By: Dr. Verne Ward, Global Missions Director, Church of the Nazarene
“I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.” – I Corinthians 3:5-9
Pioneer. Develop. Resource.
In the Church of the Nazarene, missionaries work in these three areas, leading the growth of the church from its embryonic state, through its development, to its maturity.
Over the course of their service, some missionaries will serve in all three roles: pioneering, developing, and resourcing. Other missionaries will serve in one or two of these roles. Often, missionaries fulfill several roles at once.
Missionaries may start out pioneering, then move into development before God calls them to another work. A pioneering missionary may team up with another missionary who will take responsibility for development. Yet another missionary may be sent to serve in resourcing. The Apostle Paul described this process in 1 Corinthians 3.
God calls some to serve for decades while calling others to fulfill a role for a few years. This is why we have changed our retirement eligibility from 20 to 15 years. We also recognize contributions of 5 years, 10 years, 20 and 25 years. We not only celebrate with those who obey the call to go but also those who obey God’s call to return to their home country when they have fulfilled their calling.
What do these roles look like in our church today?
Alonso and Alicia (names changed for security) are pioneering. They have moved to a nation in the Eurasia Region where the Church of the Nazarene previously had no presence. As they prayerfully develop relationships and discover their community’s needs, they have taken steps to meet those needs by partnering with a nursing home and an orphanage. Eventually, with God’s blessing, discipleship will lead to church planting.
As new believers grow in their faith and service, pioneering becomes developing, and others may join them in the work. Development includes discipling, modeling, and training believers so they have the skills to be the Body of Christ in their community and cultural context. They may also develop systems that sustain the church in the areas of theological education, literature creation, or financial management.
Missionaries in resource roles often hold responsibilities in areas such as strategy, communications or education, to support the ministry of local believers who are engaged in evangelism, discipleship, and compassion. Resource roles often involve helping to connect the local church with its larger global church family.
God calls people with a wide variety of skill sets and experiences as the church grows from a pioneer to a developing work and finally to a mature church.