Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nazarene General Assembly - Day 3


More workshops and more networking and of course more worship.
The day started for me with a workshop called, "Holiness in the 21st Century," with Dr. Carl Leth of Olivet Nazarene University.  A few highlights:
  • In recent years, unfortunately, the doctrine of holiness has more often been a place of controversy and struggle rather than proclamation and blessing.
  • The process and crisis debate has immobilized us unreasonably.  Process people believe in crisis, and crisis people believe in process.  A difference in emphasis shouldn't either freeze us or turn us against each other.  
  • We need to recapture the scope of holiness as involving the whole mission of God, redeeming and reordering our broken world.
  • Holiness is good news.  God can break in, ANYWHERE ANYTIME TO DO ANYTHING FOR ANYBODY.
  • People need to be nurtured in the holy life - with intentional discipleship and spiritual formation.
  • Most people in our world already understand sin and brokenness.  What we need is hope and holiness.  There is a whole world out there that wants to believe in a new and restored world.  What they need is someone to model its possibility.
After the workshop, I waited around until all of the casual questions and greetings were over, and then I pinned Dr. Leth to a cup of coffee and picked his brain for an hour.  Personally, I feel a mixture of encouragement and frustration.  I feel like our theologians are making progress dealing with the pragmatics of our doctrine of sanctification, but they still seem to feel loyally tied the old unhelpful doctrinal formulations.  But that's a story for another post.

After an awesome spinach, strawberry, blueberry, pecan salad with my mom, I spent about 2 hours at the Holiness Today booth in the exhibit hall.  I do some writing for them, so I was eager to spend a little face time with the editor.  We chatted between refilling the key chain giveaway canister and signing people up for subscriptions and gossiping about who might be the next General Superintendent.  And we laid out a bunch more story ideas for me.  :)

Next, up was a great workshop with Greg Arthur (my senior pastor) and Scott Marshall (Portage Real Life Church of the Nazarene) on the disciple-making methodology of Jesus, particularly as taught by Mike Breen and the astoundingly wise folks at www.3dm.com.  A few highlights:
  • If you build the church, you may or may not get disciples.  If you build disciples, you get the church every time.
  • The goal of Christianity is to make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus (who are all involved in God's mission of healing our world).
  • One of the most effective methods for this is the "huddle" - an intense discipleship oriented small group, in which we ask a carefully chosen group of people to "follow me as I follow Christ."

We finished off the day with a worship service focused on God's call to holiness.  I won't go into that much, but I do want to tell one story.
The Church of the Nazarene is strong in Papua New Guinea, but it is not stronger than the tribal conflict which has fractured the nation for millenia.   Somehow early this year, a Nazarene District Superintendent was caught up in this conflict.  His people hid him and his wife in a safe house, but the wife left the house to look for her daughters.  While she was out, she was apprehended by 5 armed men in a truck.  They asked where her husband was and threatened her life.  She wouldn't tell.  They struck her wrist with a machete, but she wouldn't tell.  They put a gun to her face, but she wouldn't tell.  They fired the gun - an AK 47 - and she fell to the ground.  The noise alerted the village to trouble, and the assailants fled. 
Erica, the District Superintendent's wife, had only two small injuries - a bruise on her wrist where the bush knife had struck her and a burn on her face where the gun muzzle touched her skin.  The whole time she was being assaulted, she only said three words over and over, "Jesus, save me!"
When J. K. Warrick told this story in Chicago a few months ago, some retired missionaries came up to him after the service and said, "Now we know why.  For months, we felt that God was telling us to pray that the barrels of AK-47's would clog with mud and not be able to harm Christians.  We prayed this for about three or four months, and we felt relieved earlier this year."  (The time they felt release from this prayer was just a few days after Erica's attack, but they had no knowledge of this.)

I'm not a big promoter of miracle stories, but more and more I believe that we sell short the mystery and miraculous action of God in world.  God does amazing things, and in almost unbelievable ways, he wants us to participate in his mysterious miracles (like praying for guns to be clogged). 
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