Dave Male –a writer and researcher with the fresh expressions movement within the Church of England- was guest of Bristol Diocese last week who was at a meeting I went to last week, and he said: “I believe you could radically change this diocese with 100 pioneers”
This made my (rather small) mind spin off for a moment, firstly I thought about what pioneers are? They are people who see things as one writer put it “not as they are but as they could be”or another definition I liked is “people who see what needs doing and does it”. I was reminded of a saying “if you do what you always have, you’ll get what you have always had”, we need people who will do something different.
Then I thought about the greatest pioneer of all time and that is Christ, the original Church planter (of sorts!) and I think Acts 2 & 4 is the ultimate fresh expression! Then thinking of Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, giving us his pioneering DNA.
I liked this thought of Christ at the heart of what it means to pioneer, the Holy Spirit constantly pioneering work in peoples lives to bring them both to relationship with Christ and maturity in him.
Not just humans with a good idea, nor Christians running off on their own whims and creativity but rather to “pioneer with Christ”.
Christ the ultimate pioneer, his ways often defy our conventional thinking and yet God promises that “his word does not return to him void, but accomplishes that for which it was intended”.
The aim of every Christian is to “see where God is at work and join in” but sometimes spotting where God is at work or opening a door require looking with the eyes of faith, is the call for the pioneer to see what other people don’t see.
This isn’t just dreaming dreams, I know so many people in churches who are full of great ideas, but you remain a dreamer unless you wake up and turn dreams into reality. Too often some the greatest dreams God has birthed in us, remain locked in heads and hearts rather birthed. I believe God is calling us not just to dream, but to birth dreams from heads into transformed communities.
Pioneers and entrepreneurs are very much the words of the business school when perhaps the rich mine of scripture and tradition would use the word “apostolic”, I did wonder if the word should have been “evangelist”, but actually it is about linking the opportunity with evangelists.
And the I thought about the number, on one level a hundred people seems an awful lot, especially when they are currently only three of us employed by the diocese, yet not every pioneer has to be a vicar -in fact in some cases being a vicar could a real disadvantage!-.
There are lots of pioneers who are doing radical things probably under the radar of many Churches.
There are many pioneers frustrated wearing ‘Sauls Armour’ straight jacketed into ‘normal church’ and dying inside whilst doing it.
There are too many pioneer that just haven’t been “discovered”, released or empowered to be themselves in the call and service of Christ.
We as Church in the west have become staid and sensible, yet the Church of the acts of the apostles was one of danger, risk and stepping out in faith.
Let’s learn to encourage people to be dangerous in their discipleship, be risk takers and and faith filled followers.
Faith that makes us gulp rather than yawn.
“Keep people dangerous” was a phrase I jotted down at the meeting, following Christ is meant to make us more wild rather than tame us down!
But then I thought maybe 100 people actually isn’t many, when you think of the size the city, and then I remembered a phrase from John Wesley who said something to the effect of “rather having five people sold out and on fire for Christ than five hundred apathetic spectators”.
I love the West Wing and one of my favourite quotes (actually comes from Margaret Mead) which says “never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world, because it is all that ever has”.
Often we think about mobilising hundreds, managing the crowds rather than mentoring individuals.
Again another great quote reminds us to “invest in the few for the sake of the many” –we find security in numbers, but yet I believe Jesus is calling us to step out out the boat, and now we are a picture of Gideon’s army, a small group of people who have the choice between living superficially and saying the right things, or stepping into the radical and dangerous discipleship.
A call I believe to raise up apostles, people who see and believe that “the fields of our nation our white to harvest” filled with potential that needs unlocking, seeing the need and stepping into the gap, not just talking a good game, not just dreaming vague possibilities, but going out where there is no path and finding and making a way through.
Maybe only a few, but let’s wake up our dreamers, let’s see the world –our world and our front-line- with the eyes of Christ and partner with the Holy Spirit, God the pioneer calling us to step into the unknown future with the known God.