Calvary Church of the Nazarene Huntsville, Alabama

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Nazarene Identity

In the field of psychology, Erik Erikson referred to the adolescent years as an Aidentity crisis.@ By this expression, he meant a psychosocial development time of disturbance and anxiety when we are in an interval between youth and adulthood, trying to find out who we really are.

In the field of mathematics, Aidentity element@ is that element that does not change any other element on which it operates. Zero (0), for example, is the identity element in addition.

In the field of religion, identity is closer to that of psychology than mathematics. In other words, who are we, and how do we best describe ourselves? Some of the many religious terms of identification include monotheistic (belief in one God), polytheistic (belief in many gods), atheistic (do not believe in God), agnostic (do not know what to believe), Catholic, Protestant, etc.

As a representative of the Protestant term, the Church of the Nazarene is one of over 1500 different denominational divisions of the Christian faith. What else, however, is unique about who Nazarenes are, and how they are best described? The following is an effort to partially answer that question.

First, the church gets its name from Mt. 2:23 where Joseph and Mary took the Child Jesus and Acame and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, >He shall be called a Nazarene,=@ and Acts 24:5 in reference to Athe sect of the Nazarenes.@ The word translated Asect,@ haireseos, means Areligious party, division, faction.@

Second, the church arose in the context of a holiness movement in which many holiness churches were compromising and backing away from the scriptural call to a holy life and deliverance from the dominion of sin in this life. Thus, to prioritize the biblical message of Aholiness@ (for a listing of every occurrence in the NT where the word holy and its cognates are found, I will send a file attachment upon request) and Aentire sanctification@ (cp. I Thess. 5:23), the Church of the Nazarene was born. The primary objective of the church is the preservation and proclamation of God=s call to live a holy life and be entirely sanctified. While it has been suggested to drop the term Aentire@ and just use Asanctification,@ that may be a recommendation which goes against the biblical text. After all, in I Thess. 5:23, the Greek word holoteles in that passage means Aentirely, wholly, in every part.@ Certainly, all that we are and have should be given to Him without hesitation, reservation, trepidation, or intimidation.

Third, the church followed the rich theological orientation of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) and his followers (primarily John Wesley), who opposed John Calvin=s doctrine of predestination (God determines who will be saved and who will be lost, and man has no choice in the matter), stating that by God=s grace, salvation is available for Awhosoever will@ call upon the name of the Lord.

Fourth, the church organized to proclaim holiness and entire sanctification in a maximum manner. The organization is composed of a representative form of church government with equal lay and ministerial participants. Such organization helps to achieve common goals in education, missions, social ministries, publishing, evangelism, and global ministries. Various degrees of superintendency oversee the functioning of the church as it is delineated in the church Manual regarding both beliefs (cp. AArticles of Faith@) and behaviors (Athe Covenant of Christian Character@ and Athe Covenant of Christian Conduct@), as well as government or polity in regard to the local, district, and general organization of the church. This organizational structure not only so functions within the local churches but also throughout the broader denominational bodies of operation (superintendents, assemblies, education, auxiliary groups). Everything from the recognition by congregations of men or women called of God to preach and/or pastor to the preparation of such called ones for maximizing effective ministry is done under careful scrutiny and prayerful supervision.

Fifth, the church is also charismatic - not in the traditional misunderstanding of the word, but in the biblically intended meaning, that of Aspiritual gifts@ (Greek--charismata). In other words, church members are to discover and employ their spiritual gifts of ministry and service so that the body of Christ may be built up and function as God intends (I Cor. 12; Eph. 4:7-16).

Having been called by the One above to fulfill His mission on planet earth by us below, the Church of the Nazarene stands with the one who said, Awe preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus= sake@ (I Cor. 4:5). This brief portrayal of some of the salient features of the Church of the Nazarene hopefully contributes in a meaningful way to our identity and raison d=etre (reason for being)!

Calvary Church of the Nazarene

3940 Telstar Circle Huntsville, AL 35805

Dr. Morris Murray, Jr., Pastor


Content copyright July 2010 jmhall. All rights reserved.