I’m going to get real honest. I’ve been a Nazarene for nearly all my life and I’ve never quite understood all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the General Assembly and Conventions. I grew up in a small Nazarene church that seemed to always be in the shadow of the larger churches around it. I could tell that they were there, but never really saw them. I would occasionally hear about quizzing, district events, camp and assemblies, but my little church almost never participated. I was in college before I realized that most Nazarene churches thrived on their district community.
Seeing as I didn’t understand the need for district events, you can be sure that I didn’t understand the hullabaloo that surrounded an event such as General Assembly. There was particular excitement expressed by a small few in our church about the fact that General Assembly would take place in my hometown of San Antonio, in 1997. Although I enjoyed myself, our youth leader (yes, our youth group had four people and thus needed a leader) had to practically drag me to the Nazarene Youth International convention. At this moment, I got a small picture of how truly large the Church of the Nazarene was.
My perspective was broadened and enriched throughout the years and even more profoundly so when we were sent as missionaries to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I saw how the individual churches, districts, and countries within the Africa Region truly depended on one another. General Assembly was finally starting to make sense. The entire event is a commitment to being a global church community. It is a chance for us to see the strengths and weaknesses of our brothers and sisters in Christ so that we may know how to better serve one another. Yes, it is about the boring business stuff too; the kind of stuff that my teenage mind dreaded so intently. But I see now just how much it means to be able to do the business of running our church together.
In the DRC, there are more than 22,000 active members in the Church of the Nazarene. However, finding the funds to send more than a handful of delegates is quite difficult. In addition, visas are not often granted to Congolese applicants. This year, we will have only seven delegates, yet they are thrilled and honored to carry the voice of the Congolese Nazarenes to the General Assembly.
Let’s continue to bring the General Assembly and Conventions before the Lord in prayer; that they would be a means of fellowship for our global community and an avenue to more effectively make Christlike disciples in the nations.
-- Gavin and Jill Fothergill are missionaries in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with their children Macy and Connor, where they serve the Africa Central Field.