One hundred fifty-five world areas and counting! It is hard to imagine the magnitude of the work of the Church of the Nazarene when describing our mission. It is not just that we are in so many countries of the world. But in every place where Nazarenes are found we have a definitive message: "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:19).
This message is not subject to varieties of interpretation that rob it of its decisive focus. The hope of the world is found in Jesus of Nazareth.
That is why we go! That is the motivation for the mission. None of us is exempt from the responsibility of sharing the message. We have to go. And we go not on the basis of our sympathy for the lost of the world. Rather, we go in response to the compelling authoritative command of Jesus himself (Matthew 28:16-20).
The message we bring is a message of radical transformation. This is not only a different way of thinking. It is also a different way of being.
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We teach people that God changes them. We call it "regeneration." The life of Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit invades them, and the power of sin to reign and control is canceled. That is radical! We invite people to an encounter with Christ that is so pervasive it can alter the very core of their being. They can be reoriented from self-serving, self-centered lifestyles to lives of holy love and sacrificial, humble, loving service to others. We call it "entire sanctification."
This is not a result of the skill or knowledge of the preacher or missionary. The power of God accomplishes this! The message of the gospel is founded on the completed work of Jesus Christ through His suffering, death, and resurrection. And this message is not the provincial possession of a particular theological belief system. The message is based on the authority of the Bible itself.
Continually, I am struck by the power of God's Word.
It is important we remember that wherever we go, the Bible goes with us.
Where it is taught and preached, we see the power of the Holy Spirit at work.
Our church invests heavily in seeing that the Holy Bible is available in the languages of the people to whom we go. Some Nazarene missionaries have given their entire service to Christ and the church in patient, careful, and laborious translation of the Scriptures for people who have never seen a Bible in their own languages.
William Sedat and his colleagues, working through Wycliffe Bible Translators, provided the Scriptures for our missionaries and national workers in little known villages of Guatemala. They made an eternal difference for tens of thousands of Nazarenes.
That is why we invest in "Books for Pastors," in clergy training, and in literature translation and distribution. That is why we fund translators in hundreds of languages.
In Africa, my heart was gripped with deep appreciation for the way the Word of God is so important to our people. I watched as new Bibles were presented to pastors, a project made possible by "Books for Pastors." Some of those leaders were holding their personal copies of the Scriptures for the first time. One man, overwhelmed at having his own Bible, began to dance with it, clutching it to his chest, embracing it, weeping with joy. My own tears began to flow. What joy!
How long has it been since you danced with your Bible? Maybe it is time to start!
Jesse C. Middendorf is a General Superintendent Emeritus for the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, January/February 2010.