In recent days within the Church of the Nazarene we have seen situations, decisions, and conclusions drawn about our tribe that affect many of us within it who care deeply about it. There have been postings and many opinions shared that have contributed to the conversation that has been both helpful and hurtful.
As one who has been within the Nazarene denomination 9 months prior to my own birth, I’d like to write a statement of gratitude to the denomination that has contributed to my formation and development as a Pastor in the Church of the Nazarene.
Moments of Affirmation
From the early days in my upbringing in a Nazarene Church in Southern Idaho, there were people in my local church who spoke affirmations for gifts in ministry into my life often before I even saw them in myself. My local pastor helped to affirm those gifts by walking me through getting a local license and making space for me in the pulpit at 18 where I preached the whole Bible in about 8 minutes.
When I went off to college, I was surrounded by faculty at Northwest Nazarene University who made space for me in my academic pursuits that often were slower to develop than some of my fellow classmates. During this season of my life, the faculty continued to affirm a calling on my life they saw and encouraged me in my development.
It was during this time that leaders on my local district would affirm a call on my life for ministry as I acquired a district license. They encouraged me to continue that call that I had taken on as I began to realize the very gifts others had seen within me.
Upon graduation I waited to dive into my own assignment and worked as an intern for College Church of the Nazarene in Nampa, Idaho. I was mentored and was able to succeed and fail in an environment that believed I could actually lead people on my own. It was through that mentorship I developed a greater confidence in what it meant to lead and lead well.
Over the next few years as I worked in ministry in Southern California, it was again Nazarene leaders who helped to encourage me as I pursued ordination within the church. In June 2004, I was ordained in the Church of the Nazarene as an Elder by a General Superintendent who affirmed a vote by district Nazarene leaders and with many other leaders laying hands on me to saying, “We believe in you.”
In June 2007 I joined the staff at Pasadena First Church and was again given the space to ask hard questions, learn the art of preaching, provide debate in theological arenas, and watch ministry in a larger context.
In February 2015, a vote was taken by a group of Nazarene members for my family to come and lead them in Gig Harbor, Washington. This community has made space for us to come and learn alongside them. The depth of responsibility I feel and the passion to lead comes from so many in the Church of the Nazarene who have modeled, listened, offered input, and asked formational questions to help me become who I am today.
Within all those years leading up until now, I’ve been given opportunities to serve for 6+ years with a group of great NYI leaders on the PLNU Regional NYI Council. I’ve had the honor of leading several students to Nazarene Youth Conferences and was given the chance to travel with great people to Africa last year with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. SDMI has given me the opportunity to teach about Intergenerational Ministries at General Assembly, M15, and an SDMI event in Hawaii. I’ve had the privilege of leading teams in missions work both locally and globally with the many in our tribe who recognize the power of being a part of a missional church body.
What does all of this mean for me today?
We’re a Space-Making People
In the midst of all of this, there have been conversations, ideas, hopes, etc. that make me part of this tribe. While I may disagree from time to time on its approaches or feel I have “better” insight, there have been many leaders that have been patient in the process with me and disagreed with my own approaches and yet, they still believed in me.
We make space for one another in this tribe. It does not mean we write off all the leaders that have molded many of us in the denomination you also have grown to love. As a space-making people we leave room for conversations because in each of these we are helping to move this journey along together. Those very leaders we may disagree with have been shaped and been given space to their own formation as well.
Just like you, I’ve made some mistakes along the way. I’ve made poor decisions as a leader, got caught up in conversations that became divisive and not helpful, been a part of many I hope that have been helpful as well, but all along I’ve been extended grace in my formation by many of the leaders who breathed life into me when they said, “We believe in you Keegan.”
So what’s that mean for me?
I Have Responsibility to Extend the Same Grace
With a heart of gratitude to this denomination and many leaders within it, I feel a deep responsibility to do my part in extending grace and make space for leaders that will come in the future. I may sit on committees where I am criticized. I will make decisions as a pastor that raise eyebrows for which I’ll need to apologize. I’ll have conversations with past leaders and future leaders with whom I’ll probably disagree from time to time, but at the end of the day, I’m a part of a denomination that centers its life on Jesus Christ. With so many that have made space for me and extended grace as well in the Church of the Nazarene, I stand alongside you with extreme gratitude for what you have contributed (and continue to contribute) to my life and hope while I’m on this earth I’ll be able to contribute my part to help us be a people that continue our passion as a people moving our lives to holiness. Let’s take a posture of gratitude and helpfulness as we continue our journey together.
You are loved.