The Beginnings of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries

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written by Brian Schaffer

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The beginnings of the Church of the Nazarene

The faithful supporters that had been a part of Bresee’s ministry at the Peniel Mission encouraged him to continue his work among the poor. At the age of 56, Bresee was without a church, pulpit, or place to minister. Within a few months he teamed up with J.P. Widney, and began organizing the Church of the Nazarene. J.P. Widney was a well-known medical doctor and had been an influential lay worker in the Methodist church. They promoted their first meeting to be held at a rented building just down the street from the Peniel Mission.

Within the pages of the ”Organizational Meeting of the First Church of the Nazarene, Los Angeles, California (October 30, 1895), there is a portion of what was written in the articles of faith and general rules of the newly organized Church of the Nazarene. “Feeling clearly called of God to the carrying on of His work in the conversion of sinners, the sanctification of believers and the building up in holiness of those who may be committed to our care we associate ourselves together as a church of God under the name of the Church of the Nazarene. We seek the simplicity and the Pentecostal power of the primitive New Testament Church. The field of labor to which we feel especially called is in the neglected quarters of the cities and wherever also may be found waste places and souls seeking pardon and cleansing from sin. This work we aim to do through the agency of city missions, evangelistic services, house-to-house visitation, caring for the poor, comforting the dying. To this end we strive personally to walk with God and to incite others so to do”.

In Smith’s book “Called Unto Holiness” there is an explanation given on the sermon that Dr. Widney preached on the day the Church of the Nazarene was organized. Widney spoke on why a new denomination was needed, and gave an insightful reason. He basically said that “the machinery and the methods of the older churches had proved to be a hindrance to the work of evangelizing the poor” (Smith, 1960).

On the first flyer printed for the newly organized church there was a special note at the bottom of it requesting assistance for the needy. It read as follows “We endeavor to supply medical attendance for those who are unable to provide it for themselves. Please notify the pastors or deaconesses of such need. Partially worn clothing is solicited for the poor. Please bring to the church, or notify the deaconesses where it may be had”.

By reading the minutes of the “Official Board Meeting,” First Church of the Nazarene, Los Angeles, California (November 4, 1895), there is evidence of Bresee organizing the young people into groups to do mission work among the poor. They canvassed the neighborhoods throughout the center of the city in search of the poor and needy. They visited the jails and hospitals. The young men and young women were organized into separate groups to perform their work among the poor. These groups especially made a big difference in the ministry among inmates within the city jails. There were conversions taking place throughout the jails, and people were being called into the preaching ministry.

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