Kaye and I recently returned from District Superintendents Leadership Program held in Denver, CO. We extended the conference in order to meet with Dr. Jesse Middendorf, our Jurisdictional General Superintendent, and our colleagues on the Southeast (TNU) Region. In his observations of the Southeast Regional Assemblies, Southern Florida was cited for its diverse culture and the fact that Southern Florida District could be the healthiest indigenous district in the denomination. It is my hope that we will to be one of the models for our denomination in the US Canada Region. The effort is costly and one that does not necessarily provide abundant funds. But it is missionally necessary, and our Jurisdictional General Superintendent thinks we GET IT. I do too! In the last five years, our pastors and churches averaged nearly 1,100 New Nazarenes to the membership. Membership on the SFD is approaching 18,000 (actually 17,558) and if we can keep the back door closed, within the next five years or even less, we should break the 20,000 mark.
The fire that burns within us to evangelize the people groups in Southern Florida needs to spread throughout the SE Region. Dr. Middendorf asked us, What is the hope for the future of the SE Region? Many of our churches are populated with aging people. The average life-span of a church is 44 years. In the Church of the Nazarene, we have now closed more churches than we have opened. Of deep concern to our leaders is the fact that in the last ten years, we have showed a decline of 8% in Anglo membership within the denomination. Increases have exploded in Haitian and Hispanic membership. I was happy to be able to report that Southern Florida District is propping up no dying churches. Other districts are. Our dilemma is how to balance loyalty to those churches that are being propped up when they seem to exhibit zero obedience to do what God wants us to do: bear fruit; make disciples. We seem to encourage and reward faithfulness over fruitfulness. This must change, Dr. Middendorf challenged. Now is the time to hold people accountable to MISSION. We are on course to a missional crisis if we do not begin to make more and more disciples. Mission is not optional; it is the sole reason for our existence, our Jurisdictional General Superintendent exhorted. Holiness is missional. We are made holy to carry out Gods mission.
When I got home I did some checking and was very thankful that of our 86 organized churches only ten added no new disciples by profession of faith. District Superintendents have been given permission to hold these pastors and churches accountable to MISSION. Im still wrestling with what this means for us. I know which churches had zero converts and they will be a special concern in prayer and future challenge. We were also told that we must create a culture of church planting. Although Southern Florida District has organized ten churches in the past seven years, we can longer be satisfied with where we are. Where will your church be in the next five years? The thumb of the Spirit is in the back of our leader to challenge us all to become far more intentional in our evangelistic efforts. It should not take leaders to challenge us to do what obedience to Christ demands: Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)!
Dr. David F. Nixon
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