Chaplains in the Church of the Nazarene are the face of Jesus to many who would never enter a house of worship or attend an organized church. They go in Christ’s name to places that are often off limits to members of the traditional clergy. Chaplains minister to hospital patients ravaged with cancer, crime victims experiencing the loss of a friend or loved one, prison inmates looking to start a new life, military personnel immobilized by the fear of combat, drug or alcohol addicted persons in rehabilitation, and hospice patients facing loss of body and mental functions. Among their places of ministry are the homeless shelter, foxhole, hospital trauma center, prison cell, factory assembly line, mental institution, college campus, and nursing home.
To hundreds of thousands in such places, the only Jesus they will ever see is the Jesus they see in the face of a Nazarene chaplain. As reported to the General Assembly last June, Nazarene chaplains made ministry contacts in Christ’s name to almost three million people from 2001 to 2005. From these ministry contacts, over 46,000 people came to faith in Jesus Christ and over 19,000 new Christians were baptized. As astounding as these numbers are, they represent only the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of outreach to lost people. There is no way to adequately measure all the acts of compassion, care, and concern expressed through these almost three million ministry contacts.
The logo designed for Chaplaincy Services reflects these multiple acts of compassion, care and concern. If one looks closely at the center of the logo, one will notice that there is a drop of water. For Nazarene chaplains, this represents the “drop of cold water” offered in Jesus’ name to those at the margins of society who suffer, feel lonely, and experience disenfranchisement. Other than working for a government or private employer, there is little difference between what a chaplain does and what people in ministries of compassion do.
Chaplains are some of the most trusted members of our society. Instinctively, people know that they are “safe” in the presence of a chaplain. As a result, they will be transparent and share their “dirty little life’s secrets” to chaplains within minutes of their first encounter. Every time this happens, and even though it has happened to me thousands of times, I am truly amazed. People who don’t even know me trust me because I am called “chaplain.” Somehow, people seem to know that a chaplain ministers and extends compassion without conditions or strings attached.
This entire ministry occurs at virtually no cost to the Church of the Nazarene. The salaries and benefits of chaplains are paid by government and private employers. The First Century Apostles, who were persecuted everywhere and found welcome nowhere, could never have imagined a day with such open doors of opportunity. This is truly remarkable. Nazarene chaplains are ministry extensions of local Nazarene churches. They are the church at work in the world.
by Dwight Jennings