Not too long ago, I received an incredible gift from a pastor friend of mine. He was leaving the church he had been at for many years and no longer had storage space for a collection of forty years worth of the denominational magazine for the Church of the Nazarene, which started out life as the Herald of Holiness, and is known now as Holiness Today. As someone who is completing studies in order to be a Nazarene pastor myself, this is a priceless treasure. As I have begun to slowly read my way through the collection, I am struck by how many concerns that were being discussed forty years ago are just as relevant today.

The April 28, 1971 issue of Herald of Holiness contained an article by Dr. K.S. Rice (Executive Secretary at the time of the Department of Church Schools) entitled, “Survival or Service, Which?” In this article, Dr. Rice addressed the issue of churches being inwardly directed rather than reaching outward with acts of mercy. Consider some of what Rice had to say:

… The strongest and most highly visible trend in the churches today is the shift to organize themselves and to make decisions on the basis of survival rather than service. The primary emphasis is on internal concerns rather than on outreach to the unchurched, on ministry to members rather than on mission in the world.

… It depicts the faltering of faith and the lack of vision characteristic of establishments rather than movements. It suggests futile activity directed inward rather than compassion expressed outwardly. The hand position is grasping rather than giving.

… To the extent that churches seek to serve rather than just survive, they are growing and effective.

My perception is that this is a concern which has not diminished in the decades since 1971. My perception is that there are too many churches — Nazarene or otherwise — in which survival has become the standard modus operandi. The expectation of members is that church is a place where they come to be served, rather than an avenue for service. The programs offered for members have become more important than feeding the hungry in the community, providing clothing for the needy, visiting the sick, and so on.

How about it? What is your church doing to serve rather than just survive?