The mantra of missions is to "work yourself out of a job." Unfortunately, in the Church of the Nazarene, we have not always successfully followed our mantra or reached this goal. We have had Nazarene missionaries in some countries of the world for more than 100 years!
However, when the Berlin Wall came down, the Church sent missionaries behind the Iron Curtain with great urgency, encouraging them to "work yourselves out of a job as fast as possible." No one could predict the stability of the window of opportunity. A change of wind, and the window could slam shut.
Back in the U.S., we have become very comfortable with the way we have managed the church. Instead of working ourselves out of a job and multiplying our abilities, we have hired "professional staff" to "do the work." Rather than having a priesthood of all believers, we have focused on those we have hired to do the work.
Today's headlines speak of a new wind spreading across the landscape. Day by day it becomes apparent that life will never be the same. Church will never be the same. The economics of ministry indicate that we cannot continue with "church as usual."
Quite possibly, one of the solutions is for the missions mantra to take hold—for us to realize that the survival of the Church in this new climate depends on our working ourselves out of a job.
In a very practical sense, this means that every district superintendent is training someone to take over his or her position. As those directing people focus on becoming aware of individuals with the skills and abilities to eventually take responsibilities, they can spend time grooming the next generation of leadership.
Senior pastors realize that replication is a part of their ministry. Together, the pastor and laity realize that the work of the church is a shared responsibility. The pastor trains individuals to help with ministry, developing the priesthood of all believers. Instead of hiring professional staff, the staff pastor is a team leader or coach, training the laity in different areas of ministry. Pride is set aside as jobs are handed off to others.
As the winds blow, we must pray that God will develop our servant leaders with hearts that will not feel threatened by the success of others, but rather, with hearts that will soar when they work themselves out of a job.
Carla Sunberg, along with her husband, Chuck, were pioneer missionaries to the former Soviet Union. She served as pastor of evangelism and discipleship at Grace Point Church of the Nazarene in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In September 2011 the Sunbergs were appointed co-district superintendents of the East Ohio District.
Holiness Today, January/February 2010
Please note: This article was originally published in 2010. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.