This topic may sound like a total oxymoron, because the visible church is overwhelmingly textile. Pastors and priests are often called “men of the cloth“, and aside from a relative handful of nudist congregations, usually at nudist resorts, people wear clothes to church. The Church I am talking about, however, is the Church of Jesus Christ…the Church universal…the “holy catholic Church“, as it is stated in the Apostle’s Creed. Even as we are not recognized, and even shunned, by the visible church, I believe that we, as Christian naturists/nudists have a very important role in the spread of the kingdom of God, the Church of Jesus Christ.
To the typical church, the nudist resort, whether down the street or in the next county, might as well be an alien culture on a remote island. The only purpose the church would have for contacting nudists would be to condemn their lifestyle, and attempt to “convert” them to being textiles. Never mind that the Great Commission doesn’t include cultural conversion. It simply requires the church to make disciples of all nations, and that applies to all believers. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19)
I had an experience recently that brought this thought from “back-burner” to front and center. I found myself thrust into a ministry opportunity that no textile would have been able to perform, because it was at Cypress Cove Nudist Resort. The person who needed ministering to, although he wasn’t naked, was relaxing in the game room. The normal odds of him being there, me being there, and us meeting were somewhere between zero and none, except that, when God has work for us to do, He is quite able to “stack the deck“, and place us in the right place at the right time. We are never “off-duty” when it comes to the work of the Lord. Recent events have brought that fact home to me in a very dramatic way.
About once a week, I try to take a mini-nakation to Cypress Cove for a “mental-health day“. I have been under a lot of stress, and Cypress Cove is the one place I can de-stress and unwind. I usually try to go the midweek, but the weather wasn’t very nice the first two weeks of May 2014. However, the weather was beautiful the second Saturday…
The details of that encounter are immaterial. What does matter is that I was at the right place at the right time – God’s place and time, and was able to minister to a man who was hurting from the breakup of his marriage. God gave me the awesome and humbling privilege of ministering in His name, and that fellow found compassion and the love of Christ in an unlikely place.
It is now pretty much common-knowledge in my church that I am a nudist even though I don’t “advertise” it, although the bumper-stickers on my vehicle are probably a dead-giveaway. Most members also know that I lead a ministry on Sunday afternoons, and some even know where it is. I have been accepted as part of the church-community, even though some people may still think that I am a bit “strange“.
I don’t expect my church to “commission” me to be their missionary to nudists. That commission came from our Lord Himself: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Breaking that commission down: Jerusalem – our home community, Samaria – those whose lifestyle we don’t agree with, to the ends of the earth – those in foreign lands, or maybe just the next town. Nudists ARE the typical church’s “Samaria“, because we live a lifestyle contrary to what the church believes to be “appropriate“. Hence, if that “Samaria” is going to be reached with the Gospel, it will have to be Christian “Samaritans” who do it. We are the only ones who can bring the Good News of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ without ‘contaminating‘ it with ‘fig-leaves‘.
Our mission field…
In short, our mission field is anywhere we are, whether it is at a nude beach, a nudist resort, or even in a private gathering. There are a growing number of nudists who live full-time in a nudist resort, and the only times they get dressed and leave the resort are for necessary errands. The likelihood of them attending a local church, where they will be fed a ‘fig-leaf‘ gospel is slim to none. Very few local churches are involved in ministry to nearby nudist resorts, because they are unwilling to strip the ‘fig-leaves‘ out of their gospel, and unwilling to remove their own ‘fig-leaves’. There are also far too few bodies of believers who regularly meet in nudist resorts.
The Christian Naturists of America (CNA) is actively involved in supporting bodies of believers at nudist resorts. They also hold one to two weekend conferences every year.
I have heard of one church which has a regular ministry to a nearby nudist resort, and that is a beginning. There are dozens more without a regular Christian witness.
As believers, we can bring the good news of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to this sin-sick and dying world. We are in touch with the Living Water which truly satisfies, and the Bread that sustains spiritual life. Are we up to the task?