The value of www.NazNet.com (and the Internet in General) to the Church of the Nazarene.
I’ve been rereading J.B. Chapman’s “Bud Robinson A Brother Beloved” which was written not long after the passing of, probably the most famous Nazarene (at least before James Dobson) who has ever lived. It is an inspirational book and I highly recommend it.
Bud Robinson traveled back and forth across America preaching in Camp Meetings, conventions, revivals, and special services. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people came to Christ under his ministry. Even in his final years he remained in great demand and said, ‘Everybody wants me to take a long rest – just after I come for a meeting with them.”
I think Bud Robinson and other traveling evangelists “evened out” the Nazarenes. Everybody heard these popular evangelists. When they came to town they brought the latest news and they preached the doctrines of the Church. People who were pulling this way or that from the core doctrines of the church heard the basics all over again and were brought back to main stream. Pastors and laypeople alike came to understand core beliefs, like entire sanctification, in the same way. They even used the same terms, all schooled by the evangelists.
And the evangelists kept each other in line. In Camp Meetings there were generally 2 or 3 evangelists who took turns preaching. They listened to one another and discussed the finer points of their theology with not only each other, but with other preachers and laymen as they sat in the dining halls. This also kept the teaching of the church pretty much on the same page.
Get this: I am not about to say that their doctrine was perfect, nor am I about to make a case that we go back to having two two-week revivals a year plus a couple of weeks of camp meeting. I am simply saying that it was these well-known and beloved evangelists who defined what Nazarenes believed.
Changes in culture have made camp meetings only a shadow of what they once were. They have also diminished revival in the local church. I am not writing now to make a case for either one, but I do believe that these institutions shaped the Church of the Nazarene – and kept it in a specific shape “doctrine-wise.”
Without that core of influential evangelists visiting nearly every church in the denomination once or twice a year, I think we are in danger of flying apart. I probably don’t have to keep saying this, but, again, I am not making a case for going back to the good old days – I am simply aware that the evangelists of the Church of the Nazarene for most of its existence were a unifying force.
So, what is it that makes the Church of the Nazarene “one” these days? I think attendance at one of our fine Nazarene institutions is one of those things. However, our Universities are not coming close to touching the lives of our average church attenders that the evangelists did. Also, there are still some talented and dedicated evangelists who labor on. Still, I don’t think anyone thinks they are influencing the denomination like Bud Robinson did.
Here is my idea. I think the Internet has the greatest potential of bringing Nazarenes together. An online community like NazNet is a place where the doctrines of the church can be stated and refined for the average church attender. People who are moving to the fringe find (hopefully loving) correction. Everyone has equal footing – with the small church layperson able to have in depth (for them) discussions with pastors and educators from across the denomination.
I am not saying that NazNet exists to keep some particular doctrinal approach alive, but I do think it can help the Church be united in a doctrinal approach our culture today. I don’t think NazNet always lives up to this potential, but I do think it is the potential of NazNet to help unite the voice of the Church.