What is a Pioneer?
One of the first reports about Pioneers stated that, ‘The Church needs to develop an agreed common language for Pioneers.’ It’s important to be clear about who we are talking about. The term ‘Pioneer’ needs to be both rigorous and flexible. Sometimes there is a confusion and lack of clarity concerning the term ‘Pioneer’. The problem is if we don’t know what a Pioneer is how can we identify Pioneers or help them identify themselves.
We now having a working definition for Pioneers in the Church of England, approved by the Ministry Council. It is important to acknowledge that theologically the roots of the word are exclusively Christocentric. The term pioneer is used four times in the New Testament and each time applied to Jesus only. It also has a cruciform dimension which relates the term to victory through suffering and endurance. The Greek word archegos translated as pioneer primarily signifies someone who takes a lead in, provides the first occasion of anything or leads into a new space. It reminds us that our pioneering is derived from the true pioneer who leads us into a new space through his death and resurrection.
At the heart of this term Pioneer is the idea of firsts and of leading into a new space for and with others. (Of course ‘first’ will mostly be relative, not being the first ever to do something but the first to do it in that particular area, context or situation.) It combines well the ability to see a new future but also the skills and gifts to make the future accessible now. There is a danger of making a too tight and simplistic definition of Pioneers but our present situation requires a clear sense of what we mean by this word. The suggested working definition is therefore;
Pioneers are people called by God who are the first to see and creatively respond to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives with those outside the church; gathering others around them as they seek to establish new contextual Christian community.
The use of the word the word ‘People’ is deliberate so it can refer to an individual or a small Pioneer team. It is also important to understand that the term Pioneer includes a wide spectrum of people who are not identikits in terms of gifting or personality.