A Dying Denomination? A Nazarene Pastor Speaks For Many Nazarenes

The following commentary by an ordained Nazarene pastor is reflective of not only many Nazarene pastors, but also Nazarenes in general who have been watching the incremental downgrading of a holiness denomination. The Church of the Nazarene is fractured and divided, and yet many Nazarenes are still not aware of the danger. But to those who are aware, this speaks for them:

Speaking as someone who feels completely helpless, I love the church of my youth. I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene, was educated in a Nazarene University and then went on to Nazarene Seminary. It was there that my eyes were first opened to the truth of what was happening at the higher levels. I had several prominent professors (who I will not name) who around 1990, I remember them explicitly saying that there is no hell. Hell is just a scapegoat for our own evil. This professor has written several books and been lauded among the leadership for years and asked to speak at many events including camp meetings etc. In other words, he has a far reaching arm due to his position.

On another occasion I recall sitting in a theology class and hearing my professor (also a distinguished and published author in the church) say quite openly that the Genesis account of creation is just a myth, a simple story to relate complex information to simple-minded people. In other words, those of us who believe that God can do anything, including creating all the created order in a literal 6 day period of time complete with age built in, are actually simple-minded morons who should shut up and let the scientists lead us in another round of worship and determine our theology.

I remember calling home to my mother (she was the stalwart person of faith in my life), who herself was a life-long Nazarene, and literally sobbing over the phone. Through tears I told her of the things that I was being taught and really, told to believe. She encouraged me to hold on to the things that I had been taught as a child, the first things. I have done that through the years as I have watched in horror how things have gone from bad to worse. Now my own child who attended a Nazarene University called me in absolute horror as she recounted one of her theology professors whom she really loved, said in class, “There is no such thing as the Devil.” I told her I had heard the same malarkey and was not surprised that she had now been encountered with it at the college level.

I am a Nazarene elder (credentialed), but I am at a crossroads. Currently, I am not in the capacity of full time ministry as a pastor. My heart aches to minister again, but I feel almost bound by my credentials (not in a good way) to remain in the COTN despite what I see as a slippery slide into the wasteland of once great denominations. When I say, “bound,” I don’t mean that I can’t break away because the bond is too strong in my heart. What I mean is that the system is such that I either surrender my credentials, which then leaves me with no ordination credentials at all, or I am funneled back into a system which I believe is dying a slow agonizing death due to its willingness to compromise on what I see as the major issues, or rather one issue, namely: The Word of God. This is the foundational issue all the other beliefs must stand upon.

It has been the article of faith concerning the Word of God that has been so damaging and so detrimental to so many in the faith. I ministered in another denomination for a short period of time. It became apparent to me that when I went to their equivalent of General Assembly and was met with a dose (a heavy dose) of LGTBQ tolerance and heard leaders from the platform refer to the Holy Spirit as “She” that I could no longer allow myself to be aligned with this denomination. It was also in this denomination that I was told by a mentor that we should not insist on 6 days of creation because the denomination allows that the Word of God is not explicit on this issue and the denomination has taken a stance that allows for the Christian to have a myriad of views. Ironically, this denomination is now embroiled in the whole homosexual, same sex, no gender controversy so prevalent today.

Sounds eerily familiar to the stance the COTN has taken. “Infallibility” over “Inerrancy.” The COTN has taken the position that scripture is infallible only in matters concerning soteriology (salvation). Anything that falls outside of the realm of “what must I do to be saved?” is now up for grabs and called into question. How can anyone deny that this undermines the authority of scripture and (the Holy Spirit’s) ability to speak into our lives is beyond me. It is obvious to me that there will be a coming UMC-like battle to the COTN because of this weakness to ascribe ultimate authority to the scriptures rather than science and the latest spiritual fads.

Here’s one thing that I would really like to say and I hope that it is heard: Over the years pastoring in the Nazarene denomination, as a pastor, I can say with great assurance that the rank and file, the membership as a whole (at least those not indoctrinated at the colleges, universities and the seminaries) do not know that the article of faith is a weak article of faith. They do not know the difference between infallibility and inerrancy. Most of them believe the scriptures to be 100% trustworthy in all things and in all areas of our lives. I don’t believe the rank and file, you know the ones that “fund the mission”, have the slightest idea of how their denomination’s article of faith has totally undermined their once great denomination and is leading them to be among those who will be found in apostasy when the Lord returns. Don’t even get me started on eschatology. Apparently, there’s a right and wrong way to believe about that too. One way if you’re highly educated (by Nazarene professors of course) and the wrong way, according to belief in the scriptures.

At present, I feel stuck. I don’t know what to do. I am a mere peon without any teeth.

14 responses to “A Dying Denomination? A Nazarene Pastor Speaks For Many Nazarenes

  1. I have been very disappointed in the University of Point Loma. My daughter transferred this year as a junior. The very first day in her bible class the teacher said, “in the class we refer to God as neutral be God does not have a penis. In her literature class she was required to read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel who is an openly gay cartoonist. The book has comic strip drawings of women having sex. We came here to get something different and set apart. The book has no redeeming value

  2. To the minister who is not currently pastoring:
    I am a layperson, most of my extended family, with the exception of 2 cousins, are also laypeople. From our side of things: please hang in there, find a church and begin again. We need you, and many of us are out there actively looking for you! When you do, please advertise your ministry clearly as to the priorities, so those of us who are searching in your area, can come find your Church, on the internet and elsewhere. (Words that indicate a solid Bible basis are helpful.) I have spent hours on the internet trying to figure out whether a Church is Bible based in it’s teaching from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.
    My other suggestion to you would be DON’T TRUST THE LITERATURE. Not the quarterlies or “lobby papers” from Nazarene headquarters, and certainly be very cautious of what yourself read, and consider the background of who wrote it, in your private time. Just because it comes from a Christian bookstore doesn’t make it Biblical. Does this author treat the Bible with the respect it’s entitled to? Not adding to or taking away from? Not even a little?
    Thank you very much for your service.

  3. This part really stood out to me, “ Sounds eerily familiar to the stance the COTN has taken. “Infallibility” over “Inerrancy.” The COTN has taken the position that scripture is infallible only in matters concerning soteriology (salvation). Anything that falls outside of the realm of “what must I do to be saved?” is now up for grabs and called into question. How can anyone deny that this undermines the authority of scripture and (the Holy Spirit’s) ability to speak into our lives is beyond me. It is obvious to me that there will be a coming UMC-like battle to the COTN because of this weakness to ascribe ultimate authority to the scriptures rather than science and the latest spiritual fads.”

    My prayers will be with this hurting pastor. I can feel the pain in his words. May God bless him for caring enough to reach out & get this message to the Nazarene Church. It’s something we all need to hear, & pray about. May God help us!

  4. my heart breaks over what is happening within the church. I don’t know what to do. I hunger for Gods word untainted by emergent teachings and a denomination that is not lukewarm. how do I print these postings so I can get them to other people?

  5. I deeply admire and respect this Nazarene pastor for his transparency to reveal the truth of what is happening in our denominational higher education institutions. Although that truth is deeply disturbing and I long for our leadership to address these disturbing issues. We served as Nazarene missionaries for ten years. Our daughter wanted to attend PLNU since she was ten years old. However, a WW team from PLNU came to visit in Africa. Our daughter shared how she wanted to attend PLNU. One of the students said to her, “Do not study religion there. You will lose your faith.” She was deeply disturbed by this since she had a call to pastor in the COTN. Her faith waned and she went to law school instead.

  6. Hi Yvonne,
    It is not easy to print directly from the site, unless you copy and paste into a word processor first and then just print to your printer. Feel free to do that if you can.
    However, I do have some comprehensive samples of articles, in PDF format, from the past 10 years, which I could send to you. It highlights various topics including dome of the General Assembly doings.
    My email is mannyrsilva@hotmail.com if you want, send me a note and I can send you the documents.

  7. My name is pastor Luke Oakes. For 7 years I wandered alone in the wilderness after pastoring in the Nazarene church. Like the author above. I felt the immense struggle to stay even through all of the brokenness I found. This year, God has empowered me to write a book to help the many pastors like us who have been called out of the established church. The thing that we need to realize is that we are many not few. And we are not the rebellious breed we have been made out to be. We are lovers of God and uncompromising men and women of faith. Revival is coming if those who see this movement of the Spirit will have the faith to walk away from that which is perishing and embrace a reformed tool to do effective ministry. I believe that the way to repair the fellowship found within our denominations will not come from those in the center of its influence, rather it will come from the power of those God stands with in the fields and homes of those who have not given up the hope that God’s Word Truth and full of life. The plans are in place to set aflame the authority in our pastors once again as we rip of the bridal that has turned the mouthpieces of God into mere employees and CEO’s. As the established church continues to fade, new growth will bring joy to those who follow the Spirit wherever He leads: even if that is outside of the traditions we have grown to love. I pray for all of us who feel this tension, and I race to share the vision God is revealing to give direction to those waiting for it. Holiness Unto the Lord…

    If you do want to chat about these things you can add me on Facebook or email me at lukejoakes@yahoo.com

  8. Hello! I know that many of your articles have been up for a long time, but only recently my husband and I found them because we’ve been wondering what is going on with the Nazarene churches in our area. There’s a huge pull toward Catholic rituals.. Lent, ash Wednesday, lightning votive candles, and even having kids make prayer beads. Also, our pastor doesn’t believe in the literal understanding of Revelation, and he doesn’t support Israel. We have a feeling he believes in replacement theology.. the only time we asked him about Israel, he gave us an answer including “ten lost tribes” and we understood he does not understand God’s amazing plan for His people.

    We are grateful that you have openly written so much TRUTH in your blog. It helped us to know that we are not alone in our bewilderment as to what has happened to this church I grew up in. Praying for you and thankful for you.

  9. Dear KE,
    Thanks so much for your kind comments. I have been wrapped up in this since 2008, when I started seeing this stuff creeping in. By early 2009, after joining with Concerned Nazarenes, I was already pushed out of my church (my father was a former pastor there) by a pastor who promotes all this emergent and Catholic ritual foolishness, among other things. I understand, along with many others, the emotions that hit faithful Christians when they see such a crazy turn in the COTN.
    I believe the worst is to come, with the LGBT push within the denomination. Holland District is already promoting heavily, they have pastors who have blessed same sex unions, and the Generals don;t do a thing about it.
    If you would like, I would recommend joining the Concerned Nazarenes group on FaceBook, if you are on FB. There are two groups, but the original group is strictly for Nazarenes, former Nazarenes, and like-minded Christians who are totally against these things. It is an informational, support and encouragement group, and not a group for arguing and debating what we know is false. So you may get a lot of encouragement from our group. It is located here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/concernednazarenes

    If you need anything else, just email me at mannyrsilva@hotmail.com

    Sincerely in Christ,

  10. There is major reform coming in the US for many denominations. Sadly, many of the people embracing this reform are the ones who have been forced to leave religion to embrace Christ. God is raising up new leaders who see the problems that are arising in the Church. Soon new roots will spring up bearing good fruit once again. If God is revealing these things to you, mourn for what is taking place. However, also seek out others who are in mourning with you. A time of revival is coming, but it will take place outside of denominationalism. Like Manny has said, find other likeminded people and try to find a healthy church. And you can find people on social media that can help fed your spirit until you do. My name is Luke Oakes, and I am one of many pastors who have come out of the Nazarene Church to start healthy ministries. If you are looking for real truth, my social media accounts (facebook, You-tube) are under “Luke Oakes” and “Oakes Ministries” I also am writing a book called “Neodenominationalism” Stay strong, as things continue to get worse, many new options will arise to serve the Lord. Remember, Jesus wins…

  11. Hello. I have a father in law, a pastor whose been in your similar position for many years. I wonder about its existential stress to his whole person and health. He doesn’t seem happy, perplexed by the gravity of environmental changes and weight of responsibility for guiding the flock. One thing that COVID is
    making us all do is recognizing we are not just thinkers but experiencers of the world, and we do that through our amazing complex bodies of the felt sense, somatic memory and compassionate connection. when we exist and live there in that loved and loving consciousness where is the mental, self-storied concept and moral authority of a historical God? What if God is whispering to you a new nondual love song that produces the fruits of the spirit after laying down all of it.. including the deepest fear, on the altar? What if our leadership became a curious inquiry about the Infinite’s immense creative nature to evolve and expand in us as we attune, beyond the grip of the analytic mind to know, really receive from that Divine still pulse within. I’m wondering that for my dad in law.

  12. I feel your pain. I preach Jesus and Him crucified for our sin and the power of the Holy Spirit to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and to keep us clean. Saved in ’79, Sanctified in ’90 the gap came because I was educated in the Denominational Mid-America Nazarene College (now university) ’80-’84. There was much that I lost there including the rock solid faith I had upon entering. One of my professor’s (so-called) told me my beliefs were “fanatical.” But God called me back and I pastored the same church bi-vocationally for 20 years until God said it was time to move. I moved from the EMD to the NAD and cannot get a call because I preach the “Old Paths” to Holiness.
    The church talks a good game but they really no longer believe in Holiness of Heart and Life. What church leaders today feed people is Milk because they either don’t know the truth themselves or believe their congregations cannot stomach real Meat. Holiness is not good works and it is NOT struggling against internal sin until the day you die or the Lord calls you Home. It is a work of God in the Heart that works out of your heart and into your Life. The Holy Spirit does not make you Sinless He makes you Sin Free. His abiding will keep you that way!
    Anyway, I admire your transparency and am also restrained from just leaving altogether. Where would I go? Seeing the church go down this road to Apostasy is like watching my mother die. I have been saying the church would face these things since ’97 and here we are.
    I will keep preaching the truth, you do the same and God will raise you up.

  13. Add me on Facebook so we can chat. I have a possible path for fellowship. Luke Oakes Former Nazarene pastor and founder of the system of Neodenominationalism. It is where you get to preach traditional holiness outside of denominational control. It is based more on relationships rather than organizational authority.

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