November 9, 2008
Celebrating our Anniversaries
(100th Anniversary of Church of the Nazarene and 60th Anniversary of Nazarenes in Korea)
Isaiah 35:1-10, Acts 2:1-12, 38-47, Matthew 25:31-46
My grandparents, my Mom's parents, have been married for a very long time – about 67 years now. For anyone to be married for this long, you must have deep love, undying commitment, and - of course - a very early start. When my grandparents got married, my granddad was 18, and my grandma was 15, but she's quick to say “almost 16!” My granddad always says, “Yeah, she was two months past her 15th birthday.”
I remember two great family celebrations. The first was when I was in middle school. It was my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. We got all of the kids and grandkids together for a big family party at my grandparents' small ranch in Arkansas. They kept that 50th anniversary marker off the cake for a long time. They probably still have it.
Then, two years ago, they threw a huge family party for their 65th wedding anniversary. This time they went all out. They rented a huge room at a restaurant and invited all of the kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, cousins, and family friends. There were probably more than 100 people there. We were celebrating their incredible marriage, but we were also celebrating their beautiful lives and this wonderful collection of family and friends.
Those two wedding anniversaries will always rank among my favorite memories.
Today, we have the privilege of celebrating two great anniversaries – the 100th anniversary of the Church of the Nazarene and the 60th anniversary of the Church of the Nazarene in Korea. Both of these are amazing and beautiful stories.
Let's start with the beginnings of the Church of the Nazarene itself.
Today, we read part of the story of Pentecost from Acts chapter 2. On the day of Pentecost, God poured out his Holy Spirit on the very first church meeting in Jerusalem. The Church of the Nazarene grew out of a great desire for the Church to become a church of Pentecost again. In the second half of the 19th century, people all around America met together regularly in prayer meetings, “revival services,” and “camp meetings” to ask God to purify their hearts and to purify their churches.
The Church of the Nazarene is a direct result of this great passion for a renewal of the fires of the Holy Spirit as seen at Pentecost. For many years our name was “The Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene.” In fact, you can see on the logo for the Church of the Nazarene two symbols for the Holy Spirit – fire (like at Pentecost) and the dove (like at Jesus’ baptism).
For a variety of reasons, many of the Christians who encountered God at these revivals and camp meetings didn't feel welcome in their more traditional churches. All around America and Canada, independent movements began to spring up, gathering together in regional groups. In the early 1900s, but especially in 1908 many of these regional groups “got married” and formed the Church of the Nazarene. From the first day of the formation of the Church of the Nazarene, we were international, with churches and mission work in USA, Canada, India, Cape Verde, Mexico, and Japan (and soon China, Guatemala, and Africa).
What brought all of these people together? From the beginnings of the Church of the Nazarene down through the present, we have always had two unifying themes: holiness and missions. Nazarenes have always believed deeply that God calls us to represent him to our world. Being God's representatives means being like God and acting like God – holiness and missions. In a lot of ways, these are basically the same thing.
John Goodwin was one of the first General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene. (This is the highest level of leadership in our denomination.) In 1920 he wrote, “Pure religion has and always will have two sides, purity and service. To neglect service in the welfare of others is to demonstrate a lack of purity. Holiness people should be preeminent in social service. This is what chiefly characterized the Early Church – their untiring service to their fellowmen and their care for widows and fatherless children.”1
Early Nazarenes lived this without fail. The very first church to use the name “Church of the Nazarene” was an inner city mission for the poor of Los Angeles. Nazarenes around the world built orphanages, schools, hospitals, and other ministries to reach the poor and endangered. Let me give you just a few examples of Nazarene activities in the first 25 years of the 1900s.
In India Nazarenes started an orphanage and school for orphaned girls.
In Bethany, Oklahoma in the USA, Nazarenes started an orphanage for abandoned babies, and workers often cared for large numbers of infants at one time.
In Ta Ming Fu, China, Nazarenes started the Bresee Memorial Hospital with 100 beds. (After World War 2, this compound was taken by the government, and the church moved “underground.”)
In Kansas City, Chicago, Tennessee, Texas, and many other places, Nazarenes built “rescue homes” for unmarried girls who got pregnant, many of them prostitutes.
Throughout the history of the Church of the Nazarene, we have affirmed what Miss Lue Miller wrote in 1917 regarding Nazarene rescue homes: “'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever.' The Friend of sinners still, the Hope of the penitent outcast, the Redeemer of man or woman of many sins. The loving compassionate heart still beats with tender love over the bruised and broken. The water of life is still being given out by the Master. The setting is different, but the story is about the same...”2
After 100 years, we have 1.6 million Nazarenes in more than 150 countries. As John Bondy likes to say, the Church of the Nazarene is in more countries than McDonald's. All around the world, these 1.6 million Nazarenes are working together to continue our two basic themes: living like God and sharing God's grace and healing with those around us.
Now let's talk about the Church of the Nazarene in Korea.3 Maybe we can have a little fun with this by turning this into a quiz. (But don't cheat! If you have the manuscript, try to resist the temptation to look ahead and see the answers.)
Question 1: When was the first Church of the Nazarene in Korea started?
You probably think the right answer is 1948 since we're celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Church of the Nazarene, but actually the correct answer is B. In 1936 Chang Sung-Oak went to Japan to study. While in Japan, he met some Nazarene missionaries and pastors. They “discipled” him – which means they helped him understand how to be a Christian and what Christians believe. Then, they challenged him to return to Korea to start a Nazarene church there.
Question 2: Where was the first Church of the Nazarene in Korea?
This is pretty cool. Pastor Chang returned to Korea and started the first Korean Nazarene church in PyongYang (now North Korea) in about 1937 or 1938. After that church was stable, he helped Seong Heok-Soo start a church in Seoul. However, the connection between these churches and the international Church of the Nazarene was not very strong.
After World War II, North Korea became a dangerous place for Christians. Pastor Chang and most of the PyongYang church moved to Seoul. (Interestingly, Nazarenes in the US military were regular attenders in that early Nazarene church. As pastor of an international Nazarene church, I find it amazing and encouraging that one of the first Nazarene churches here was also multicultural near its beginning.)
Question 3: Why is 1948 celebrated as the beginning of the Church of the Nazarene in Korea?
The number 1948 is connected to end-times predictions in the book of Revelation.
Bill Patch was born in 1948.
The first Nazarene missionaries came to Korea in 1948.
A collection of independent churches merged together to for the Korean Church of the Nazarene in 1948.
In 1947, a famous Korean preacher named Jung NamSoo visited the USA. While traveling around the USA gaining support for his work in Korea, Jung NamSoo met several of Nazarene leaders. They encouraged him to join the Church of the Nazarene and give more organization to the Nazarene work in Korea.
Jung agreed, and he did more than that. He also talked to the pastors of several independent churches and encouraged them to join the Church of the Nazarene. In October of 1948, General Superintendent Orval Nease organized 9 congregations with 835 members into the Korea District of the Church of the Nazarene. (The Jung NamSoo building at the top of the hill is named after this early leader.)
Question 4: Who were the first Nazarene missionaries in Korea?
Bill and Gail Patch
Josh and Sarah Broward
Don and Adeline Owens
Korea has never had official Nazarene missionaries.
When the Nazarene leaders sent Jung NamSoo back to Korea to organize the Nazarene Church, they promised to send a missionary couple to help out. The Korean War slowed down their plans, but they sent Donald and Adeline Owens to Korea in 1954. Don Owens had graduated from Bethany Nazarene College and pastored in the USA for a few years, but he was still very young. When he got to Korea, some of the Korean leaders secretly complained that they asked for missionaries, but instead, “they have sent us boy scouts.” (I expect that some people in our church felt the same way about me!) However, God helped out a little. After Don Owens' first sermon, 30 people decided to become Christians.
The Owenses got right to work. One of their first tasks was rebuilding and restocking after the Korean War. Many churches and homes were damaged. In less than four months, they had opened Nazarene Bible College, which is now Korea Nazarene University. The building was an old burned-out missionaries home.
Question 5: How many students did the Nazarene Bible College (KNU) have on the first day?
Remember those two themes that are part of the Nazarene DNA: Holiness and Missions. God transforms us to be holy and loving like he is, and then we live out his love and grace in our world. Korean Nazarenes have lived these out from the very beginning. Korean Nazarenes have been serious about following Jesus, and they have been intense about sharing his grace with others.
Much of the time, they have tried to live out these two core points by planting new churches and talking to friends and neighbors about Jesus. In the early days, they enacted a plan called “The Moving Nazarene Family.” A Nazarene family would move to a new town and hold Bible studies in their homes. If the Bible studies went well, they would start a house church and later build a church building.
In 1954, after the Korean War, we had 8 churches and 400 members.
In 1957, we had 23 churches and 1,332 members.
In 1963, we had 39 churches and nearly 3,000 members.
In 1970, we had 70 churches and 6,155 members.
In 1972, we had 79 churches and 7,126 members.
In 1973, Korea hosted the Billy Graham crusade. 1.1 million people attended the final rally in Seoul, the single largest Christian gathering in history. In 1973, the Church of the Nazarene doubled to 125 churches and 16,532 members. (1973 was also the year Bill and Gail Patch came to Korea.)
In 1985 we had 161 churches and 28,006 members.
Now, in 2008, we have 280 churches and 21,000 members. (In the last few years, we have been growing.)
Korean Nazarenes are also living out our Nazarene DNA by sending missionaries. Korea now sends more Nazarene missionaries than any other country except the USA.
In 1979 Korea Nazarene Theological College (later called KNU) moved to a very small town called Cheonan. Around 1996, this small college made the transition to a full university, specializing in rehabilitation, special education, and social welfare, preparing people to serve those who are most neglected and needy. Since 1996, KNU has experienced amazing growth. KNU Is now the largest Nazarene university in the world.
Question 6: How many students does Korea Nazarene University have now?
Every year, the Korean Ministry of Education ranks different universities according to major, and every year KNU is the #1 university for rehabilitation. This is one way we are living out our Nazarene DNA of caring for those who most need our help. As KNU becomes an international university, we're starting to include people from many countries in this Nazarene DNA of living like Jesus and sharing his healing grace with others.
We are part of a beautiful story. We are part of a story that started when God created Adam and Eve, a story that continued with the call of Abraham and his family, the coming of Jesus the Messiah, the birth of the Church at Pentecost, the struggle and growth and service of the church throughout the world.
And we are part of a particular story of a particular people within this beautiful story. We are part of a people who felt God's call to be holy and missional Christians. They deeply longed to be like Jesus and to live like Jesus by serving others. They became the Church of the Nazarene 100 years ago. They started churches and hospitals and schools all over the world, eventually entering Korea and starting the Church of the Nazarene here 60 years ago.
How do we fit into this story? The Nazarene DNA are expressed in our church's vision. We want to be renewed by God's love to love God, ourselves and others; this is holiness. We want to cause global change through local action; this is missions. And we're living out this Nazarene DNA as a multicultural community. For any of you who have experience with other Nazarene churches, most of you would say that we are different. We're a different kind of Nazarene church, but we are truly Nazarene. The Nazarene DNA runs deeply in us. The Nazarene DNA is fundamental to who God is calling us to be: holiness and mission, God's love changing us and our world.
Today, we are celebrating with the 1.6 million Nazarenes around the world – in Venezuela, in New Zealand, in Tanzania, in Holland, in England, in Russia, in Japan, in South Africa, in Guyana, and in Korea, and in 140 other countries. Around the world, we have become a global loving community that is changing our world.
1John Goodwin, Herald of Holiness, (November 10, 1920). Quoted in Rescue the Perishing, Care for the Dying: Sources and Documents on Compassionate Ministry in the Nazarene Archives, Stan Ingersol, Ed., 2nd Edition.
2Lue Miller, “Thanksgiving for Our Rescue Work,” Herald of Holiness, November 28, 1917. Cited in Rescue the Persihing.
3All information about the history of the Church of the Nazarene in Korea is from: J. Fred Parker, Mission to the World: A History of Missions in the Church of the Nazarene through 1985 (Kansas City, MO, USA: NPH, 1988), 309-322.