Throughout our district, Nazarene churches look different because the church always organizes itself in “culturally conditioned forms.” Within these different forms of the church, we believe there are seven characteristics, or “vital signs” that should be present. The church development process a congregation uses greatly affects how each characteristic is displayed. From micro churches to mega churches, these characteristics are found throughout 30,000+ Nazarene churches globally. As they travel the world, our Board of General Superintendents now view the church in 160+ country settings. From their global research, they have gathered a set of global Nazarene characteristics that are shaping the church’s future. In many congregations, some characteristics are more visibly evident than others. Below is a brief summary of these:
1. Worship: Corporate worship is an inspiring experience that is well planned and regularly evaluated. People sense God’s presence and regularly take disciple-making “next steps” as they are introduced to Jesus and begin to follow him. Our people are becoming Christ-like disciples, and desire to live a Christ-like, Spirit-filled life. This requires meaningful, private worship every day of the week.
2. Theology / Small Groups: With a theological focus on agenda harmony and Christ-like disciple-making, the church has developed a system of multiplying small groups where individual Christians can find friendship, connection, practical help and spiritual interaction as they grow in their understanding of Jesus, his church and his agenda for holy living.
3. Evangelism: The church shares the gospel in a way that meets the questions and needs of people outside the church. These people are welcomed into the church where the spiritual habits and “soil” have created an environment of transformation.
4. Disciple-Making: The church intentionally follows up on guests and guides them into relationships and involvement. The church helps people develop an obedient, close relationship with Jesus. They develop spiritual habits like worship, prayer, serving, giving, fellowship, study, witnessing, etc. People regularly keep taking disciple-making “next steps.” Individuals take disciple-making seriously through accountability and involvement in a small group.
5. Church Development: The church seeks the knowledge it needs for healthy church development. It has gift-based ministry, good organization and generous giving. Church leaders teach life-style stewardship of time, talent and treasure. They help people identify their gifts and integrate them into ministries that match their gifts. The church board operates with an annually updated church development plan. They evaluate their ministries faithfully, experiment regularly and cultivate the “soil” for the church becoming healthy and multiplying.
6. Leadership: The church develops transformational leaders. In a “leadership community,” they equip, support, motivate, and mentor individuals to become Christ-like, visionary, strategic thinkers and team builders. Planting the seeds of micro-multiplication, every leader develops an apprentice leader – their “Timothy.” A macro multiplication vision for starting new churches to reach outsiders is nurtured. People in the church believe God has a unique calling for every person. They believe their congregation can be a healthy, multiplying church.
7. Compassion: The church cultivates compassion through relationships with the poor, lost, sick, marginalized and vulnerable. These relationships are loving, warm and accepting of outsiders all the time. The reputation of the church in the community is like that of the early church (Acts 2:45-47), because of the church’s community relationships and spiritual habits of compassion.
Here is the good news. The Holy Spirit will uniquely guide your church how to plan and serve within your community, culture and context. We have the promise, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (Psalm 32:8). We are never alone (Matthew 28:20). An action step every church can take is to complete a health assessment. Our MULTIPLYNAZ team has developed a Naz Essentials Assessment Tool that local churches can use to measure their current church health status. The tool’s measurements are based on the Nazarene characteristics described above.