The Center for Faith & Culture—Olivet Nazarene University

Congregational Ministry

Life and ministry in the local congregation are located directly at the intersection of faith and culture. How can we do ministry and lead congregations faithfully and effectively? It seems to be getting harder to see a clear or simple answer to that question. In this column we will look at ideas intending to help us navigate the challenges of ministry and congregational life in changing cultural contexts.

This month David Bartley, a doctoral student and a district superintendent  in the Church of the Nazarene, combines both roles in a thoughtful exploration of congregational ministry in the holiness tradition as we engage a post-Christian culture.

Featured Article

A Missional Framework for Holiness Ministry in Our Post-Christian Culture


In his recent book The Mission of God, Christopher Wright wrote, 

"This worldview, constituted by putting the mission of God at the very center of our existence, is disturbingly subversive and it uncomfortably relativizes one’s own place in the great scheme of things. It is certainly a very healthy corrective to the egocentric obsession of much Western culture – including, sadly, even Western Christian culture. It constantly forces us to open our eyes to the big picture, rather than shelter in the cozy narcissism of our own small worlds." (534)

Wright describes both the challenge facing discipleship and the solution: an "egocentric" culture that manifests itself in individualism, consumerism, and materialism; and a worldview that puts "the mission of God at the very center of our existence." As the core of discipleship content, this missional worldview is necessary for shaping a people out of Western culture and into the kingdom of God, a community of generous and sacrificial love.

1 Comments Read More
Tags: Holiness

Recent Articles

Christmas Comes to the Nazarenes

On Tuesday morning, December 25, 1906, when Los Angeles Nazarenes came to Sixth and Wall and walked into First Church for their annual Christmas Love Feast they had a lot on their mind.  In April, their Nazarene brothers and sisters in San Francisco had gone through the nightmare of the great earthquake.   By summer, the Azusa Street Revival taking place only a few blocks away had spilled out into their neighborhood and called into question their identity and caused some friends to leave the Nazarenes.   In October, First Church hosted the General Assembly where delegates from the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America had come to observe and discuss a union to form a nationwide holiness denomination.  The LA Times had reported on each of the three events.  Nazarenes might have thought about the latter two issues that Tuesday morning because the Nazarene Messenger printed articles on them during December mixed in with their announcements of the twentieth renewal of the Christmas Love Feast.

When representatives of the APCA attended the General Assembly, the Church of the Nazarene had spread as far east as Chicago and had organized themselves  into four districts: the Northwestern District where Elsie Wallace served as pastor in Spokane, Washington; the San Francisco District where H.O. Wiley pastored at Berkeley;  the Southern California district with Lucy P. Knott as pastor of the Mateo Street Church and Mrs. A.F. McReynolds as Superintendent of the Spanish Mission; and the Chicago Central District with churches from Topeka, Kansas; Flint, Michigan; Seymour, Indiana, as well as Chicago.  C.E. Cornell pastored Chicago First.  And the district had a missionary in charge of a Swedish Mission in Chicago.  The APCA brought to the possible union churches from Washington D.C. to Brooklyn, New York to New England. Both denominations had connections to foreign mission work in India.

20 Comments Read More

From the Immutable Lectern to the Conversational Table



About a year ago I was visiting a church I had not been to before.  I found myself sitting in on the youth Sunday school lesson and had witnessed an exchange that I will probably never forget. 

The previous week the teens had taken a quiz on the Old Testament and this week they were going through their answers to see how they did.  As the Sunday school teacher was going through her answer sheet, she came upon a question dealing with who wrote the Old Testament.  The answer, according to the Sunday school teacher, was “God.” 

One of the students, who had gotten this answer wrong, spoke up and asked, “But didn’t Moses write some of it?”  Having a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies, I felt that this was a good question for a teen to ask that could lead to some interesting conversations.  Before I could try and engage the students in discussion, the teacher turned to the student and sharply said, “The answer is God.”  The teen changed her answer, put her head down, and remained quiet for the rest of the morning.

5 Comments Read More

An Ideal Church


Let’s face it: going to a small church where there is not much of a youth group is not very appealing to teenagers—or even for their parents. When teenagers think of a great place to hang out, the last thing that typically comes to mind is a small church where a lot of “old people” go. The first thing that comes to their mind usually has something to do with friends their age and fun games. They just want to go somewhere familiar and comfortable. For the most part, parents tend to want the same thing for their teenagers. They just want to make them happy—they want what is best for them. After all, the only people from whom teenagers can learn how to live life as a teenager are other teenagers and a young-hip youth pastor.

Okay, if you are still reading and have not yet moved onto a better article or started writing a letter to the editor, there is some good news for us, not to mention, actual truth. The truth is that many families cycle through this process, over and over again, of searching for a large youth group with a young-hip youth pastor until they have found just the right one. It could even be the coolest youth ministry that is miles and miles from home. It is quite natural for a family to seek and prefer a church with people their own age. We must admit that to some degree it makes sense to do that, but there is another way that has proven to be successful,  effective, and even healthier.

2 Comments Read More

One Day. One Voice. One Purpose.

"Pure and faultless religion is this . . . caring for orphans"                    James, a follower of Jesus            

The plight of the orphan, both here and abroad, is truly astounding.  Not many of us can fully comprehend living life on our own, without an earthly mentor or guide, without the security of permanence that a family brings.  Surely only a few of us can share what it means to live in abject poverty, begging daily for food, shelter and clothing.  Life on the streets, in an orphanage or in one foster home after another is simply unfathomable for most of us. 

The statistics are overwhelming:

 - 18.5 million orphans worldwide

 - 500,000 children in the US foster care system

 - 104,000 of those US children are available and waiting for their forever families. 

17 Comments Read More

Ministry Essentials


Traditionally, the most commonly used paradigm for understanding the job description of the pastor has been “shepherd.”  That paradigm rises from the similarity of the word “pastor” used in Ephesians 4 to the Greek word for “shepherd.”  This model has led to a picture of the pastor as the person who is responsible to tend the flock and all that task may entail—feeding, nurturing, caring for, seeking, birthing, and a dozen other tasks.   Fulfilling all of these tasks is a more-than-full-time job that has many pastors on the run day and night in order to tend to all the flock.

Church size analysis suggests that there are alternate models that describe the role of the pastor based on the specific size of the church: chaplain, gardener, rancher, CEO, etc.  These models are based upon the particular needs that are exhibited by churches of various sizes and an analysis of what kind of leader is most effective in churches of those sizes.  Looking at the pastorate in this way seeks a leadership model that responds most effectively to the organizational behavior of a particular size of a group.

11 Comments Read More