What does ‘Nazarene’ mean?

By Hannah Rowen

I am not a Nazarene, nor are the majority of students on campus. In fact, only 36 percent of last year’s student body was Nazarene.

Over 46 religious denominations, including Baptist, Catholic and Evangelical, are currently represented in the student body.

When I first came to Olivet, I had never stepped inside a Nazarene church. I was not sure how the Nazarene denomination differed from what I grew up believing as a United Methodist.

During my freshman year, I had many discussions with professors to discover what this denomination is about. This past summer I worked as an ambassador for the Office of Church Relations, which allowed me to attend a handful of Nazarene events. I found that this denomination does not differ much from my own.

The Church of the Nazarene, as it exists today, began in 1908, but it has roots dating back to the Holiness Movement of the 1830s. This movement focused on the sermons of John Wesley, who stressed sanctification as a work of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Sanctification is one of the beliefs which the Nazarene denomination emphasizes that sets it apart from others.

I asked Dr. Leon Blanchette, a professor in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry, to describe the idea of entire sanctification simply.

“Imagine your life as a house,” he said. “Once you accept Jesus as your Savior you invite him into your house, but he can only see the living room and the kitchen. He is just a guest, and when you go out of the house, you leave him there.

“Then as you trust him more and devote more of your life to him, he can see the bedroom and the dining room. Soon you have given him the key to every room in the house and trusted him with your whole life.

“Essentially, a sanctified believer lives above sin, meaning that when faced with temptation, he chooses not to give in. He succumbs to God instead of giving in to sin.”

Dr. Blanchette also mentioned that entire sanctification is a journey that starts at salvation, and is a result of us responding to the work of the Holy Spirit. Each person chooses it for himself, but only after God acts first.

Some other basic beliefs of the Church of the Nazarene are similar to most other denominations of the Christian faith: a belief in a triune God, a belief the Bible is inspired by the Father and a belief that Jesus died and was resurrected.

As a person outside this denomination looking in, I have noticed the Nazarene church seems to emphasize the importance of a person’s lifestyle. Gambling, drugs and alcohol are not allowed.

The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene also prohibits “all forms of dancing that detract from spiritual growth and break down proper moral inhibitions and reserve.”

The Nazarene church is also organized governmentally. Seven general superintendents oversee the Church of the Nazarene worldwide. Below them are district superintendents who each have influence over a “district,” or group of churches in the same geographical location.

In general, the Church of the Nazarene does not dramatically differ from other holiness traditions and holds the same basic doctrinal truths as most Christian denominations.

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