You may have heard the term “pioneer” before but do you know what it means in a faith context? Queensland Synod Director of Mission Scott Guyatt examines pioneering leadership and some of the ways Queensland congregations are already living out the pioneering spirit.
If you’ve bounced around the missional church conversation over the last few years, you’ll have almost certainly run into the notion of pioneering, or pioneering leadership.
Emerging first from the UK, but increasingly encountered in many settings within and beyond the church, the notion of pioneering leadership describes those who help us go into genuinely new places. In the Church of England they’ve gone so far as to establish a formal definition: “Pioneers are people called by God who are the first to see and creatively respond to the holy spirit’s initiatives with those outside the church; gathering others around them as they seek to establish new contextual Christian community.”
As definitions go it’s a good one and puts in perspective the place of pioneering in the life of the church: called by God; noticing and responding to the Spirit at work; looking beyond the church; gathering others; establishing community. It’s not only a definition, but a process to follow.
All this can seem daunting, as if those who are pioneer leaders are some kind of superhero. This notion couldn’t be further from the truth. Pioneer leaders come in all shapes, genders, cultures, personalities and approaches, but have one thing in common: the sense of responding to God’s Spirit to begin new communities of faith, or find God in unexpected (to us) places.
In our church we need pioneers who can help us collectively discern God’s Spirit at work, and then join that movement.
There are already examples in our midst. Saint Andrews Uniting Church in Brisbane have joined with Albany Creek Uniting Church along with the time and talents of Rev Harlee Cooper to launch a new initiative called “Hold Fast”, a covenantal community providing space for people to explore deep questions of the spirit in ways that might combine the very ancient with the very fresh.
In Blackwater Beth Baker leads a small group that gathers for a “Cuppa with Jesus” in a space that is informal, welcoming but no less genuine in its sense of worship and desire to grow disciples.
All over the place there are new initiatives like community gardens, messy churches, dinner churches, church plants and more bubbling up.
They may be large or small, complex or simple. Each, it could be argued, happens when there are those who sense the call of God, notice the Holy Spirit at work, gather others and build community.
These are the tasks of the pioneer, and the pioneering community. They’re tasks that Jesus modelled. They are though, in a very real sense, tasks not just for pioneers but for all of us who identify as disciples. All of us who understand that living out our discipleship is joining God’s mission.
If you’d like to gather with others interested in further exploring this notion of pioneering and the church at mission, there will be two events later this year—in June and October—as we gather and encourage pioneer leaders. Contact Scott Guyatt, Queensland Synod Director of Mission, for more information via email: firstname.lastname@example.org