The British Pioneering Spirit

When we think of the pioneer I wonder what image is conjured up for you? For me is the childhood stories of Laura Ingles wilder, as she traversed North America with her parents on a rickety horse drawn cart, dealing with wilderness, Native Americans and sickness. Together they were a growing family trying to eke out a living  in places such as Wisconsin, Kansas and Minnesota in the 1800’s.

Pioneering in the 21st century, christian context however looks different. In recent years their have been a number of lay and ordained moving to the margins of our churches and beyond feeling a call to go and see what God is doing. Some of these courageous individuals don’t fit what some might call a traditional church ministry modle.

For some our structures have become less about liberation and finding a fulfilled calling in God. Instead our rules and culture feel more like a straight jacket to them, or the coils of a boa constrictor, tightening around the desire to make new disciples out their beyond the parapet of the church, leaving the disciple broken and bewildered, lamenting the lost opportunities to take the gospel where it is not heard.

These courageous people these pioneers are the equivalent of the 12 disciples of Jesus, but in the 21st century. Rather than seeing the boundaries of church as a safe place, these fearless few would rather feel the roughness of the skin of their hands from a different kind of hard graft, and return home smelling of the hard work from the coal face of mission, but with glad hearts at knowing there where God wants them to be, even if the going is slow and hard, long and lonely. Regardless of  when people malign and misunderstand them. They pursue the place in the broad church of God that God has called them too.

Mother church has woken up to this new work of the spirit, who is sending these few workers into the field at harvest time. And is recognising and equipping these fearless missioners.

Stepping into this ministry is a journey of discernment alongside training and this these pioneers are provided with a coach. Who becomes a listening ear, a discerning voice to encourage them to continue to hear Gods voice. Filtering out the misunderstandings and instead inviting the pioneer to dig deep into what the spirit is saying in the core of their beings. These coaches accompany the pioneers on their journey, helping them to see and affirm what God is at work doing in their lives and through their ministries.

It perhaps all sounds rather idilic, but pioneer ministry is not for the faint hearted. Its nature is prophetic, seeing something before it is actually their, and practical working with others to bring Gods vision into reality.  These are the men and women who call to mother church and say loudly come and see what God is doing, or is about to do.

It’s my privilege to be a coach as part of the Pioneer Ministry network in the UK Methodist Church. I couldn’t do what they do even though it sounds exciting and there is part of me that would love to pioneer as well. Yet my role is to support, highlight and love. A role I am passionate about as i stand in the gap, pointing to they who say to the church, just like a man in camel skin clothes and who ate locusts did, prepare the way of the lord.

The Church may be in decline, it may die in places, and perhaps it needs to. However lets not confuse our terminology. The church isn’t to be worshiped, it is neither God, just God ordained, and as an ordained person myself, I know I am a long way from perfect, and the exact likeness of who where and what God wants me to be. So lets not fall into that trap in thinking the church one way is the only true way, because someday we may get a shock!

Let us pray for the pioneer and the support that surrounds them. Lets dream with them and along with the whole church of God step into what Our God is calling us to through his son and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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