The Mission of the Church of the Nazarene:
To make Christlike disciples in the nations.
To make Christlike disciples in the nations.
“With the Church of the Nazarene facing some of the biggest generational and cultural changes in 60 years, the Board of General Superintendents voted unanimously in its December 2006 meeting to update language used to define the mission as it approaches its Centennial in 2008.”
My particular context as a post-modern has lead to the biased opinion that we play a large part in “the biggest generational and cultural changes in 60 years”. I also think this statement goes along way to address the impending issue of becoming a more internationally represented denomination and that it was meant to be relevant on a global cultural scale. But I would like to look at this statement for now in the context of post-modernity and the emergent church (which I believe has invested interest to burst out of its seemingly exclusive anglo/western context). The challenge with mission statements and the problem with language in general is that we almost always speak from a specific assumed cultural context. I think this is why the simpler the mission statement is the better because the more words you have the more confusing it can become; especially over cross-cultural lines. This is why this statement only has seven words, the General Superintendents felt that “in a 24/7, over-communicated society, it's an over-simplified (but not simplistic) message that has the best chance of getting through.” So, how well is the message getting through on the cross-cultural level for post-moderns?
Personally, I think this statement has many elements that I can resonate with. I like the term “Christlike” in regards to holiness because it expresses a picture of holiness that goes beyond the shallow image of just personal piety that many in our tradition have come associate with holiness. However, I find it interesting that on the banner some qualifiers were added to the mission statement (so much for keeping it simple) and the words “holy” and “righteous” were added under being “Christlike”. I guess they could not help themselves and had to use qualifying words that while do not inherently infer personal piety, in the context of our church culture and tradition very much do infer it.
Reading “Christlike” in the statement is moving us forward as it implies a dynamic form of holiness in the likeness of Jesus Christ himself which included vibrant and active love, compassion, grace, and mercy played out in the context of the divine wrapped up in humanity. But while going two steps forward with the term “Christlike” in reference to holiness we take one step back with the qualifiers “holy” and “righteous”; having just these two qualifiers seeks to reduce holiness again to personal piety. Personal piety is a cheap imitation of holiness holding on to “a form of godliness but denies the power” to really make a difference in the life of the other. The good news is that these qualifiers are on the banner, but not part of the mission statement itself and talking about holiness in the terms of Christlikeness really is a huge step in the right direction. Even our good friend to the emergent church Nina Gunter says that “the statement of mission makes clear the preeminence of Jesus Christ. It says that Christ-likeness is THE ESSENCE of holiness.” I agree with Nina on this one.
I also like the term “disciples”; above all we want to make followers of Jesus Christ not Nazarenes or even church members. The statement encourages us not to try to recruit people into our programs but to make disciples that follow Jesus where we live and encourage others to do the same. Our good friend Dr. Gunter also said that “Programs don’t make disciples. Disciples make disciples”. She continued, “The mission of the church is not a program or emphasis but a way of life. It is part of the ‘everydayness’ of our lives.” Wow, I think she almost said that the church as disciples of Christ are “incarnational”, at least her statements and the mission statement leaves room for this and encourages discipleship in the context of “every day lives” more so than church membership and programs.
The only wording left to mention about the mission statement is “in the Nations”. This has an international element to it which I like, though the use of this wording in the mission statement feels kind of awkward. I also am mulling over the implications of the qualifier on the banner regarding “to make”. There is much more to ponder about our new mission statement “To make Christlike disciples in the nations”. I am sure we will be hearing more about it and invited to think even more about it as well. The question is, now that we have a “mission statement” that seems to reflect the “generational and cultural changes” we are experiencing in the world will it make a difference?
One nugget of hope for me is that it seems that this mission statement came from listening to the church as a body in the context of wrestling through these “generational and cultural changes”. I think we saw some evidence of this listening at M7 through the space and voice they gave to the emergent church and others wrestling with how to apply our faith in these times of “generational and cultural changes”. Two often our leaders in our denomination have wanted to try and steer and drive the church, manhandling it, trying to force it down what ever road they thought best for us as an Institution, but this statement seems to be derived from listening to the church in what it already is recognizing as our call as the body of Christ.
This mission statement inches us away from institutionalism and our desire to hold on to distinctiveness that divide the body and toward discipleship and Christlikeness that unify the body of Christ as a whole and liberates us to make a difference in the world. We are called to actually be disciples of Jesus Christ and to be Christlike ourselves. Embracing our mission in these terms enables us to see the Kingdom of God in a more dynamic way then what we have at times reduced the church and gospel to in the past. I am still thinking about all of this, but I have hope, how about you?
These are just my initial thoughts related to the new mission statement; what are your initial thoughts about the new mission statement?