Phineas Bresee, founder of the Church of the Nazarene, took the “Go!” in the great commission literally. He rushed with a passion to give the people of Los Angeles the freedom-giving gospel of Jesus, and he railed against what he described as “cold, dead formalism.” He urged followers of Jesus to “burn with the fire of the Mount of Transfiguration.” And while church buildings tend to lure us back (they did in Bresee’s day, too), Bresee sternly warned against relying on what he described as “forts and barricades.” Listen to him: “we need a marching, conquering army, who sleeps on their arms and in the morning presses the battle, filling the world with the redeemed...” 1
“Our church is preeminently a missionary church,” Bresee wrote on November 11, 1906. “It knows no difference between home and foreign fields - in these days all fields are near.” Acting on Jesus’ Mission is at the core of an Organic Church movement because Jesus calls us to Go. He is our living example. In North America, we serve a multi-cultural, multi-language population that is changing all the time. Like Bresee’s, our cities, neighborhoods, barrios, coffee shops, and malls are filled with people who have never seen Jesus or heard his gospel. Many imagine they have seen all there is to see and become like a people “sitting in darkness…sitting in the land and shadow of death” (Mt. 4:16). Jesus doesn’t wait for people sitting in darkness to “wake up” and come find him. Jesus is on the move - dawning upon them. We follow him out. Nazarenes all over the world follow him out every day. Bresee embraced it; so do we.
“We have been impressed with the ripeness of the harvest,” Bresee wrote in 1895. Today the same is true for many followers of Jesus. They see the fields and are filled with compassion. Jesus is leading them out, calling on them to Go! because harvests don’t happen in barns.2 A century ago, the Nazarene movement was described as a movement – not a denomination – because a movement is organic, meaning, it is alive!3 The Kingdom of Heaven is a living, growing kingdom; it’s able to ‘take’ anywhere4 ; and it cannot be contained by artificial parameters. When we succumb to the allure of forts and barricades, our voices are regressively lost and, worse, our message silenced. But when we go out, and we plant and water, God makes it grow. He will meet us in the fields every time.
3Mark 4:3, 11, 14.
4“It seems now a foregone conclusion that the holiness forces of this country will be very soon largely united in one organic body.” October 2, 1908.