I’ve heard versions of this question for many years. Usually it is something like, “So how is your church different than…” then they name some church they know something about.
Honestly, I think that if we can’t answer that question and name something that makes us unique we need to shut down and go join whatever group it is that indistinguishable from us.
At one time, many answered that question with stuff we had no business thinking: we’re different than the Baptists or Methodists or Presbyterians became we DON’T go to movies or let our women cut their hair or let our women wear pants, etc. That kind of stuff was never an acceptable claim to uniqueness and, over time, we not only quit saying it, but we quit doing it too. (Although we have lots of folks who (seriously) need counseling to this very day.)
The more legitimate answer was “We believe there is a deeper work of God, after our salvation experience, in which he purifies our hearts and fills us with his love.”
I think that the first error was an honest but misguided effort to live out the actual reason we exist in the first place: heart holiness.
These days some of our best thinkers are tackling that “deeper work” in an effort to better articulate it to our world. I’m not against that. After all, the Church wrestled with, and restated the doctrine of the Trinity for 500 years before it decided it had it right. Surely the holiness folk ought to revisit our “deeper work” doctrine as we near our 100 year anniversary.
That isn’t to say I am unconcerned. As we put “sanctification” on the table it causes confusion for the folks at the grassroots level, including the pastors. If we aren’t careful, while the “big guys” are debating the finer points of the doctrine, we locals will drift to being just “general Christians” able to unplug from our denomination and plug into just about anybody else. Something that is already happening. They remember the Nazarenes fondly but don’t value our distinctiveness enough to forgive our past legalism or to put up with our smaller program, etc.
Wesley started out to Christianize Christianity. He had a mission and a purpose. We Nazarenes started out to proclaim holiness: to “Girdle the Globe” (anybody remember that song?) with that message. If that “deeper work” becomes something less that our driving purpose, a doctrinal antique to us, who are we?