Pioneers are people who go. They start new things, are always up for a fresh challenge and on the hunt for a good opportunity. People call them creative, enterprising, innovative and even entrepreneurial.
Pioneers are also people who take the Church into spaces where it has never been or restart it in places where it lived once before. They work inside congregations to start new groups but also work far outside the parish walls. They draw people together and towards Jesus. By building community they help unchurched people follow their own Emmaus road.Consequently, pioneers come in all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities.
Pioneers are not confined to any single order of ministry. Lay people often make the best pioneers. But so do deacons, priests and bishops too. Each one brings something different to the task of making disciples who then grow into church.
Australian Anglicans wrestling with how to understand pioneers and help them grow. Some don’t like the word because of its colonial connotations. We get that. It’s still a useful word to describe those who want to go first. Other people will call them church planters. That’s OK too although the expectations about the nature, form and operations of what grows can differ markedly.
Many expect all priests and deacons to be capable of doing the work of pioneers. Mission is part of the job description for those ordained to ministry. And if everyone should be pioneering then why bother identifying or developing yet another group of specialists? Such thinking is a bit like saying that our band welcomes stringed instrument players without really appreciating the difference between a guitar and the piano and wondering why we only appeal to bass players. The music might sound the same but their contribution is different and even vital for the whole ensemble to work properly.
So how does our Church develop pioneers?