John and Olive Drane review Pioneer Practice, the latest book from Jonny Baker, director of mission education at Church Mission Society.
People often say you should never judge a book by its cover. Well, this one might be an exception, because the cover tells the story of the contents rather effectively – a lonely figure wandering along a halfmade road through a landscape full of both promise and potential danger.
This image just about sums up what the book is about. We live in a culture that is indeed full of enormous promise, as people look for new ways to live with whatever the “new normal” might look like. Yet this is also a challenging space in which to share the good news of Jesus in ways that will connect with the hopes and fears of today’s people.
Pioneers can easily be misunderstood even by other missionally-minded Christians, as they generally find themselves called to inhabit cultural territory that can seem intimidating and alien.
The first page of the book describes pioneers as those who “have a gift of not fitting in” while questioning the usefulness of “business as usual” – not because they are dismissive of established forms of church and mission, but because they dream of what might be rather than mourning the loss of what once was.
They are fired by the knowledge that God is not confined by our defeatism.
On the contrary, God is already at work in ways that often surprise us and invariably look different to anything most of us can imagine. Pioneers are called into this territory, to be partners in whatever the Spirit is up to.
That can all sound exciting and inspirational, but what does it look like on the ground?
That is where this book comes in, with stories of what pioneers (many of them graduates of CMS’s Pioneer Mission Leadership Training) are doing in different contexts.
There is an abundance of advice on practical issues for would-be pioneers, along with an honesty and realism that reflects the difficulties as well as the joys of working with God in spaces where no church has ever gone before. Stories that will stir your soul sit alongside reflections about what can be learned from enterprises that have come to nothing.
And it’s all wrapped up in a visually attractive package. Get yourself a copy – even if your calling is completely different, you will certainly learn something helpful and be blessed by reading it.
John and Olive Drane are mission theologians and practitioners who share a passion for a radical approach to Christian discipleship. They have worked extensively with Christians of many different traditions all around the world. Pioneer Practice is available from getsidetracked.co