim Harmon)