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.


An Invitation For Fellowship And Mutual Support

Below is a letter from Pastor Joe Staniforth of Lighthouse of Holiness, an independent holiness missions’ work on the border of Mexico and the United States.  Please take the time to read.  It is an invitation to all those who have had to leave the Nazarene Church and other Wesleyan churches to support one another in prayer, and to join hands in fellowship.  If you are interested, please contact them at lightofholiness@aol.com or (956)525-4144.  You can also join their F​acebook group here.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!  We are writing on behalf of those whose hearts are longing for holiness fellowships where brothers and sisters are secure in this knowledge:  The incorruptible Word of God is both believed and taught amongst members and pastors alike.  “How good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in (such) unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

It could be that you have been a part of a church that claims “holiness unto the Lord,” but promotes programs that are primarily focused on entertaining like the world, rather than training in the Word.   Perhaps you may have left what was once a sweet fellowship turned sour by false teaching.   Regardless, you feel like an abandoned child, surrounded by an increasingly wicked world, and hungry for uncompromised preaching that once graced the pulpits of Nazarene churches or other Wesleyan denominations.  Where is that sacred assembling that is needed, “so much more, as you see the day (of the Bridegroom) approaching”? (Hebrews 11:25)

There are many that we have come to know who share in this longing.  We would refer to them as a remnant, and would like to compare them to the people of Jerusalem at the time of King Hezekiah.  Surrounded by the taunting Assyrians, these last defenders of truth appeared to be on the brink of destruction.   The Kingdom of Israel was gone and the rest of Judah was in tatters.  King Hezekiah sent a desperate plea to the prophet, Isaiah:

“This is the day of trouble, and rebuke, and blasphemy; for the children have come to birth, but there is not strength to bring them forth.  It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left” (2 Kings 19:3,4b).

Primarily, our plea is for prayer.  We need to intercede for the remnant that is left.  This is a day of trouble, as truth is under siege, and many are defecting – abandoning their allegiance – under the pressures of political correctness, moral relativity and other schemes of the evil one.  It is a day of rebuke when the Rabshakehs of our day label those who still stand for the truth as “divisive” and “unloving.”  Rabshakeh, the spokesman for King Sennacherib of Assyria, underestimated the God of truth when he rebuked those who defended Zion (II Kings 18:35).  Finally, it is a day of blasphemy, when learned men – “wise in their own eyes” (Isaiah 5:21) – “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).  They suppress such truths as His creation, a testimony to “His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20), by referring to the historical account in the Holy Scriptures (Genesis 1 & 2) as “allegorical”, “mythological” or “compatible with evolution.”

We do not believe our prayers should be solely focused on the enemy, for we know that Christ has promised that His bride will triumph over the gates of hell.  King Hezekiah did not state that this was an end, rather a beginning.  He believed that the remnant had “come to birth.”  Before Hezekiah’s reign, the Kingdom of Judah had become much like its apostate neighbors to the north.  Hezekiah had been born out of this heresy, as he was the son of the idolatrous King Ahaz, but “he did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 18:3).  He would serve to lead his people out of idolatry (II Kings 18:4-5).

Now, this newborn remnant would need strength.  The King recognized that it would never survive in its own strength or might, but was reliant upon the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6).   They needed His strength “to bring them forth” as a victorious people.  We need to pray for the strength of the Lord for the holiness remnant that has been born out of heresy.  We are under siege, and we are weak, but the God whose truth we honor is Almighty.  Praise His holy name!

I, Pastor Joe Staniforth, was born out of heresy.  Three and one half years ago, I needed to strengthen myself in the Lord.  I had been grieved by the present state of the Nazarene denomination in which I had spent most of my life.  There was a growing disregard for the authority and inerrancy of Scripture that was fueled by the church’s academic institutions.  In turn, “another gospel” (II Cor. 11:4 – often called “emergent”) was being preached.  With heaviness of heart, I warned whenever given the opportunity.

Hell would soon seek to silence me, as it waged war against my calling and family.  As the Kingdom of Judah had fallen, city by city, before the siege of the capital, we lost one position after the next.  First, preaching opportunities were taken away.  Then, as I continued to sound the alarm, I was dismissed from my position as a missionary and district evangelist.   After I sent a letter to local pastors sharing my grief with them, I was fired from my own position as a local pastor.  Consequently, we lost our flock, a home (which also served as a place for a fellowship) and financial support for the missions work.  Finally, I was stripped of my ministerial credentials, as the Lord would not allow me to be silent.

Yet, I still had the most precious of all my possessions – my Zion.   As Hezekiah would bring his case before God in the temple (II Kings 19:14) I came before my Jesus, the living temple.  He made it evident to me, through his word and the counsel of those who had remained close to me during the time of trial, that we had become a part of a remnant.  This trial was nothing more than the birth pangs of labor, when a remnant is born from heresy.

           “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before Him, even into His ears” (Psalm 18:6).  He provided my family with the necessary provisions, and revealed to me an area of ministry that was dear to His heart – underprivileged children.  It seemed impossible that such a ministry could be maintained, without the support of a denomination.  Yet, through the prayers and giving of a faithful few, the Lord has kept us these 3 ½ years.   We began by making a left turn into a neighborhood filled with needy children where we preached the gospel out of the trunk of a car.  A group gathered on a hot concrete floor, and a work of the Lord was born.  Praise His holy name!

The Lord has strengthened our faith, and we now have children’s missions in Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas.  Though we are still only at the crawling phase of a baby remnant, we can say that God has given us the grace to get this far.  We believe He will complete the work that He has begun.  May He be glorified through His work!

I give you my testimony, in the hope that it will serve to encourage those who are still going through the labor pains of coming out from among the heresy.  I beseech you to cling to Christ as your stronghold.   He is the Truth to whom we hold and He is unshakable.  King Hezekiah was triumphant because of his dedication to the Truth.  “For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and those who escape from Mount Zion.  The zeal of the LORD of host will do this” (2 Kings 19:31)

Our second reason for writing this letter is that we are seeking to extend a hand of fellowship to the holiness remnant.   We have already joined hands with one fellowship in Sequim, Washington and have acquaintances with individuals and fellowships around the country.

In fairness to those who are interested in joining hands, we would like to make our position clear.  First and foremost, we can only extend a hand of fellowship to those who regard the scriptures as fully inerrant (without error).*   Adam and Eve were the first to fall into a state of apostasy when they bought into the serpent’s lie – “Hath God said…?” (Genesis 3:1).   Since then, many, including people that we once regarded as brothers and sisters, have fallen into this same trap.  When one begins to doubt God’s Word, apostasy is inevitable.

We stand with Wesleyans such as Richard S. Taylor who wrote, “the sober teaching (of the Word) is that the human race began with a primal pair in a God-prepared garden, living with a challenging assignment and under an imposed law; that they disobeyed, therefore plunging themselves and their posterity into an incredible morass of sin and depravity, and thereby precipitating all the complex actions of the Triune God which we call Redemption.  This is history, the truthfulness of which provides the spine and continuity of everything which follows, from Genesis to Revelation: and this history we are to believeIt is a teaching guaranteed by biblical authority” (Beacon Dictionary of Theology,   pg. 74).

Secondly, we are not seeking to start another denomination, as many have become weary with representative church governments which have become centralized.  Though elected in faith to represent the body of Christ and defend those doctrines we hold so dear, many have served to re-present truth in an effort to make it more agreeable to the world.  Furthermore, they have excluded, and in some cases, removed those who have sought to defend those doctrines.

We simply desire to fellowship with those who have “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42) particularly those who are of the Wesleyan persuasion.  Though we must love the wolves, we cannot extend a hand of fellowship to these or those who have failed in their God-given duty to warn us of them – the watchmen on the walls.  “What fellowship has light with darkness…?” (2 Cor. 6:14).

Let us call to mind the second building of the temple.  When those who were conformed with the world through unholy matrimony offered to help in the Lord’s work, the answer was clear: “Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel” (Ezra 4:3).

To all the brothers and sisters who have been born out of the heresy, we extend a hand to you that we may join together in fellowship.  We seek those who have “clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:4) that we may work together to build His kingdom.

In Christ,

Pastor Joe Staniforth

Representing Lighthouse of Holiness Commission

* Here is our doctrinal statement on this matter with which we will not compromise:

“We believe that the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments constitute the Holy Scriptures: They are the inspired and infallibly written Word of God, fully inerrant in their original manuscripts, and have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any teaching, even when they speak on points of history, science, geography or any other subject matter.* Most importantly, they are the sole and final authority in faith and practice.

Stand For Truth ​Ministry Notes:

​Support A ​Missionary​: Read about Simon and Margaret Bairagi’s ministry in Bangladesh, at their website.  They reach out to college students on various campuses with the gospel.  I have been supporting them for a few years and they could use additional regular support for their expenses.

​  Please prayerfully consider supporting them after reading about what they are doing in Bangladesh.​

Mark Fonner’s Weekly Radio Program:
Check it out weekly on the internet Error! Hyperlink reference not valid..  Mark covers many topics impacting the Christian world.  “RECON Ministries was founded for the preservation of the Christian message, Christian marriage, and Christian values in the church and to reflect God’s attributes to the world.”

A Letter From Scattered Sheep

This post comes from the blog of my friend at exnazarene.  I also received the same letter, and I too have seen and received letters similar to this.  The burden for all of us is greater as we see brothers and sisters in Christ in great turmoil across our beloved Nazarene denomination.  We must hold them up in prayer, and we must watch that the same apostasy does not sneak in and infiltrate our own churches.  Souls are at stake.

The following is a letter sent to me that reads like many other letters that I’m seeing these days from those in the church who see something amiss and try to alert those in authority only to be dismissed as divisive.

If you haven’t read Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34 in awhile, now would be a good time to read it again.  This is what is taking place today in the church.  The sheep are being scattered.  People are leaving their churches, who have embraced the latest fads that appeal to the world, to find spiritual nourishment at other churches who still hold to a high standard of Biblical teaching and a believer’s church philosophy.

I am sharing this story with my fellow Nazarenes not to be divisive or cause disunity (is that a word?). . . but to open peoples’ eyes to what they may be occurring in their own church. I am changing my name, my husband’s name and the church’s name because it is not my desire to cause any problems for anyone involved.

I and my husband were raised in the Nazarene church, went to a Nazarene college and my father-in-law was a Nazarene pastor. We have always been fairly open-minded. . . We like hymns, but sing choruses just as well. . . don’t mind drums and guitar. . . have attended churches that double as gymnasiums. . . no problem.

When we started attending “X Church of the Nazarene” (XCN) we were immediately drawn in. We became very involved, built very, very strong friendships and really felt like we were “growing spiritually”. This seemed to me like just about the most amazing, alive, growing church I had ever been a part of. The pastor was wonderful. We had him VERY high on a pedestal and felt very cheated when we missed his sermons.

We attended that church for maybe a year and a half all together, I guess. We told everyone we knew how wonderful this church was, how wonderful the people were and how full of love the pastor was . . . and meant every word completely. We secretly gave . . . gave to the pastor when he had financial need, gave to friends who were in need, gave whenever there was a need, tithed over and above. The pastor called us “one of the pillars of the church”. He said something to the effect that we were the unofficial leaders of the young adults.

Things changed, however, with three situations:

One was when we started being introduced to the teachings of a pastor named Rob Bell. His series “Nooma” (which is a phonetical spelling of “pneuma”, meaning breath. . . you’ll understand as you read further) started being used in morning worship. On the surface, these teachings sounded biblically sound and were deep and thought-provoking. One couple that we were very good friends with at XCN encouraged us to read his book, “Velvet Elvis”. She (the wife, who was also on the church board) said that the pastor asked the church board to read this book. They had apparently read it and been crazy about it. (More about this later.)

The second was when my husband was at the mens’ Bible study at XCN (he had just started going to this) and they were asked to close their eyes and start meditating. Now we do believe that the Bible says to meditate on God’s Word, but we never understood it to mean clearing your mind and closing your eyes in a group, etc. This concerned my husband, along with a particular “Nooma” that stated that Peter sank in the water because he didn’t have faith in himself not Jesus. I really scoffed at my husband’s concerns. . . after all this is a NAZARENE CHURCH we are talking about, not Jehovah’s Witness or a cult!! When you are born and raised in a denomination, you are much less likely to question its teachings.

The third was when another couple, our close friends, who were new Christians told us that our pastor told them during membership class that the Nazarene denomination did not have a problem with drinking alcohol.

Anyway, I decided to read the book “Velvet Elvis” for myself. What I read was very shocking (and I sincerely hope and pray that you don’t subject yourself to reading this . . . it is a dangerous lie that will eat away your faith. It took my several months to recover my ability to read my Bible without seeing it through the “eyes” of Velvet Elvis) It reminded me of Satan in the garden when he said to Eve “Did God really tell you not to eat from the tree of life?” and went on to reshape her mind.

In my opinion, the whole premise of Velvet Elvis is that truth is not something you can be certain of. . . including the truth of the Bible, the truth of the story of Jesus (he may have just been a regular guy that got elevated to a tall tale.) If you have seen the movie, The Da Vinci Code (which, by the way, was recommended by the pastor of XCN and, consequently, I watched.), you will understand what I am talking about.

ANYWAY, because our close friend who was on the board told us that

1) The pastor called Rob Bell “HIS pastor”. . . in other words, the person he looks to for spiritual guidance.

2) They said that he listens to the sermons of this pastor online every week and that he wanted to be on Rob Bell’s staff. And I myself had heard him singing the praises of Rob Bell.

3) I was told (can’t remember who by) that Velvet Elvis was recommended reading for the District. I never confirmed this either way.

I decided that it was necessary for me to research this Rob Bell, because this was the direction where I saw my church heading.

What I found were sermons that twisted the Word of God into CONTRADICTIONS of the Word of God by going back to the original Hebrew or Greek and then using an alternate meaning of that word. In this way, he (for example) stated that Romans 8:16 “The Spirit Himself (A)testifies with our spirit that we are (B)children of God” was interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit is attained by our spirit, which he took back to the original Hebrew (or Greek?) to mean “breath”. He went on to say that if we need more of the Hol

Holy Spirit, we needed to do more deep breathing. He actually taught breathing techniques during this sermon and he and the congregation participated in this for several minutes! This sermon has been taken off of Rob Bell’s church site, but I do have a link that may still work. He has also invited Directors of “spiritual centers” to come in and teach techniques to the congregation.

Anyone who is grounded in the Word of God and prayerfully prepares themselves can go to the Mars Hill website (this is the name of his church) and listen to several of his sermons. It takes a discerning ear and the knowledge of the context of the scriptures he quotes to catch the subtle twists of scripture. He is extremely skilled at making his point sound biblical when, in fact, it is contrary to scripture if read with full knowledge of the scripture. (Most in his congregation are new/atypical “Christians” who have very little knowledge of the Bible.)

All of the above was what led us to leave the church. We first met with the pastor and discussed our concern about “Velvet Elvis”. We were first told that this was recommended to the board in the same way you might recommend a book about Muslims, etc. That it was to gain a defense against the ideas in the book.

I asked the pastor to read my critique of the book and give me his thoughts on the same ideas. He agreed and we set a date to meet again.

In the meantime, I did the above research on Rob Bell and became increasingly concerned. We emailed back and forth and talked on the phone. What concerned me the most was that I found an outline of a series of sermons of Rob Bell’s and it was nearly IDENTICAL to an outline our pastor emailed to me during this time regarding the direction XCN was heading. I took this as God’s confirmation to me that this was a serious problem and that it was not just my imagination. Also in my research, I began to see a pattern of sermon imitation. I noticed phrases, ideas and quotes of Rob Bell that were identical to what I had heard preached from the pulpit.

Our pastor was concerned about his credentials (though I never thought of taking this above him). He was also worried that we would take many of the young people with us if we left. What we were hoping for is that he would just see something he had missed about Velvet Elvis and renounce it. We did NOT want to leave our church. We just wanted to open our pastor’s eyes about the dangerous path we were on.

Unfortunately, when we met the second time (this time with a former D.S. at the pastor’s request so there would be a mediator (and in our case, a witness. . . someone of high respect in the church to help our pastor see the error). . . our pastor took a different stand. He defended Rob Bell completely and let us know in no uncertain terms that we were wrong. The former D.S. at first defended our pastor. . . but after we played the “Spirit” sermon I mentioned above, he became very concerned as well.

If our pastor had shown us that night that he saw that Rob Bell was not someone he should look to for leadership and direction, we might still be at that church.

We sorrowfully left that church. I compared it to a horrible divorce. We loved those people very deeply and miss them still.

I want to be clear about one thing. . . there is nothing wrong with change. There is nothing (in my opinion) wrong with music with a beat. I believe that people who go into a church LOOKING for evil will find it in some form or other. We are all human and we ALL have failures. I am not writing this so people will go out and try to sniff out evil in their church.

I am writing so that people won’t just take everything that is presented to them as truth. . . that you will be fully grounded, yourself, in the Bible. . . that you will have your eyes open to what direction your church is heading (and hopefully head it off at the pass if it goes this direction) and most of all, that you won’t be deceived by the lies that are so rampant in the Emergent Church movement and similar movements and books.

End of letter