Ohio church member finds freedom through education

Dayton, Ohio

Worship service at Shelter Community Church of the Nazarene

Terri Harrell's life changed 18 years ago when she accepted Christ as her Savior. Since that time she has never felt fully prepared to answer some of the difficult questions she receives. Until now.

Harrell has been involved in the prayer ministry at Shelter Community Church of the Nazarene in Dayton, Ohio, since she made that life transformation, but recently gained additional understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

“I knew what I believed, but I couldn’t give information to back up what I thought to be true,” Harrell said. “I’ve always felt that I need a more solid base for my own beliefs. I mean, I truly knew that God was healing these folks [in my church’s prayer ministry], but I wished I had more knowledge to answer people’s questions about God, Jesus, and this whole ‘religion’ thing.”

Harrell found what she was looking for through the Church of the Nazarene's The Discipleship Place resource.

“When I started taking the online classes about a year ago, I wasn’t sure what I was looking to get from them,” Harrell said. “Honestly, it was to make me feel like I had a right to be in ministry not based on what I felt but what I knew. That is silly, which I know now because what I gained is way more than simple knowledge. I gained the confidence to speak boldly for God’s kingdom and His earnest love for us.”

So far, Harrell has been through the courses Communicating the Gospel, History and Polity, John Wesley’s Theology, and New Testament Study, and she has only one session left in the Old Testament Study course. After she finishes the Old Testament course, she plans on taking the Spiritual Formation course next. 

Of these courses, Harrell says John Wesley’s Theology was her favorite. She says it felt as if God was speaking to her while she was reading about John Wesley and his pursuit of truth, gaining insight into what her pastor meant while he was teaching from the pulpit.

“[John Wesley] didn't just continue blindly following his father’s beliefs,” Harrel says. “He studied, questioned, and even adjusted his positions. I am that kind of person too, but I never thought I had permission to do that — to wonder, to question. Going through The Discipleship Place classes have fed that desire for knowledge.”

Not only is she using what she is learning to strengthen her own beliefs, but now more than ever Harrell says she feels truly free to serve.

“I’ve been a Nazarene since 1999, but before that I was lost,” Harrell said. “[I was] suicidal, abusing drugs and alcohol, sleeping with strange men. Then a co-worker invited me to church, and I got saved that night! My family was just as shocked as I was, and within two years I was teaching classes and sharing my healing journey. It wasn’t instant but Jesus was leading me, coaxing me every day.”

And now, 18 years later, God is still walking with her as she grows in experience and wisdom in her faith.

“Now I know I am Wesleyan, and I know I am following the Nazarene,” Harrell said. “I cannot express how freeing that is. I’m free to minister to others, I’m free to believe I am loved by Him, and this makes me free to love His children wherever or whoever they are.”