By Lindsay Caplen
What is a pioneer?
All of us are called to pioneer in some ways simply because we follow Jesus, the author and pioneer of our faith. However, some are particularly gifted for this at seeing the God given possibilities inherent in a situation and working in such a way as to explore and realise those possibilities. We often call these people pioneers. Whether that is the best term is the subject on ongoing conversation, but it is the term used today by most of the mainstream denominations and affords a measure of shared understanding especially when working cross-denominationally.
What might a pioneering initiative look like?
They may, for example, look like a house church or a small Christ centred group with an intention to multiply. It may look like a ministry amongst a particular people group (skateboarders, bikers, lawyers etc) or a ministry that takes place in a specific context. (e.g. a creative outdoor gathering.) where discipleship takes place through stories and the sights and sounds of the natural environment). As you can see, pioneering initiatives vary enormously!
How is church planting different?
There is definitely a blurry line and that is no bad thing. Typically, a church plant has an element of intentionality to plant a church from the outset, often sending people and resources from one place to another to establish a core team. However, sometimes something starts as a pioneering initiative with the intention of simply planting the good news of Jesus and seeing what emerges. In time, sometimes this becomes a church plant. If we are to see the good news of Jesus reach the many currently not engaged in our church communities, we need to find ways of being where those people are…bringing salt and light and being a blessing.
The value to the wider church
At some point or another pretty much all of us have belonged to a church plant. It may well have been several centuries old by the time we arrived, but it was the result of praying people seeing a need in a changing world.
During this time of rapid change when God seems to be ‘doing a new thing’, we really need the insights of pioneers and planters again! It is so important that we cherish the diversity of ministries that God is stirring up amongst us. There is so much mutual learning and benefit and most importantly benefit for the Kingdom of God.
Those who think a bit differently’ can often help us engage with people outside the usual orbit of the churches influence. Further, their input can help us all to engage with questions such as ‘What is church’ and ‘what are we here for?’ Questions that will help us consider what methods and structures might best help us fulfil the great commission in these days.