What to Expect from Colleges Affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene

Nov 30, 2020

If you grew up in a Nazarene church, while college life itself will be new, there may be little surprise in what to expect from spiritual life at a Nazarene college.

Of course, if you didn’t, you may wonder what attending a college affiliated with the Church of the Nazarene means. And even if you did, you may still have questions about how it all ties together:

  • What does the Church’s history have to do with Nazarene colleges today?
  • How do the Church’s beliefs connect to the college experience?
  • What makes the approach of Nazarene colleges to higher education unique?

To find out, take a closer look at the beliefs of the Church of the Nazarene and how they serve as a foundation for the Nazarene college experience.

The Church of the Nazarene Is: Christian

Speaking broadly, Nazarene colleges like ENC are Christian, connected to the largest religion in the world. Christians represent over 2.5 billion people worldwide, or almost one-third of all humanity.

While there are disagreements between Christians, our one universally shared belief is in the unique deity of Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible. Along with 2.5 billion others, we believe:

  • Jesus of Nazareth was born 2,000 years ago as a human being but also the Son of God.
  • He taught us to turn away from sin because it leads to spiritual and eternal death.
  • As the Messiah (or Christ, or “Savior”), he died in our place to save us from our sins.
  • He rose from the dead and lives today, offering eternal life to all who believe.

But how does this belief relate to the liberal arts education offered today at Nazarene colleges? A little church history helps connect the dots. 

The Church of the Nazarene Is: Protestant

For about the last 500 years, Christianity has been represented by two fairly distinct groups: the worldwide Catholic Church, and numerous Protestant groups – or “denominations” – also found throughout the world.

This division began with the Protestant Reformation, a period in which reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin argued for independence from the authority of the pope, the leader of the Catholic Church.

Many of Martin Luther’s ideas still resonate in Protestant churches today. 

  • One is the biblically-based idea that we are saved by faith (what we believe) and not by works (what we do). Doing good is important, but we can’t work (or buy) our way into Heaven; all we can do is accept Jesus’ invitation.
  • Another is the concept of a “general priesthood” of Christians. That was a powerful shift away from seeing priests as bearing the full responsibility of ministry; instead, Luther insisted we all have direct access to God through prayer and responsibility to care for one another as “priests.”

These ideas eventually came across the Atlantic to serve as the foundation for the modern church in America today.

The Church of the Nazarene Is: Wesleyan-Holiness

The ideas that shaped the Church of the Nazarene came from an 18th-century Anglican minister named John Wesley.

After Luther helped us see that faith is what saves us, Wesley helped us understand the role of good works once we’ve already been saved. The purpose of our work in this world is to help others grow more mature in their faith.

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” – John Wesley

When we engage in this work, the work of Jesus Christ, God helps us grow more Christlike ourselves. In theology, this process is called sanctification. But this way of life was simply called striving toward “holiness.” 

Our Unifying Belief: Entire Sanctification

Several denominations embraced the Wesleyan Holiness Movement in the 19th century; the Church of the Nazarene was founded around the turn of the 20th to bring them all together.

The belief that unifies us is what John Wesley called entire sanctification – the potential for all of us to become completely free from sin, free to love God and people.

Holiness isn’t reserved for miracle workers, God and the angels. It’s the state in which we become all we’re called to be. Between God’s work in our lives and our active participation, we believe it’s attainable.

The journey to get there is deeply personal. It looks different for every unique individual. 

And that has a lot to do with how Nazarene colleges were built.

Why Nazarene Colleges Were Founded

The Holiness Movement sparked an ambitious vision for higher education. At a time when the popular models in Christian education were Bible colleges and missionary training schools, Nazarene colleges aimed to provide far more than theological instruction.

Instead, Nazarene colleges like ENC would provide a liberal arts education to prepare students for a variety of career paths. They would not have to choose between spiritual pursuits and worldly knowledge – founders considered both to be part of the same path.

This was the foundation for what Eastern Nazarene College looks like today.

In the Classroom

Academic instruction is presented within the context of greater meaning. Beyond applying what you learn to your own career, how can you use that career to serve the world? How can your life be a ministry that blesses others?

The Arts

Personal expression through music, graphic art, dance, theater, and all fine arts is discussed as more than a means of communication and reflection. It is also a gift from God, which he uses as an instrument of good – truth, justice, inspiration, and more – in the world. 

Student Life 

Ministry-focused student organizations, student government, professional development clubs, and athletic teams at ENC all tend to share holiness values. The purpose goes beyond personal gain to developing a heart for service and applying it “in all the places you can.”

“Being a student-athlete has prepared me by showing me that I’m able to do different jobs at a time and have … a good leadership role I can use to help other students here on campus.” – Stephanie MacFarland, Business Management, Women’s Soccer, Class of 2021


Alumni of Nazarene colleges look back on their college experience as foundational to both their career trajectory and spiritual development. Some go on to become ministers, but all are prepared to grow within the “general priesthood” as agents of change in the world.

As a Part of the Church of the Nazarene, ENC Is: Transformational

What all this amounts to at Eastern Nazarene College is what we call “transformational education.” 

Assured by our Christian faith, and driven by our Wesleyan belief that there is no limit to what people can achieve, our sights are set much higher than helping people from a variety of faith backgrounds attain degrees. 

Our vision is to see lives transformed.

The Church of the Nazarene has a broad mission to serve individuals, churches and communities throughout the world. Our part of that mission is you. At Eastern Nazarene College, we want to help you transform into who you’re called to be – and become transformative yourself.

Discover what transformational education looks like at Eastern Nazarene College.