Grace & Peace Magazine: What books and authors have especially shaped your understanding of ministry?
J.K. Warrick: I like to read Frederick Buechner. He’s a Presbyterian, and I like the way he thinks. I’ve always enjoyed Reuben R. Welch and have begged him to write more, but I’m not having much luck. I like Paul S. Rees and his sermon collections; I find them in old bookstores and read them. They are still fresh. I love Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who was a Welsh Protestant pastor and an associate of G. Campbell Morgan, but what a thinker and a real expositional preacher. There are three or four books that changed the direction of my ministry. One was psychologist John Powell’s A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die. There was a book by Catholic writer Henri Nouwen. I don’t agree with everything Nouwen says, but A Way of the Heart, has a statement that re-directed my ministry: “Our goal is not souls, our goal is God.” When I first read it I pulled back from it, but it changed the way I think about what I do, that I am doing this for God and not for anybody else or for any other reason. Then, Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones’ The Unshakeable Kingdom and the Unchanging Christ lifted me up and inspired me at a particular time in my ministry.
G&P: What have been some of your greatest leadership lessons?
JKW: You lead through relationships. John Maxwell says if you are a leader and no one is following you, you’re just taking a walk. I have taken many walks in my life as a minister. Everything comes through building relationships based on mutual trust, love, confidentiality, and expressing to people in tangible ways, “I care about you. If you never adapt your life to the things I want you to, I still care about you; you can always call me; I will always be your friend.” Relationships are the key to everything we do.
G&P: Based on the various roles you have served, what word of advice would you give to pastors about what the church is and should be?
JKW: I was driving through Muskogee, Oklahoma, a few weeks ago. I read a billboard with information about a local church and written diagonally across it was this motto: “Called to serve our community.” I said to my wife, “No. We are not called to serve our community. We are called to serve our God. If we serve God, we will serve our community.” Service is not our main call; our main call is to love God. The Westminster Catechism says the chief goal of humanity is to glorify God. I dearly believe that. We need to return to a deep love for God, which will give us a deep passion for the lost, a concern for broken people, a concern for disenfranchised people; you cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit and not care about other people. I’ve been reading from Acts 2 at pastors’ retreats and in other settings where the S cripture says, “They devoted themselves to…” I have been inserting: devoted themselves to leadership development, strategic planning, structural adjustments, etc. But Acts 2:42 says: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” In other words, these are people who had fallen in love with God, and out of that love for God, they were launched into this worldwide mission. My concern is not that we love the church or that we love the mission or even that we love the message. My concern is that we love God. Loving God will launch us onto a trajectory where we will engage people at the point of need and share the love of Christ with them.
G&P: Nazarenes differ, sometimes markedly, on how they express holiness. Some emphasize purity and vital piety. Others emphasize holiness as love— as an expression of compassion, social concern, and advocacy for the less fortunate. Do you see these expressions as complimentary and can and should the church nurture both perspectives?
JKW: Absolutely. Holiness is not static. When Ron Benefiel was president of Nazarene Theological Seminary, we met about once a quarter to discuss differing concepts and understandings of holiness. Out of our conversation, Ron compiled the languages of holiness or the languages of love, as he called them: the language of purity, the language of power, the language of character, and the language of love. Two of these have to do with the crisis side: the cleansing and the purifying work of the Holy Spirit. The other two have mainly to do with the process, the ongoing perfecting work of God in the life of the believer. These are themes that need to be developed, and Ron would say that you really have not preached holiness to your people until you have spoken all four of these languages to them on a regular basis. They must understand there are areas of cleansing, purification, empowering, but there are also areas of service and engagement and self-giving to a lost and broken world. There is nothing incompatible about that. Every now and then someone will say to me, “Is holiness crisis or process?” And I say, “Yes.” It is crisis; it is process. It is incarnational living. It is transformational living. It is engaging a lost world. It is rolling up our sleeves and going out there and meeting people where they are and seeing their lives change by God loving them through us. These are not opposite poles; they are different expressions of the heart of God, and you see that all through the Bible.
G&P: Martin E. Marty, a Lutheran church historian, has said to Nazarenes, “We Lutherans have put ‘justification by faith’ in front of the whole Church. You need to do the same with holiness.” Is this an opportunity we need to take advantage of?
JKW: I think so. Dennis Kinlaw calls this our watering hole. We know the language. We understand the reality of the doctrine and experience of entire sanctification or the holy life. We should be sharing that good news. You hear a lot of people talking about holiness, but their theological construct is not all that friendly to the expression of holiness. They need someone to help them understand how you articulate and bring people into this experience, and what it means to be holy before God. We’ve not always done as good a job as we should have in expressing this. We have not always been as clear or as fair as we need to be in the proclamation of holiness, and we have talked about secondary issues. We need to speak primarily about the Spirit of God, Christ in the Spirit, God through the Spirit living in our hearts, changing us, lifting us above willful and known sin and empowering us to do his will. In Colossians 3:17, Paul says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him.” It is possible for us to live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to God, and we know we can’t do that perfectly, but we can do it much better than some think we can through the indwelling of God. We can rise above to be the people God wants us to be. That is the good news of the message of holiness.
G&P: Early Nazarenes united around their commitment to holiness, which allowed them to overlook lesser differences. Is this something we need to recapture again?
JKW: If you examine the motivation for the east and west church coming together, and then the north and south coming together, they did so because of the message. They believed so passionately in this message of heart holiness they laid aside secondary issues. We do need to recapture that deep commitment to this message. There is a danger that we could morph into a generic evangelical church. As good as that is, it is not what God has called us to be. He raised us up to proclaim scriptural holiness to all the nations. We were in a meeting in our Columbia project, which is our continuing education program for the Board of General Superintendents, and we were meeting with author Phillip Jenkins, who wrote a book on the center of Christianity shifting from north to south and from west to east, moving back toward Jerusalem. We asked him questions for a good bit of the day and in a lull he said, “I have a question for you. You are in 156 world areas and that seems to be important to you. Don’t you know there are evangelical churches in these countries where you are going? Why can’t you go where there are no evangelical churches?” Dr. Cunningham replied for all of us when he said, “Well, Dr. Jenkins, there is something you need to understand about the people called Nazarenes. We don’t believe that the message of hope has been fully proclaimed. The gospel has not been fully preached until the message of holiness has been preached. So that is why we go; to take this message of holiness.” We have to capture again that sense of urgency about this message.
G&P: You’ve stated that Nazarene congregations should offer Communion more than once a quarter. Would you share your thinking about this?
JKW: The Manual requires that we serve communion once a quarter. In my last two or three pastorates, we served communion once a month, sometimes more than that. I don’t know all that God intends for communion to be, but I am convinced there is more happening than we usually believe is happening. Jesus took these very common elements of the bread and the juice, and he sanctified them and blessed them and said this will be a way for you to draw near to me: do this in remembrance of me. When I take the bread and the cup, there is a sense in which I am symbolically taking again the very life of Jesus. That is powerful. I wish we had a higher appreciation for communion. This is a sacred moment where we meet with him and come together with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
G&P: How do you reconcile numerical growth and mission growth?
JKW: I say amen to both. I think health will produce multiplication. I’m reading Will Mancini’s book, Church Unique. He celebrates the contributions this movement made, while understanding it was not the last word. But it was one of many words in the development of the church here in the United States. I think we can build on that, broaden the foundation, deepen the work, and accomplish more than we could have then. We don’t want to sacrifice our integrity to grow, but we don’t want to hide behind excuses why we’re not growing. God wants his church to expand its reach. Let’s be certain that we’re healthy, vibrant, and doctrinally sound, but let’s give attention to the fact that we need to be reproducing and growing as well.
G&P: You have been part of the Commission on the Nazarene Future. Share about this and the objectives of the commission.
JKW: We were listening to the conversations before the 2005 General Assembly, and there were so many calls for change, particularly in the office of the Board of General Superintendents. We thought it would be better to be proactive and engage this conversation and give it a place where it could occur in a healthy setting, where we could come to thoughtful decisions. Our board is not necessarily in favor of more or fewer general superintendents— that is not our place to decide. We are concerned that whatever decisions we make about the superintendency, whether it be district or general, that we do so in light of our missional strategy, our polity, and our ecclesiology. The Commission on the Nazarene Future is not a group of people who are going to lay out a roadmap for the next hundred years. It is a big role, but the charter given to them is rather restricted: give attention to our ecclesiology, our missional strategy, and our polity, and how that should inform the Board of General Superintendents. Our chairman said, "Let’s begin with a question: What is right about the church? What does it mean to be a Nazarene? What cannot be changed?" That is where we began, and we will be getting our first report as a board in December 2011 or February 2012. Then, the committee will move on to what needs adjusting or what we recommend. Our board will be engaged in this process as well. General Superintendent Duarte and I are members of this commission; the others are sitting in on the meetings when they are able. We are engaged in the conversations, and it is very healthy, and I think the outcome will be good. We will take the findings of the commission and their recommendations to the general board, and they will forward on whatever they would like to the general assembly for any necessary legislation and implementation. The process will help us understand better the role of superintending, and how that fits into the fabric of the church, and how vital it is to the life of the church. I think the church will be pleased with what we find and lay before them.