General Assembly, a retrospective

If you are a Nazarene, this will make sense. If you aren’t, read on, just be aware this is about the quadrennial global gathering of Nazarenes from around the world to do Church business.

CRITIQUES

#1 We need a regular dose of Covenant Theology. I understand why my Reformed friends say we’re Pelagians. We seem to have a tendency to talk about holiness in a way that makes it seem like being holy is the result of exercising our moral muscle (note: I’m not saying holiness isn’t expressed in moral terms). We want to live a holy life, but the subtle heart-creep  that happens inside my chest is that my sanctification becomes the source of my justification. We’re to live a holy life. You can’t read the Bible without seeing that’s the case. But you better give me the resources to do it that are bigger than my moral efforts. Because honestly, they are usually self-centered in a way that uses God for my own agenda.

Without regularly rooting (like, almost every time we say it) holiness in grace, the human heart–which always likes to earn things and be rewarded for effort (“Hey, look at my gold star everybody!”)–slips into spiritual-performance-for-acceptance mode. We Nazarenes are probably the most sincere, intentional and effort-filled people in the Church. And that quickly becomes a problem when we don’t get the order right.

To paraphrase Wesley, we consume far more grace to maintain our holy hearts than we do to cross the line of faith. “This is all my righteousness, nothing but the blood of Jesus…”

#2 Could we have more for kids please? I have three little kids (ages 8, 5 & 3). My wife and I wanted them to experience the Church family that nurtured their mom and dad. So we brought them along. I know, I know. That was our choice. And the bouncey house thing and the little rock climbing wall in the NPH section were great when they were open. But could we have a room for kids with a feed of the services? And a room for kids older than 3? And,  maybe a few more kid specific things that kids will remember (the Kid’s Reaching Kid’s experience filled up before we could register) as defining moments for them as part of the GA experience? Asking little ones to sit through multiple 2 hour services makes me kind of regret that I ever brought my children into the world.

#3 International? Loved the international things we intentionally did (I was born on the Mission Field. Shout out to my fellow Malawians!), but to really give voice to the international church where we are growing the most, why don’t we go all the way and have GA in an international location? We’d probably elect International GS’s more easily if that were the case. Indy gets my vote as the best US location, but how about we Americans recognize that we have the majority of the power? Let’s willingly lay that down. Kind of like that one guy we follow did.

SIGNS OF THE FUTURE

Our tent is big. My conversations with multiple people revealed that we have a huge spectrum. We aren’t rigid in our expression and allow a lot of leeway in practice and methodology. Let’s pour out more of that awesome sauce.

Services were solid. Granted, that’s incredibly subjective, but previously I’ve been nothing short of embarrassed, like the corporate worship was stepping back 50 years to “a better, more spiritual time” in our history. Would I do things differently if I’d done the planning? Of course, we all would.

Social Media. The social media aspect of Assembly was compelling. Love following the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It makes it immediately relevant and compelling in a Social Media world. Maybe the GA could utilize it better by posting official hashtags for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook?

Corporate Sponsorship. I would like to personally thank the Wesleyan Investment Foundation for saving our collective bacon…and for sponsoring the GA (and, full disclosure, giving away the iPad that I won). Maybe next time we could bring on more corporate sponsors? GA, brought to you by the Man of Steel, now in theaters! GA, brought to you by Chick-fil-a, the official Chicken of John Wesley! GA, brought to you by Olivet Nazarene University (oh, wait….)!