Eighteen months ago, Wycliffe College introduced into its M.Div program a so-called “pioneer stream.” The advertising cited the writings of missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, and his call to the church in the West to rise to the challenge of a post-Christendom world, and then concluded:
The kind of leadership that was required for established, healthy churches in a Christendom setting is radically different from what is needed in a post-Christian, postmodern setting where churches may not even exist. The church now needs not only visionary, mission-minded pastors, but also pioneers, entrepreneurs, and missionaries who can take the Gospel to cultures and subcultures in North America where Christ is not represented, and found new Christian communities.
So far, some fifteen students have been involved in the stream to a greater or lesser extent.
I want to address two questions today. Firstly, a theoretical or theological question: What exactly is a pioneer, and how do pioneers relate to our understanding of church? Is it a concept with any theological traction? And then the second question: what does a pioneer look like in practice? The first part is a kind of preliminary apologia for the idea of pioneering ministry, and the latter a case study.
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