The Nazarene Thing and Melted Butter

I didn’t know my grandfather well. As the youngest of my three brothers, I got to know grandpa mostly while a college student at NNC. He and Grandma Jewel live on Ivy street—a short walk from the campus. Even so, I didn’t hang out much at their house except when my parents came to visit. I could have learned much.

My Nazarene roots go deep. Grandpa’s Mallalieu’s Dad was William Columbus Wilson who had started some Nazarene churches in California, worked with Phineas Bresee, and briefly was the fifth general superintendent in the newly formed denomination. Grandpa had pastored and worked as a dean, registrar, and speech teacher at Nazarene colleges. My own father was a third generation ordained Nazarene pastor.

I only listened to or understood a few of Grandpa’s stories. Grandpa Mallalieu had seen the good, bad, ugly of the church over the years. He had no illusions and many stories about battles with legalists within the denomination. Although growing up in a new denomination that preached heart holiness, grandpa had many stories about the ugly behavior of some leaders.

There is one story, however, that has always stuck with me even though the details are fuzzy. Grandpa had a wonderfully wrinkled face—not the small wrinkles of a prune but something more like a plowed field. And when he told this story, his wrinkles came to life. The story was about an evangelist coming to his church to preach two weeks of revival services. The first week attendance was low and the people wooden. On Saturday, my grandfather and the evangelist were discouraged. Together they walked out to the center of a vacant lot near the church. One of them picked up a stick and made circle in the dirt. They told God they would not leave the circle until God gave them a fresh outpouring of His Spirit.

Together they prayed in this vacant lot—taking turns crying out to God for more of His presence and power in their lives. Suddenly, Grandpa said, the heavens opened and God poured out His Holy Spirit on them like melted butter. I remember Grandpa’s glistening eyes, the catch in his voice, and the tears in the creases around his eyes as he spoke. The second week of revival services, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully—with many seeking salvation or rededicating their lives.

Perhaps this story resonates with me because of my own experience in high school. It was the height of the Jesus movement and the local Methodist pastor had brought a Christian rock band that played at the high school and at the local church. The pastor had opened her home to the kids after the concert. God’s spirit was moving and kids were getting saved. One of the members of the band, The Brethren, asked me if I would like to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I had been saved as a kid in a Nazarene Church in Walla Walla, and I had made many trips to the altar to get that second blessing, sometimes called sanctification, but I was always open to more of God. The young guy with shaggy hair put a hand on me and prayed. Immediately, a warm electric cloud settled upon me. Electricity seemed to dance on my face. The band member said, “You can speak in tongues if you like.” I did, but it was the burst of joy coming out of me that I remember most. I could not stop smiling.

Although serving in the Nazarene church here in Myrtle Point for the last 30 years, Teckla and I have not been members of the denomination since the 80’s. We both, however, deeply value that the Church of the Nazarene has called people to live holy lives and has nourished a hunger for God that makes us cry out for more of His Spirit. As an outsider that loves the denomination, I hope Nazarenes never forsake or crowd out their defining emphasis on seeking and a deeper cleansing and a closer walk with God. I hope their is always room for melted butter.

My life has punctuated with four or five “melted butter” and “electric cloud” moments full of holy joy. To be honest this is not just a Nazarene, Wesleyan, Pentecostal, or charismatic thing. It is a longing for something more than an intellectual consent to a collection of theological propositions.

It is a God thing—a hunger for God himself upon us, in us, moving and working through us.

About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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