The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for the ‘Nazarene’ Category

Church for a new era

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Those of you following the life of New Oaks Church may find this story encouraging. Here’s Donnie Miller (pastor of the Trinity Family Church in Gardner, KS) telling of a change of direction:

A New Era begins for TFC

Donnie Miller

There was an energy level among the congregation on Sunday that I haven’t experienced for a long time. People kept telling me, through smiles and hugs, how much they love the changes that have just happened.

These changes have been a long time coming. Last spring, we began a numerical slide that has resulted in our Sunday morning worship attendance being between 2/3 – 1/2 of what it was a year ago at this time. Toward the beginning of that slide, after a very lowly attended Sunday in March, I spent a sleepless night talking with God and wrestling with my fears and hopes. My fear was that if we continued to “do church” as we were at the time, we might not continue to exist. That fear lead to a hope, a hope that TFC could stop focusing on “doing church” and become more intentional about “being the church.” At about 4 AM, I got a pretty clear picture of the changes we could make.

I began sharing those changes with staff, the board and then ministry leaders; everyone was on board with the ideas. Last summer, we polled the congregation to find out approaches were working and to gauge their openness to the potential changes. The surveys revealed an almost unanimous support of the structural changes our leadership was considering.

Discussion groups

In August, we took a big first step in introducing Discussion Groups to Sunday AM worship. To say these groups have been a success would be the understatement of the year. Every Sunday, over 90% of the congregation participates in discussion groups. This past Sunday, only ONE person skipped discussion groups and that was because of a family emergency. It was almost hard to hear the other members of my group over the dull roar of the conversations happening all over the commons. The introduction of Discussion Groups, as well as “Ask Anything” Sundays, have all been a part of our effort to take a more dialogical approach to Sunday morning worship.

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Responding to Concerned Nazarenes

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For my Nazarene friends, here’s an index to some thoughts about the “Concerned Nazarenes” DVD that was distributed at General Assembly.  CN is a fundamentalist group with strong ideas about the emergent church phenomenon and its relationship to the Church of the Nazarene.  Their DVD is reviewed by a fellow named Jeffrey at A Considered Response to the Concerned Nazarenes.  The comments seem thoughtful and respectfull.

Index to the Review of the Concerned Nazarene’s DVD

Given the fact that the review I posted of the Concerned Nazarenes’ DVD was posted in five separate parts, I wanted to provide a post that would give users easy sequential access to the information. Below you will find links to each of the five posts. The entire review was written by Ryan Scott and provides helpful information and what seem to me to be valid critiques and concerns without resorting to personal attacks or diatribes.

  1. Introduction and Chapter 1 of the DVD
  2. Chapter 2 and 3 of the DVD
  3. Chapter 4 of the DVD
  4. Chapter 5 of the DVD
  5. General Critiques and Final Conclusions
What’cha think?
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Written by Monte

August 31, 2009 at 9:55 am

When atheists come to church (sermon of July 5)

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C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

Last week, Jesus, pushing through a crowd, was secretly touched by a woman who’ d been bleeding for 12 years; her bleeding stopped.  She who’d been untouchable by the rules of the day touched him; she was then well, and he became untouchable.  She gets well. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

And then he touched a 12 year old girl who had recently died. He was now “unclean” twice-over (touching a dead body made him so a second time), but the girl was alive.   She gets life. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

Magnificent.

And the next thing that happens is that Jesus, the now-famous, compassionate, but scandalously irreligious traveling teacher, goes home to Nazareth. And while he’s been amazing everyone, at Nazareth, Jesus is amazed.

What could possibly amaze Jesus? Read the rest of this entry »

Homosexuality: a theologically conservative—and inclusive—view

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It’s almost a truism that Christian conservatives see homosexuality as evil.

J. Kenneth GriderBut consider this courageous 1999 paper of the late Dr. J. Kenneth Grider, long regarded as a voice of conservatism among theologians of the Church of the Nazarene* (and of Wesleyans generally).  You just might be surprised.

I’ve reproduced the first two pages to give you the feel of it, followed by a link to the entire 45-page .pdf. And I’ll guess that there are some insights here you haven’t heard before.

He begins with a question of compassion . . .

Grider p1

Grider p2

Click below for the paper in its entirety. Intriguing reading!

Wesleyans and Homosexuality by J. Kenneth Grider

Care to share your thoughts?


*I should probably note the obvious: Dr. Grider spoke (as do I!) for himself and not for the Church of the Nazarene, the WTS, ONU, or NTS.

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Nazarenes elect non-North American General Superintendent

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The denomination of which I am a member (the Church of the Nazarene) has officially aspired to international leadership since shortly after its beginnings in 1908. But, like so many organizations that were first mostly North American, coming to a point where we of the USA and Canada would allow others to lead us has taken a long, long time.

Finally, the men and women of the 23rd Quadrennial Assembly, meeting in Orlando, have taken a step toward making internationalization believable.

Bravo and amen to them.


Dr. Eugenio Duarte

Dr. Eugenio Duarte

On the 7th ballot, receiving 783 out of 959 valid ballots cast, the 2009 General Assembly Church of the Nazarene has elected the first General Superintendent outside of USA and Canada.

Dr. Eugenio Duarte currently serves as the regional director of the Africa Region. Born and raised in the Cape Verde Islands, he has served as pastor and district superintendent, before being appointed to regional and field leadership roles.

He and his wife Maria Teresa have three grown children, and live in Johannesburg, South Africa where the regional office is located.

This historic moment in the Church of the Nazarene was greeted by thunderous applause from the delegates and the gallery. Many of the African delegates responded with joyful singing, flag-waving, and surrounding Dr. Duarte with hugs. After several moments of cheering, clapping, singing (and even lifting Dr. Duarte into the air), he was escorted to the platform, declared elected, and invited to speak.

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In it but not of it (sermon for May 24)

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An older version

An older version - with the same problem!

My first regular job was in a small jewelry store in Burlington, Iowa. I was about 15, and I worked for the princely sum of $.65 per hour.  I’ll tell you about it in a moment.

First, listen to Jesus as he prays for his followers, just hours before the mob comes to take him to his death.

John 17:6-19 (NIV)
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them.

They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.

That must have driven them crazy.

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The End of Exclusion (Sermon of 8 Feb 09)

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Isolation Room
Image by Victor V via Flickr

With the casting out of the demon on that first Sabbath afternoon of Jesus’ public ministry, his obscurity vanished. Like a cannon shot, news of it exploded through the villages. Here’s what happens next.

Mark 1:29-39 (MSG)

29-31Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them.

32-34That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn’t let them say a word.

35-37While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”

38-39Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come.” He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

From The Historical Atlas by William R. Shephe...
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About Peter’s mother-in-law:   Actually, she deacons to them.  For reasons of their own (that look a great deal like gender bias!), translators treat the word to mean “became a deacon in a church” when it applies to men, but “waiting tables” when it applies to women (See Richard Swanson: Provoking the Gospel of Mark; A Storyteller’s Commentary, p 108). “In the context of Jewish understandings of the abundance that God created when making the world, the deacon was in charge of enacting God’s created intentions.”  Peter’s mother-in-law was in charge of enacting God’s created intentions.

Likely she was well known for helping others.  Is this why the crowd knew where to show up at sundown? Some think the women who followed Jesus were the reason women dared approach him. Think of the women at the cross who ministered to Jesus all the way through – perhaps greater heroes than we know, and greater shapers of the story than we know.

She’s up, she’s deaconing, and at sundown, a throng gathers at the door. Who can tell me why they came at sundown? Because that’s when the day after the Jewish sabbath began. Jesus had no problem healing on the Sabbath, but the crowds apparently assumed he would. Read the rest of this entry »