A Brief History of the Church of the Nazarene
In the 1730’s a vibrant evangelical revival arose in Britain, directed chiefly by John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitfield. Many turned from sin and were empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve God. This movement was characterized by lay preaching, testimony, discipline, and small group meetings. The revival was characterized by three theological landmarks:
* Regeneration for all by grace through faith.
* Sanctification from all sin by the Holy Spirit.
* Witness of the Spirit to the assurance of grace.
In the 19th century a renewed emphasis on Christian holiness began in the Eastern United States and spread throughout the nation. This holiness revival spilled outside the bounds of Methodism. Charles G. Finney and Asa Mahan led the renewed emphasis on holiness in Presbyterian and Congregationalist circles. Baptist evangelist A. B. Earle was among the leaders of the holiness movement within his denomination. Holiness camp meetings sprang up throughout the united states.
The witness to Christian holiness played roles in the founding of the Wesleyan Methodist Church (1843), the Free Methodist Church (1860) and, the Salvation Army (1865). In the 1880’s, new, distinctively holiness churches sprang into existence, including the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.) and the Church of God (Holiness). In the 1890’s another wave of independent holiness groups came into being. Some of the people involved in these organizations longed to be united into a national holiness church. Out of that impulse for a holiness denomination the Church of the Nazarene was born. In October 1895, Phineas F. Bresee organized the Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles, California.
The Association of Pentecostal Churches of America, the Church of the Nazarene, and the Holiness Church of Christ were joined together in 1907-1908. The merging groups agreed upon a church government that balanced the need for a superintendency with the independence of local congregations. Superintendents were to care for established churches and were to organize new churches everywhere, but their authority was not to interfere with the independent actions of established churches.
After 1908 various other bodies united with the Church of the Nazarene:
* The Pentecostal Mission – 1915
* Pentecostal Church of Scotland – 1915
* Laymen’s Holiness Association – 1922
* International Holiness Mission – 1952
* Calvary Holiness Church – 1955
* Gospel Workers Church of Canada – 1958
From its beginning the Church of the Nazarene had an inter-national dimension. With 662 missionaries, the church has entered a total over 90 world areas. As of 1997 the Church of the Nazarene had an international membership of over one million (1,254,315) distributed in over 12,134 congregations.