I wasn’t raised Nazarene. Unlike most Nazarenes I’ve met, neither my parents nor my grandparents were Nazarene. I’m not a third, four, fifth, or sixth generation Nazarene. I am a first generation Nazarene. My mother was raised Lutheran, and my father grew up attending a Presbyterian church. I was baptized in the Lutheran church when I was a baby. With the exception of Christmas and Easter, my family never really attended church.
I grew up in a small town. I am fortunate to say I am still friends with the same people I met on the first day of preschool and kindergarten. I graduated with a class of twenty-six people. I had an inner circle of friends with whom I am still friends. When we are all in town (though really, I think I’m the most out of town by attending college in Kansas), we still get together. Sometimes we rollerblade like the true 90s kids we are; sometimes we just eat pizza together and watch whatever is on TLC. (I am excited that we will be celebrating one of our friends’ wedding this summer!) I first heard about and got involved with the Church of the Nazarene because most of my inner circle of friends and their families were part of the Nazarene church in my hometown.
I started getting actively involved when I was in the 5th and 6th grade. As I moved into the youth group, my involvement increased. I took membership classes when I was thirteen, and I became a voting member when I was finally old enough (at fourteen). It was around that same time I received a call to ministry. I was a member of our youth board throughout high school, was allowed the opportunity to preach in my local church (first on Sunday evening and then Sunday mornings), attended Nazarene Youth Conference (NYC) 2007 in St. Louis, went on a mission trip to South Africa and Swaziland at age seventeen, last summer I was a part of a Youth in Mission team to London, and am currently in my senior year studying Youth and Family Ministry at MidAmerica Nazarene University. Not to mention I have been working at the Global Ministry Center for the Church of the Nazarene in Lenexa, Kansas in the Nazarene Youth International department for the past three years, working on events like NYC, Q, and Third Wave (and being a participant at Third Wave in Bangkok, Thailand). All to say—when I became Nazarene, I dove in head first. I drank the Kool-Aid and got the Phineas F. Bresee tattoo. Okay, not really. Still, I consider myself pretty Nazarene, especially for only being “first generation Nazarene.”
Through some conversations with a friend of mine, I decided it would be valuable to myself and to him (and hopefully, to the internet) if I wrote a series on “Why I Am Nazarene.” First off, I know there is already a book by the same title (Why I Am a Nazarene: And Not–A Mormon, a Roman Catholic, a Jehovah’s Witness, a Christian Scientist, a Seventh-day Adventist), but that book was first published in 1959. Second, I don’t want to focus on why I am not other things. I think way too often do we define ourselves by what we are not instead of what we are. I am not looking to continue to define who I am by pointing at others saying, “Well, I am not them.” I think often that’s more hurtful than helpful. I also strongly believe we need each other. We need our Lutheran, Orthodox, Catholic–all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, even when I don’t totally agree with them. I think we could learn from each other, and I know we are called to love each other.
It is my idea this will be a blog series or a series of posts exploring different aspects and topics of why I am Nazarene. I am writing this for my friend, but also for myself. Even though I am a senior in college about to graduate with a degree in ministry, I believe I must always be learning, always improving myself and how I articulate my beliefs. I remember sitting across from my Assemblies of God friend when she asked me, “What makes us different?” I had an answer, but honestly, I am not sure how well I articulated my answer. So, as we journey through this series, I pray you have an open heart and mind as we seek to learn and become more educated about ourselves and others. I know I am praying for that. In addition to that, I should point out I am not looking for an argument.
I also need to admit: I am not an expert. I have taken classes, taught lessons, and been around a lot of Nazarenes, but I am twenty-one. I do not have years of experience working in my favor. What I do have is a hunger to learn and hopefully enough humility to received correction, especially when I need to offer more clarification.
And, yes, I am biased. I love the Church of the Nazarene. Because I was not raised Nazarene by my parents, I had a choice to become Nazarene. There’s a reason I’ve never written a blog post entitled “Why I am North Dakotan.” It would be very short: I was born there. (Which would actually be a lie because I was born in South Dakota. So maybe it would say “I was raised there and live there.” But that is beside the point.) I continue to choose to be Nazarene each time I meet before my district’s credentialing board and, really, each morning I wake up.
I do ask for grace, though, because I know I am a busy college student with a long to-do list and books I should have finished reading last month. I know I should write out all these posts before I post this first one, but I haven’t. It is my desire to be consistent, but life happens. I appreciate your grace in advance.
What it means to be Wesleyan and Nazarene
The Second Coming of Christ