Diverse? Yes. United And Strong? No

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6

“We are united. We are diverse. We are strong.”

Those are some of the words of Dr. Stan Toler, General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, which he wrote recently in a message titled “Unity Not Uniformity”.  What does that mean in the context of this article (see all of it at the end).   After reading it, I have come to the conclusion that it sounds nice, but the facts speak to a different reality.  Dr. Toler I’m sure is sincere in these statements, but the Church of the Nazarene is far from being united and strong.  Oh, it may be diverse, as we see all sorts of diversity around us today.  But united and strong?

Here are a few quotes pulled from the article, and my comments follow:

“Success in our mission to make Christlike disciples in the nations will require strong unity as a body of believers; yet unity does not mean uniformity.”
We reject the notion that we must be uniform in our expressions of worship or music or liturgy.Yet we have varying convictions. We refuse to rebuke one another for that which God has not condemned. And we respect the convictions of those with whom we disagree

How can we be united when:

1. Emergent church ideology is breaking up local churches, and pastors who speak out against it are forced out, in a denomination that is claiming to be diverse.
2. Leaders at our seminary and other colleges are willingly joining hands with pagan interfaith groups and Roman Catholicism.
3. College professors are freely indoctrinating students with the heresy that God cannot know the future, and that He learns from His mistakes.
4. Pagan prayer labyrinths are now being used in Nazarene churches and at least one Nazarene university.
5. Professors who teach occultic Celtic spirituality are okay, but allowing ordination of pastors who believe in biblical inerrancy is not okay.
6. A prominent, radical, leftist “social justice” pastor who speaks at a homosexuality-promoting “Christian” festival continues to be rewarded, instead of being disciplined.  The same festival also was organized by Mike King, adjunct professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary.
7. Ashes to the forehead is promoted in a Nazarene devotional from Nazarene Publishing House; youth devotionals promote how to design your own prayer labyrinth, prayer beads, pilgrimages to interspiritual centers, and contemplative prayer ; Roman Catholic terminology and Lenten practices are making us look more like the Roman Catholics.
8. “Bible” study groups are more and more using books written by false teachers like Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Rick Warren and William P. Young, and less and less using… the Bible.
9. Centering prayer, practicing the silence, lectio divina, and other Eastern based prayer methods seeking to “experience God”, are taking the place of true biblical prayer.
10. Emergent Nazarene pastors praise Marcus Borg, who denies the atonement of Christ on the Cross; and they recommend the heretical novel The Shack as a great missional book for pastors; yet they disparage and insult those who believe in biblical inerrancy and the fundamentals of the faith.

I could give dozens of more examples, but I think I’ve made my point.

Dr. Toler said that we ought to refuse to rebuke fellow Christians for that which God has not condemned.  That’s not the problem.  The problem is, we are NOT rebuking those who are practicing and teaching that which God has condemned.

Yes, we are certainly diverse in the Nazarene church now, the evidence for that is solid.

But united and strong?  Tell me, how is that possible?  It is NOT possible to have unity with anyone who claims the name of Jesus, yet who does not live in obedience to His word.  This denomination is far from unified.

Manny Silva

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We are united. We are diverse. We are strong.
We are making Christlike disciples in the nations.

— Stan A. Toler
General Superintendent

Unity Not Uniformity
By Stan A. Toler

In one edition of Charles Schultz’s beloved Peanuts cartoon, the irascible Lucy demands that her little brother, Linus, change the television channel, threatening him with her fist to get him to comply.

“What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asks Linus.

“These five fingers,” says Lucy. “Individually they’re nothing, but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.”

“Which channel do you want?” asks Linus. Then he looks at his own fingers and asks, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”

Success in our mission to make Christlike disciples in the nations will require strong unity as a body of believers; yet unity does not mean uniformity.

One Faith, Many Expressions
We are a Christian church. Our faith is placed in a single source for salvation—the Lord Jesus Christ. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NIV).

Yet we may honor our Lord in a variety of ways. We reject the notion that we must be uniform in our expressions of worship or music or liturgy. There is room in the Body of Christ for every people, every language, and every culture.

One Passion, Many Convictions
We are a holiness church. We are united in our hunger to experience the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to live new, victorious lives. Yet we have varying convictions. We refuse to rebuke one another for that which God has not condemned. And we respect the convictions of those with whom we disagree, making “every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19, NIV).

One Mission, Many Contexts
We are a missional church. We are united in our purpose to make Christlike disciples in the nations, and we pool our resources in this pursuit. Yet we live and minister in diverse settings. We understand that a variety of methodologies and strategies will be needed in order to make Jesus known to every culture, nation, and people. With the Apostle Paul, we have “become all things to all people so that by all possible means I [we] might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NIV).

We are united. We are diverse. We are strong. We are making Christlike disciples in the nations.

Colossians 3:11 reminds us that Christ is all! And it is this Christ who brings us together in message and mission. He alone is our inspiration. Fourth-century African bishop Augustine summed it up this way:

The one who has Christ has everything.
The one who has everything except for Christ really has nothing.
And the one who has Christ plus everything else
does not have any more than the one who has Christ alone.

Our faith, our passion, and our mission are found in Him alone!

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5 responses to “Diverse? Yes. United And Strong? No

  1. Ask the, tens of thousands, who have left the Nazarene church if they agree!

    An aquaintance once described his understanding of Communism to me. He didn’t use the word “communism” in his description, or even the word “socialism” (which is the first step necessary to dictatorial communsim), but, because of his deep physical needs communism seemed/sounded like the answer. His description of ‘fairness’, ‘even playing field’, ‘sharing all we have with one another’, ‘respecting diversity’ all sounded good.

    But in the end, it is anything but fair. Practical communism has demonstrated how unfair it is in practice. Someone loses so someone can gain. One side has political power to dictate their will, the other must be submissive. The State becomes the referee, taking from some peoople, doling out to others while enriching itself. Communism is different from a free democracy and the only diversity is in the varying ways it crushes individuality.

    Resistance is futile, even deadly.

    So goes the Nazarene church. Emergent philosphies, prayer labyrinths, communalism. Sounds like diversity, but it’s just different. It sounds good. But it is not the Gospel of Christ. The practical outcome, just like communism, is anthing but fair or nice. And it is dictatorial. It is deadly.

    The ‘new large crowds’ must mean something though. Right?

    But, the foolish continue to act foolishly (Dr. Toler?).

    I’ve been there. I know that if you don’t get along with and embrace the “new ways of reaching the lost” or ‘worship’ they show you the door or worse! Much worse.

  2. I noticed the buzzwords missional and context in Dr. Toler’s article. Paul may have fine tuned the delivery of his messages based on the crowd, but he always gave the audience what they needed, not what they wanted. He always boldly proclaimed the gospel.
    I don’t see that in the diversity, missional, context proponents. If anything, I see an attempt to gain the acceptance of the culture.The discussion is how the church can change, not how it can maintain the faith given once, for all.
    As for different music, I was in a service when JK Warrick (then a pastor) made the comment that today’s music is tomorrow’s theology. I can certainly see that with the emphasis on zoned out mantra style meditation and the choruses that go on forever.

  3. You’re right, Jim. I had a conversation about this the other day with some people about how disappointing much of the contemporary “worship” in churches now is.

    You have “stages” that look more like something out of an entertainment facility than a church, complete with hi-tech lights and massive flat screens on either side that often play tear-jerker videos on almost a weekly basis.

    You have music that at times can be very doctrinally shallow and is more for the “emotional buzz” that gives people. You have these songs repeated over and over, and taking over more and more of the service, with the purpose of substituting the work of the Spirit (through sound theological worship songs) with “goosebump Christianity” (which mistakes emotionalism for the Spirit).

    You have the pastor’s sermons becoming more and more compressed, and unfortunately at times sounding more like moral, theraputic deism than sound doctrinal preaching. They become more “topical” and “relevant” instead of being exegetical pronouncements of the Word of God.

    I’ll be frank: I regularly attend a Nazarene church that is heading in this direction, and at one point in my life (thanks in part to my exposure to the pentecostal church) I was wrapped up in the contemporary whiz-bang bells and whistles because being the fool that I was, I mistook manipulative excitement for being in the Spirit. Now, I know better. Being a Christian (and especially being a Christian on Sunday morning) isn’t about how hyped up and teary eyed you get during the service; it’s about growing in grace and living in the Spirit by a consistent prayer and Bible study, through which the Spirit works to shape us, REGARDLESS of our emotional experiences.

    In all honesty I’d rather hear an organ with hymns on Sunday morning, because there is a whole lot more substance in a great many of those hymns than there are in the (sometimes trite) contemporary songs.

  4. I respectfully disagree with Dr. Toler’s implication in his title that Unity does not imply Uniformity. Giving the definition uniformity means unchanging, consistent, resembling another meaning the same in quality, character, and manner conforming to one standard being the same.

    Dr Toler wrote; “We reject the notion that we must be uniform in our expressions of worship or music or liturgy.” No one would deny that there is room at the cross for everyone. The problem I find with that statement (without some form of uniformity) is that it opens up a myriad of ways of worship including those that are unacceptable causing the church to miss the mark or at best lose its identify. There is evidence on numerous occasions that this is happening in the COTN today because of the liberal position it is taking. 1 Corinthians [9:22], “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Does not imply that the Church needs to embrace questionable or sinful practices.

  5. Manny, this is a little lengthy! I feel this addresses the topic of Dr Toler’s message in more detail.
    2Timothy [2:3-4] “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” Just as the soldier is to please those in authority over him or her, we as Christians are to please Christ in the same way. Here the Apostle Paul uses the soldier to illustrate the life of a faithful follower of Christ and what is required.

    There are several reasons Paul uses the analogy of a soldier to portray the life of a Christian and the Church can benefit from the example in the life of a soldier. There are characteristics instantly recognizable about the soldier’s life that differs from civilian life as any soldier can attest to. In comparison the Christian life is different from the world. You do not have to be in the military too long before you sense a bond and uniformity with those around you.

    For those who have never served in the military allow me to explain a little of the process that makes up the soldier after removing him or her from civilian life. You will see some parallels to what takes place in the Christian community when you compare the similarities. 1st Today’s military is volunteer no one is forced to join, just as no one is forced to accept Christ. 2nd It requires a commitment with a goal. Paul alluded that our commitment and goal was to “please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” This can only occur when the recruit is removed from familiar surroundings. 3rd The soldier must endure rigorous training normally called boot camp that shapes and molds the warrior to operate as one. This initial preparation sets in motion the discipline to adapt to a new set of rules that equips him or her to carry out the mission to succeed in battle. 4th The soldier, like the Christian, knows that his life will never be the same again and may even be called upon to give it for the greater cause. I hope that you were able to draw several parallels in your Christian life to that of a soldier.

    Just as there are uniformity in the military, I believe there is a need for uniformity in the Church otherwise how will people recognize us. The military is able to take young people from all walks of life varying in education, race, size, economic status, etc. and are able within a short time mold them into a single unit without destroying their individual personalities. It’s just that they all live and are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). That is the thread that ties all the military together regardless of their mission. As Christians our code is the Bible and should be what ties us to together. Just like the military Christ takes us from all walks of life and molds us into His followers reflecting His values as being Christ like leaving our personality intact.

    I reject the ideology that the Emergent’s are spreading and the pagan ways of worship that are creeping into the Church. If they succeed we will lose our identity as Nazarenes.

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