Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Realistic & Good Report on Ministry In The Church of the Nazarene

Report of the District Superintendent

North Florida District Assembly

May 20, 2011

Dr. Middendorf, our presiding general superintendent; Michael Johnson, representing Trevecca Nazarene University; other special guests; and delegates, members, and friends of this 38th Assembly of the North Florida District: I am once again honored to stand before you to report for the 11th time as your district superintendent. Come August of this summer, Nancy and I will have been a part of this district for 20 years, and you really are family to us.

I want to begin by expressing personal gratitude to those who surround me in this assignment, and to whom I am especially indebted…our advisory board, two district secretaries this past year in Joe McNulty and Dave Pullen, our district treasurer Mark Patrick, our auxiliary leaders in Susan Day (NMI), Donna Nichols (SDMI), and Tim Hildreth (NYI), and our team of pastors and spouses. Thank you…your love, support, and encouragement.

Once again, rather than reviewing the year just past for my annual report, I am choosing to share a message with you as my district family, my flock, so to speak. But before doing so, I want to briefly mention some of our statistics. Financially, this past year has been perhaps our most challenging in our 38-year history. The plight of our nation’s overall economy is no secret, but our district had been spared its severity until this past year. In several of our churches, regardless of size, members have lost jobs, or their work or business has been greatly curtailed, or they’ve moved away seeking employment elsewhere, significantly reducing tithes/offerings. As a result, our district churches have had an overall loss of income compared to last year of more than $1 million.

In addition, we have had the added challenge of implementing a new budget system. And tomorrow morning our district treasurer, Mark Patrick, is going to walk us through once again a simple workshop on this new way of doing things, sort of a “Funding the Mission 101.”

In speaking to you this afternoon, I would like to refer to a passage of Scripture found in 2 Peter 3:11-14; 17-18:
                       Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?

You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (NIV)

In this passage, the Apostle Peter reminds all of us of the Day of the Lord. And much like the time in which Peter was writing, we, too, seem to see the ravages of evil all around us. I am not a prophet, but it would appear we are living in the Saturday night

hour of this dispensation. Yet when speaking of His return, Jesus said no one knows that day…not even the angels in heaven…except for His heavenly Father.

Though we may be living in the last days, the best way to keep prepared is to be involved with all of our energies and efforts in the extension of His Kingdom in our world. He may or may not come in my lifetime, but whether I’m caught up in the rapture or His coming is after my death, I want to be ready.

When it comes to God’s Kingdom, I’m both glad and thankful to be a part of the Church of the Nazarene. At one time who would have thought we would ever be a denomination in excess of 2 million members worldwide, as we are today? And yet in spite of that growth, some of you know I’ve expressed some sincere concerns about our church…

recent trends and directions…as have others.

I don’t want to merely voice caution, or to sound critical, for practically all of my life has been invested in and given to the people called Nazarenes. They are the ones who found my parents in Central California and were responsible for helping change their lives, spiritually, forever. As a result of that heritage, I, too, found the Living Lord for my life. I was educated in two of our Nazarene schools and have served with gratefulness in Nazarene churches. My closest and dearest friends are Nazarenes.

But some concerns linger. I don’t want to see us drift, or lose our spiritual moorings, which is not uncommon for a church in existence for more than a hundred years. I want us to continue to adhere to our cardinal doctrine.

I want us to preach it with fervent hearts and clear minds. I don’t want us to be lost in the shallowness of liberalism or drawn to the cold, sterile forms of ritualism. I want us to maintain a revival spirit that early on became synonymous with our church. And I want my own children, and your children, to be able to identify that spirit!

As I think about our church, I believe there are at least three great pluses or attributes that have been in our favor. And in this report, I want to share those with you.

I. The Plus of a Great History

First of all, there is the plus of a great history through some wonderful and godly leaders.When my parents were still living but no longer able to care for themselves on their own, my two sisters and I had the daunting task of getting them to move out of their home into an assisted living environment. During that process we discovered something in their basement we never knew existed. My mother had kept hidden away all of the love letters she and dad had exchanged during their courtship. That was when the telephone was used sparingly, and writing was a crafted art. As we came across the letters and took turns reading them aloud, my sisters began weeping at the beauty, innocence, purity, and depth of their love for one another.

But something else stood out. They were both in their twenties and had only been Christians and a part of the Church of the Nazarene a short time, but their letters also expressed a surprising maturity and growth in the things of God. For in that time they had been exposed to several of the early leaders and preachers of our church. One of them was a small statured itinerant evangelist who frequented their home church of Porterville, CA, because his daughter and her husband and their eight children were also a part of that church. His name was Uncle Bud Robinson.

Others who impacted their lives were H. Orton Wiley, the president of Pasadena College where they attended, and who taught systematic theology to all religion majors; Jay Proctor Knott, godly professor of history at the college; and preachers like C. W. Ruth and A. O. Hendricks. As dad told me one day, “All the preaching I heard when I came into the Church of the Nazarene came from powerful preachers of the Word of God, and perfect love seemed to ooze from them.”

Not once did he ever hear someone cast doubt or question the absolute authority of God’s Word. They were unique, learned, and humble servants, minus any arrogance stemming from their own knowledge and educational credentials. And God blessed!

If you read the Historical Statement in the beginning pages of our Church Manual you’ll come across the name of Mary Lee Cagle, who, along with her first husband, R. L. Harris, blazed across the cattle trails of Texas for scriptural holiness. In one county seat after another they paid the price to plant what became the Church of the Nazarene. And when her husband died, Mary Lee continued on her own to conduct revivals, one of which was in the West Texas town of Rotan. In that meeting a cowboy by the name of Henry Cagle was won to the Lord under her preaching, and later on he won her hand in marriage and joined with her in ministry.

As a 10-year-old boy I recall going with my dad to visit the home of Mary Lee and Henry C. Cagle, then retired and up in years, living in the small town of Buffalo Gap, outside of Abilene, TX. There was a sweet and godly spirit about the Cagles, including just being in their home. But there was also a certain awe about Mary Lee. She was tall and stately, with snow white hair and flawless skin, almost angelic looking. And before leaving, she would say to my dad, “Now Brother Jenkins, I want you to have prayer with us,” and the four of us would all kneel around their kitchen table.

But after dad finished praying, Mary Lee would always close in prayer. I want to tell you that even as a young boy, I knew her prayer had lifted all of us heavenward. And before saying goodbye, she would clasp my dad’s hand and say, “Brother Jenkins, if I don’t see you again here, I’ll meet you yonder just inside the Eastern Gate.”

I share this to say that those who went before us to plant our church did so, for the most

part, at great personal cost and sacrifice. They had few people, even less money, and in most places were accompanied by hardship. But in the lives of those early leaders, not only did they profess and preach heart holiness, better yet, they lived it. Their lives were transparent, they stood clear and tall for God, and they had an influence and impact because of a holiness that they themselves demonstrated.

None of our preaching is ever any better than our living.

II. The Plus of a Great Theology

The second plus in our favor is that of a great message contained in our theology…

freedom from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit, known as heart holiness…verified and confirmed by Scriptures. It became the foundation and distinction of who we are and what our early preachers and leaders unashamedly proclaimed.

Yet all too often, upon visiting a church in this assignment, someone will say to me, “Orville, we seldom, if ever, hear a message on holiness.”

If we are Nazarenes, there should be a stamp upon us that we cannot escape. Pastor, as a holiness preacher, you are marked for life. Others may not agree and give emphasis elsewhere. But you and I, as holiness people, have no options, no electives, no discount fares, and make no apologies. When you go this way, you go with a purpose, for you go God’s way, without compromise, reservation, or stipulation.

It calls for cutting some shore lines…settling some spiritual issues once and for all…living to a higher standard…and dying to the world, including the opinion and favor of others. In short, it calls for dying out to self!

But if we ignore or neglect this truth, we not only forfeit the distinctiveness that brought us into existence, we also vacate a wonderful experience that God has for each of us in which our hearts are made clean from sin and pure in love.

III. The Plus of an Evangelistic Passion

And then there is the plus of an evangelistic passion, for the Church of the Nazarene was born in revival.

The Methodist Church stands as a tribute today to one man, John Wesley, who had a passion for souls. When the Church of England forbid him to preach, he stood on his father’s tombstone and said the world was his parish. And for the next 40 years he started revival fires, often in out of the way places all across England, resulting in Methodism. During that time Wesley averaged 8,000 miles a year by horseback and 1,000 sermons a year in his zeal for spiritually lost people.

The Wesleyan revival of the 18th century was a forerunner of the historical religious current which birthed the Church of the Nazarene, and was characterized by three components: salvation by faith in Jesus Christ; full surrender to Christ’s lordship leading to heart holiness, or sanctification, also by faith; and then the witness or assurance by the Holy Spirit. In fact, when the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in America in 1784, its stated purpose was “to reform the Continent, and to spread scriptural Holiness over these Lands.”

Ironically, almost a hundred years after Wesley, a Methodist leader by the name of Phineas F. Bresee left a rather secure position in Southern California in order to pursue taking the gospel to the poor and needy. He did so no longer a young man, but at age 57, with the end result being the establishment of the Church of the Nazarene…not only to the poor, but to the world. For also evolving from Bresee’s sense of obedience was something he never fully realized or observed in his own lifetime…our church’s great missionary enterprise which has produced countless unsung heroes of the faith as well as an endless stream of those all over the world who’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

And more often than not in our history, we’ve planted a church or entered a new world area by sheer faith, trust, and confidence that our God would go before us as we obeyed the Great Commission. That has been our evangelistic passion.

But now here we are, a little over 200 years after Wesley and almost a hundred years after Bresee. No organization, including the church, can rest or dwell merely on its strengths, pluses, attributes, or personalities of the past. Yes, we’ve had a great history and been blessed with wonderful, godly leaders. But now we seem to find it easy to identify ourselves with those who are either controversial or have nothing in common with our holiness doctrine…today’s liberals who were yesterday’s evangelicals…sons and daughters of those who once rejected liberalism. For if you reject the orthodox truth of Scripture and the church, whatever you call it will still be liberalism. It’s almost as if 2,000 years have gone by and now someone is telling us they’ve discovered something contrary to Scripture that no one else has ever found.

But more importantly, I want to know who among us is willing to say…“Here we stand! This is what we believe!” It is something to which the modern, liberal, emergent church is allergic toward declaring.

Who is standing in the gap, ready and willing to take the mantel of spiritual leadership in this post-modern, post-Christian era in which we live? Who will be a modern day C. W. Ruth, A. O. Hendricks, Mary Lee Cagle, J. B. Chapman, R. T. Williams, E. O. Chalfant, G. B.Williamson, M. Kimber Moulton, Lawrence Hicks, Edward Lawlor, Paul Martin, or C. William Fisher, to name only a few. To some of you, these names may not be recognizable, but they were all powerful Nazarene preachers who stood absolutely on the authority of God’s Word and from whom perfect love seemed to ooze. And they helped establish the reputation of the Nazarenes having some of the finest preachers to be found anywhere.

Who will replace the legendary names of Anderson, Beals, Browning, Depasquale, Eckel, Esselstyn, Garman, Hynd, Knox, Orjala, Prescott, Schmelzenbach, Sedat, and Carson- Winans among our long list of missionary heroes?

And who will be among the next wave of individuals to replace outstanding lay men and women, including those here on our own district, who have served faithfully and been the heart and soul of our church going all the way back to those that followed and joined with Bresee?

We’ve had the benefit of a great theology found in Scripture and brought to a new awareness and emphasis by Wesley. But who will be among our next brilliant, dedicated, and humble theologians in the mold of an H. Orton Wiley, Paul T. Culbertson, Ralph Earle, Donald Metz, Willard Taylor, Mildred Wynkoop, H. Ray Dunning, or William Greathouse, who not only taught but demonstrated the very essence of holiness?

And when it comes to our schools, I believe our tolerance should be zero for anyone who doubts or questions the creation, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection and deity of Christ, the reliability and authority of Scripture, as well as the reality of heaven and hell, or wants to impose the acceptance of homosexuality? For in reality they are not only a danger, they are an enemy to what we value, believe, and hold to dearly, including the minds and hearts of our students. I only want teaching, influencing, and impacting our young people those willing to stand boldly and unflinchingly for biblical truth, and strongly and unequivocally against sin, because the lives of those students, many of whom will be the future of our church, is far too valuable to risk with anyone less.

And who of us is going to make sure the plus of our evangelistic passion does not wane? Some of our churches will go for more than a year without one new member joining by profession of faith. Today we are graduating growing numbers of business and education majors in our church schools here in the U.S., while students who feel called into the ministry are in decline. Who will help us retain or renew a passion for lost people?

As both laity and clergy representing our various congregations, the Church of the Nazarene is now in our hands. It’s no longer in the hands of those I’ve mentioned who paved the way and have gone before us, for we cannot recall yesterday, or go back there ourselves. Neither is it in the hands of those who will come after us. But it is in our hands…yours and mine…for we are the Church of the Nazarene of this hour. And our future depends largely on people just like us who sit here today and who will be in our churches on Sunday.

Several years ago I came across an old gospel spiritual entitled, “Shine on Me.” It was the melody and words of the chorus that really caught my attention and that I loved immediately. The chorus says simply, “Shine on me, shine on me, let the light from the Lighthouse shine on me.”

The question I pose to us is this: This light from the Lighthouse of God that brought us into existence as a church…shined upon us with godly leadership…called us unto holiness…placed within us a burden for the lost…and eventually drew you and me into the church…will it still be shining brightly after you and I are gone due to the spiritual fervor and legacy we’re leaving for others?

What about your local church? If our district, or the Church of the Nazarene, depended on what is taking place in your church to sustain and continue our existence for the foreseeable future, would the light from the Lighthouse be bright enough to do so?

And I ask myself, is the light shining through my life strong enough to create the same love, loyalty, and appreciation within the lives of my own children that I’ve experienced for the church? And what am I doing where I serve to help insure that our church remains a viable influence for the message of holiness across northern Florida?

After first hearing “Shine on Me” in a mostly black worship service, I have since heard it sung by youth choirs, but with a slight variation that asks the question, “I wonder if the light from the Lighthouse will shine on me?” And as I’ve heard it sung in that manner, it has haunted me, for I hear the next generations of our church…our youth and children and young families…asking that question of us.

I wish I could answer that question in the affirmative without reservation. But I can state that unless we as a church are able to preserve our godly heritage, influence, and spiritual fervor…and unless we are able to retain our theology that is most sensible and practical when it comes to living godly and holy lives…and unless we are able to maintain our evangelistic passion for lost people…the light from the Lighthouse will gradually grow dim, no longer shining brightly enough to guide those who come after us.
    In the passage we read from 2nd Peter, the apostle asks what kind of people ought you to be? Rhetorically he answers that you ought to live holy and godly lives, making every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with the Lord (3:11; 14). But he also issues a warning when he says to be on your guard…don’t get carried away and fooled by what is in error (3:17). In other words, don’t settle for what is shallow or just not true.
    And, he is speaking to you and me, in whose hands is now our church.
    I close with a “homework assignment” in three parts. The first two are specifically for you as pastors, for Scripture says, “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14). Pastors, you are the spiritual leaders of our churches, and you are to teach and preach the truth of what we believe from the authority of God’s Word.
  • Part One. Two years ago I asked that you preach at least one sermon a month on heart holiness. This year I’d like to see you increase that emphasis. If you don’t already have a copy, obtain the following books an immerse yourself in them for study and sermon preparation, and to feed your own soul: Exploring Christian Holiness, Vol. 1-3 (BHP); Biblical Resources for Holiness Preaching, Dunning/Wiseman (BHP); Studies in Biblical Holiness, Metz (BHP); Grace, Faith, & Holiness, Dunning (BHP).
  • Part Two. Read through E. M. Bounds’ book, The Preacher and Prayer. It will change your life!
  • Part Three. And as congregations, may I challenge you to spend intentional and specific times in prayer for the Church of the Nazarene? Pray for boldness, courage, steadfastness, and spiritual power against the forces of darkness and evil that come against us. Pray for every phase of our church, including our leadership, our missionary enterprise, our publishing and curriculum arm, our Global Ministry Center personnel, and for Spirit-filled pastors and lay leaders in our local churches. For nothing of real significance ever happens in the church if it doesn’t take place there. Pray earnestly for your own congregation, not just for the sick or the absent. But ask God, point blank, to help you engage, befriend, and win to Christ no less than at least one new person this year!
                    This assignment is captured in that simple request, “Shine on me, shine on me, let the light from the Lighthouse shine on me.”
    Respectfully submitted,
    Orville Jenkins, Jr.

1 comment:

  1. I pray that this is the cry of every Nazarene pastors heart. Thank you so much for speaking what so many of us who want to preserve our heritage of holiness. May God bless you and your family.