As pioneer ministry continues to grow and develop as a movement in the secular west we are learning more and more about the sort of pioneer ministries that God is gifting and calling people to do.
If we are shaped by a missio Dei approach to mission, whereby our missional imagination and action are primarily informed by an attentiveness to what God is doing, then I believe we should also be attentive to the vocations that God is bringing into being in those responding to a call to be leaders of ministry in the church.
The pioneer spectrum has been developed as a result of the reflections of a number of people interacting with pioneer leaders across the UK. It has now been published in the online missional journal Anvil.
It places different but equally valid expressions of pioneer ministry on a scale of ‘cultural distance’ – that is, a rough scale that tries to recognise the gap in culture between church culture and the many expressions of culture in our communities.
The spectrum also attempts to relate this to our experience of church planting and fresh expressions and acknowledges the important ministry of pioneers whose prior aim may not include, at least at the beginning, an intent to form a new church.
Those who put this article together are finding, along with many others who work to support or select pioneers, that this is proving a really helpful tool in helping discern the gift and vocation of pioneers. Pioneers themselves have also fed back to us how helpful it has been to them in affirming their vocation and in giving them a greater ability to assert the validity of their call.
One key thing we believe the spectrum helps to do is create a valued space for those ‘pioneer innovators’ often ministering at the very edges of our society, amongst subcultures and those for whom established church is a very alien and far off world. In these courageous and committed pioneers may well lie the seeds of a future church in the secular west, and the church ignores or devalues their ministry at its peril. We therefore hope that the spectrum may play a small part in helping pioneers to feel affirmed and valued, and of the church to affirm and value the ministry of these prophetic individuals.