Church of the Nazarene Denomination

The Nazarenes are largest Wesleyan-Holiness denomination in America

Church of the Nazarene
Church of the Nazarene world ministry headquarters in Lenexa, Kansas. Americasroof / Creative Commons

The Church of the Nazarene, a denomination originating from the merger of several church bodies with roots in the nineteenth-century Holiness Movement, is the largest Wesleyan-Holiness denomination in the United States. This Protestant faith sets itself apart from other Christian denominations with its doctrine of entire sanctification, John Wesley's teaching that a believer can receive God's gift of perfect love, righteousness, and true holiness in this life.

Number of Worldwide Members

In 2018, the Church of the Nazarene reported having 2,579,243 members worldwide in 30,712 churches in the denomination.

Founding

The Church of the Nazarene began in 1895 in Los Angeles, California. Phineas F. Bresee and others wanted a denomination that taught complete sanctification through faith in Jesus Christ. In 1908, the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America and the Holiness Church of Christ joined with the Church of the Nazarene, marking the beginning of the unification of the Holiness movement in America.

Early organizers of the movement felt the title "Nazarene" embodied Jesus Christ's simple lifestyle and service to the poor, which they desired to emulate. They rejected ornate worship buildings that might reflect the spirit of the world and chose to use their resources to win souls and provide relief to the poor.

Prominent Church of the Nazarene Founders

Prominent church founders are Phineas F. Bresee, Joseph P. Widney, Edgar P. Ellyson, Henry Orton Wiley, Alice P. Baldwin, Leslie F. Gay, W.S. and Lucy P. Knott, Aaron Merritt Hills, and C.E. McKee.

Geography

Today, Nazarene churches are located in more than 150 countries and parts of the world. The international headquarters are located in Kansas City, Missouri.

The church operates a publishing house, a graduate theological seminary, nine liberal-arts colleges in the U.S. and Canada, two colleges in Europe, and numerous schools, hospitals, and clinics in various parts of the world.

Governing Body

The Church of the Nazarene combines Congregational, Episcopal, and Presbyterian forms of government. An elected General Assembly, Board of General Superintendents, and General Board govern the Church of the Nazarene. The General Assembly, which is the ultimate authority in the church, meets every four years, setting doctrine and laws, subject to the church's constitution.

The General Board is responsible for the denomination's corporate business, and the six members of the Board of General Superintendents oversee the church's global work. Local churches are organized into districts and districts into regions. Two of the church's main activities are global missionary work and supporting the denomination's colleges and universities.

Sacred or Distinguishing Text

The sacred text of the Church of the Nazare is the Bible, which, they believe, is the divinely inspired Word of God. The Scriptures contain all the truth needed for faithful Christian living.

Notable Church of the Nazarene Ministers and Members

Current and former Nazarenes include James Dobson, Thomas Kinkade, Bill Gaither, Debbie Reynolds, Gary Hart, and Crystal Lewis.

Beliefs and Practices

Church of the Nazarene doctrine has been shaped most by the teachings of John Wesley and his Methodist movement. Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection was central to the Holiness Movement out of which the Church of the Nazarene arose. Nazarenes hold that believers can be sanctified wholly, after regeneration, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Nazarene beliefs are explained in the church's Articles of Faith and the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene. The church accepts traditional Christian doctrines, such as the Trinity, the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the fall of man, atonement for the whole human race, heaven and hell, resurrection of the dead, and the second coming of Christ. Divine healing is acknowledged but not to the exclusion of medical means. Nazarenes hold to the belief that a saved person can fall from grace and be "hopelessly and eternally lost" unless they repent of their sins.

Services vary from church to church, but many Nazarene churches today feature contemporary music and visual aids. Many congregations have three weekly services: Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. Nazarenes practice believer's baptism of both infants and adults, and the Lord's Supper. The Nazarene church ordains both male and female ministers.