Have you ever been in the midst of something you have never done before and been struck by how helpful it is to have someone else’s example to follow? On the other hand, how challenging it is to pioneer something without the encouragement of someone who has “been there, done that”.
As a movement of churches, we have chosen to embrace the realities of pioneering. Our Gen1K vision looks forward to us growing as a movement to 1000 healthy churches over the next generation. This is a tripling of the number of churches by 2050. It has huge implications for the ongoing vitalisation of our churches, for the development of leaders, and the planting of new churches.
One important ingredient for leadership development, church vitalisation and church planting is a pioneering culture. A culture that encourages new things – not only new churches, but people taking steps into pioneering new ministries; new mission initiatives; new and creative ways of connecting people with Jesus and helping them follow Him.
In various contexts across NSW and ACT, pioneering is occurring. Macquarie Baptist (on the campus of Morling College) began an ESL (English as a Second Language) outreach this year and has over 70 students accessing this ministry on Monday mornings. The church is intentionally building connections to faith through a bible group after the class and have seen people come to faith through this pathway in recent months. Campbelltown City Baptist is preparing to send out a team in February – including their current senior pastor – to plant Oran Park Baptist Church. Mosaic Baptist in Canberra planted a 4th congregation in Gungahlin, a neighbouring region, a few years ago. This year they purchased a warehouse facility in the community for this growing work.
Pioneering can create great excitement. Often, it is also hard work. So it’s helpful to remember that when we pioneer, we follow the example of Jesus – the ultimate Pioneer. The word very closely related to ‘pioneer’ in the New Testament is archegos and wherever it occurs, it refers to the resurrected Jesus. For example, in Acts 3:15 Peter preaches that Jesus is “the author of life” whom God raised from the dead. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith” (Heb 12:2).
In his earthly ministry, Jesus broke religious boundaries and came with new teaching and authority. Yet his pioneering was not a complete overthrow of religious tradition. That’s part of what lay behind his words in Matthew 5:17: “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” These are important realities for us as a movement. Two of our values as an association are Christ Centred and Mission Shaped. Another is being People Empowering, “respecting our heritage while championing further innovation”.1 Gospel pioneering is embedded in our values and vision as an Association of churches.
Of course, Jesus’ pioneering reaches its climax in His death and resurrection. So our Lord is also our greatest example of what it means to be a pioneer. Perhaps now for you following Jesus involves wrestling with the call to do something new. Maybe you want to see this more deeply embedded in the life of your church – or your own life. Maybe you are in the midst of the roller-coaster ride of starting something new right now. What a wonderful, encouraging reality to know that as we press forward we follow in the footsteps of Jesus – the ultimate Pioneer.