Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead?
I want to use this post to re-visit some thoughts about Pioneers vs Settlers (something I re-printed a while back). An incredible lady from the USA, Sheila - has taken up that thought process and has some amazing thoughts that I think deserve reading and musing on! Just before I re-print her thoughts, I found this outstanding post by a guy called Chris from the 'Ministry Without Borders' family of churches that I am increasingly grateful for and enjoying getting to know. He wrote this on Easter Sunday - and dealt with a matter central to my heart! Here's a quote:
"Yet incredible as the cross was and still is in terms of its continuing effect in my life, it is not the dead Jesus hung on the cross that I see. I see the risen, ascended and glorified Christ. The son of man, ascended to the right hand of almighty God, seated on the throne, with every power, principality, and authority under his feet. Shining in the dazzling glory of the Father's own radiance with all the angelic host fallen prostrate and crying "Holy!" I see this Jesus, the first-fruit from among the dead, pouring out the same Spirit that raised him up upon those who believe in him. I see this Jesus taking up his scepter and ruling over the nations, not through political might or military conquest, but as this resurrection life that he so gloriously demonstrated when he burst forth from the tomb on that first easter morn is spread from one transformed life to another through the power of the greatest news of all - Christ is Risen!".
I don't think this quote is actually far removed from "Pioneering". I touched on this in a post called; "Our Message is this: The Dead are being raised!" (a quote from Terry Virgo).
"The hope of the Great Commission is a “Now” word. Yes we must go forth and preach the Gospel – but in the strength of the promise; “I am with you”. The message of the Gospel that we take forth is indeed grounded and founded on Christ’s done and finished work on the Cross. But let our gospel not stop short of His continuing work in heaven for us ... He has poured forth “this which you know SEE and HEAR” (and we still should see it and hear it) – the Promised Holy Spirit who’s business it is to raise the dead whatever that may include".
What is the point of going out to "Pioneer" if our Lord and Saviour is dead? Or in a grave? Or even just walking about in a garden in Jerusalem? Our hope is truly in vain! But - glory of glories - He is seated at the right hand of the Father, crowned with glory and honour and He has been told to stay there reigning and ruling UNTIL "all His enemies are made a footstool for His feet". So when we go out to pioneer we are involved in the business of the One who rules the Universe today! So with that apologetic linking the two, I am going to be quiet and make way for a far wiser person than I. Over to Sheila ...
This note is another installment in a loose series on the pioneering spirit. Remember? We've discussed the characteristics of pioneers versus settlers. We've talked about the exciting opportunities as well as the drudgery of being part of a pioneering work.I want to move into other, more sensitive areas, and open up our thinking just a little bit - MINE as well as your's! Let's together expand our views and push back the limits of our horizons, and most important of all, let's know what it is we are embracing when we say we belong to a pioneering church.
There are two ways a church can be a pioneering church.
A church can be a pioneering church because of its *stage* of development.
Not all new churches are automatically in the pioneering stage. Many new churches are plunked down, fully formed, with all major components trained and in place and functional, often plunked into place by large well-resourced denominations.
A small church does not necessarily mean it is in a pioneering stage. A small church can have a place for everyone, and everyone in their place, and nothing new or radically different is under consideration.
Regardless of its size or its age, a church is still in its pioneering stage when NOT all components of a fully mature church are in place, trained, and functioning. If not all ministries are matured and fruit bearing, that church is in desperate need of TRUE pioneers!! A church can have been operating for decades, and still be in somewhat of a pioneering stage because there are still missing pieces.
Trinity Chapel, our parent church, had been operational for decades before they ever had their FIRST "nursery coordinator"! I remember...because there was no coordinator, it was my newborn twins and I who paid a high price for a new months. Before my girls were one year old, however, someone stepped forward to pioneer. I thanked God the day a nurse-pioneer named Susan stepped up to the plate, and with the backbone of a drill sergeant, put order in those nurseries.
A church can have all pieces in place, trained and operational, and STILL be a pioneering work when its focus is to plant new churches. This will mean that everything remains in a state of flux (oh, joy!) - even when all ministries are formed and functional. The mother church is the matrix for ministries that are continually being birthed and sent forth when they are matured...but those matured ministries in turn become pioneering works - allowing themselves to go back to being immature, a not yet fully formed church, not yet able to give birth to another of its kind. These new churches remain in relationship with, and in some degree accountable to the leadership that birthed them.
Here is the point: you are in a pioneering church. By definition number one and definition number two, you are in a pioneering church. As long as you are at Harvest Church, you will be forever in a pioneering church, and a pioneering church needs pioneers - there is desperate need for the pioneering spirit. You have opted to be part of a church that is BOTH still in its pioneering stage (not all ministries functioning at a mature capacity) AND has the vision to plant OTHER pioneering churches. What were you THINKING?? ;-)
Welcome. I hope you have a strong stomach, vivid imagination, incredible backbone, and an irrational flexibility. Why? Well, because you'll need all that and more. You have signed up for permanent levels of uncertainty, for self imposed limitation, for God imposed expansion of your limitations, and lastly, you have signed up for a bit of merry madness. You really are crazy to be here. But we're glad to see you - here, take this hammer and this sword and start right over there. As long as you know you are truly of the pioneering stock, we'll all be fine. A pioneering church only runs into trouble when people who only think they are pioneers, but are not, join it. Or, it runs into trouble when people don't know what it is they are signing up for in the first place.
Very little is certain in a pioneering church. How many of us remember the days when we did not know where we'd be meeting in six months or a year? Had you visited us at one point in our history, and asked us who our worship leader for *that Sunday* was , we might not have known for sure who to point to - various ones inside Harvest and outside Harvest rotated the responsibility. Mind you, you would not have been asking who the *overall* worship leader was - though we didn't know that answer either - but you would have been asking who was leading worship for only *that* Sunday! What church couldn't answer that? We sometimes could not!
In a pioneering church, you embrace limitation. It is a holy limitation. The leaders of such a church can only go as fast as the followers can follow. Run too fast, be too flashy, and you'll be all by yourself, leading no one who is willing to follow. The followers, if they are to be part, can only follow at the pace the designated leader can lead. Run ahead, and you are out of order, because speed is not the issue, unity is. Leaders are not the only ones who have to be willing to embrace a limitation in speed.
There is another sort of limitation that BOTH church leaders and church members face. Both have to be *willing* to forego the meeting of some of their secondary needs, keeping their heart at home, and their hand to the pioneering plow.
Personally, and only as an example, I will not take advantage of another church's ministry if my church is in urgent need of that very thing, and I am well equipped to meet the need, yet am unwilling to help pioneer it! Why? I know myself, and it would be too easy to lose my cutting edge. If pioneers lose their plow, if they cease to literally "dig in", they become dull and soft. Pioneers - whether you are that by personality or by the call of God - are responsible to break the new ground. Breaking new ground is sweaty, thankless work. It would be too easy for me to step easily into someone else's hard work and reap all the rewards of the ground breaking labor of others, and lose my own plow's sharpness and depth.
To be honest, the prospect of ease is way too attractive to my flesh. Therefore, I embrace the limitation of the plow, the narrowness of this brand new furrow I am called to break open for my God. Here is what typically happens when I do not embrace a holy limitation: I begin to look outside my own little lentil patch, in search of an easy way to meet my secondary needs. Let's say I'd love to get consistent, weekly fellowship with other writers, or other 30-somethings, or other women in general, or other home educators. This is not a primary need, but a secondary need. My primary need is to be obedient to the heavenly vision to be a pioneer. But to scratch the secondary itch, I turn to X-Mega-Church's Writer's Guild. (Not that any church I know has one, but...)
Well, automatically, I will find like minded writers. I will feel like I've found exactly what I need. It will be so easy - all I do is let go of the heavy, unwieldy plow and pick up a light little cog, and settle that cog into the slot of the already fully functioning mechanism of this other church's writer's group, and clickety-clack, whir, whizz, I'm suddenly buzzing right along in an area. Very little of my own effort expended. How nice is that?
Give anyone a few months of this, and only the very most disciplined amongst us will ever return to the plow. If it was me, I'd reject the thought of starting a writer's group in my own church (too much like work), and I'd begin to swear I had more friends at X-Mega-Church than I do in my own church. Well, duh, yeah! I've made an easy way, and found an easy excuse for myself to hang with that church's writers every single week, using them to scratch my itch. Eventually, I'd leave my plow behind, feel the call of "the Spirit" to Mega Church, and I'd allow my "work" become merely inserting my little cog into the big machine over there, because isn't it all "the church" anyway? Isn't X-Mega-Church as much a church as Harvest? Aren't we in this together?
Those are the wrong questions! I'd be asking all the wrong questions. If I ask the wrong questions about my life, I will get the wrong answers FOR my life. The real question is: Am I a Joshua? Am I a Caleb? Am I destined to take new territory, and called to the pioneering plow? If I'm really NOT cut out or called to be a breaker of new ground, then I need to honestly admit that. But if I am wired to pioneer, or if the new ground is my high calling, then I will stagnate unless I am pushing forward into (what for MY church is) new ground. Please note that the idea is to be pushing forward into whatever is new ground for MY CHURCH. I'm sorry it can't be more exciting than that. We all want the "new territory" to be smuggling Bibles into an unreached Muslim stronghold. It does not have to be some great thing that few have ever dared to try, or some amazing idea not yet conceived. Re-building a broken down wall can also be doing a new thing. Having a worship leader might be breaking new ground for MY church. The gift of administrations might be "new ground" at my church - but be fully functioning and decades mature in another church.
So I limit myself where I could comfortably expand - in an effort to guard my heart, as my heart is so easily distracted from its primary focus. But I am then expanded beyond where I am comfortable.
To be called to the pioneering plow is to quite often live on the edge of exhaustion, the verge of frustration, and the brink of disaster. Who in their own human strength can carry a sword in one hand and a hammer in the other, and be effective at both? Who can both build and re-build? Who can plow new ground while simultaneously harvesting? Who can function when "this" area abounds, and, at the same moment, "that" area other suffers painful lack? The pioneer can and does. Because the pioneer quickly discovers s/he can do all things through Christ who gives the strength.
Settlers merely get to defend what others have built - and they get to feel really important and "at war" for doing so, and in some ways, I guess they are at war. *grin and wink* (fighting and scratching for their title and position and niche in the great big machinery!) But it is the pioneer who has to BOTH build and guard. That's okay, because the pioneer prefers the unspoiled view...like the bumper sticker that says, "If you are not the lead (read: "pioneering, ground-breaking") dog, the scenery never changes." To be expanded beyond where I am comfortable is to become more than I am. A pioneering church will take, and mold, and make a leader out of a perpetual follower. A pioneering church will take, and mold, and make a military *general*, a strategist, a leader of leaders....out of what used to be "just" a leader. Will it be comfortable? No. Will it be worth it all? Only in the end.
There is so much more. But I've shared enough for now. Thanks for listening!