Pioneering Spirit

25 Jan

Here’s a post which I have written for another blog today.  I wanted to get responses from my readers here too.

My husband and I often find ourselves trying to figure why it is that we think so differently from everyone else around us. We feel that we are not really like most Christians whom we mix with, at our current church or in other churches we have been a part of. As we speak passionately to people about our desires and thoughts, we can see their eyes glazing over. Our thoughts are often not the same as other peoples. We have a deep conviction that things are simply not as they were intended to be, and a longing to see the church become all that it can be. When I write about church here I am referring to Christian community, not just a building or even any one congregation. We long for people to see Christians living a wonderful, beautiful life that gives hope and is full of meaning. We long for this to be our own experience of our walk with Christ, and we have set out on a journey to discover this life and to share this life with others. Yet, when we speak of these things, although people don’t verbalize it, it is easy to tell that they are thinking “but church is fine how it is.” Sound familiar?

One element of our journey is that we home educate our children. This probably isn’t too different for those of you who live in North America; however, in the UK there are over 12 million children, yet only 13,000 home educating families. The numbers are on the increase, but most still think you are “weird” if you home educate. We don’t actually do this for religious reasons, like some. We basically saw a wonderful life experience we could have with our children, learning and growing together. We also realised that if discipling our children was an important part of our Christian walk, then we wanted to integrate this into our whole family life. Likewise, they get to witness and experience our God journey in a way which maybe they would not have done otherwise.

Other elements of our journey will have included a family advent devotion, a serious attempt at de-commercialising our Christmas, and even composting our waste as a means of taking steps towards being responsible for our environment. I am not trying to hold us up as some great example; we’re just trying to feel our way forward. You might ask what any of this has to do with church; a good question. All we know is that as we have been trying to seek God for what it means to follow him, these are some of the things we’ve felt ‘led’ into.

In gifting tests, my husband always comes out top with Apostolic. He is a visionary, and sometimes he runs too far ahead of me once convinced of something. I am the one who pulls him back, and says “hang on, let’s hear more from God about this.” I always come out high with the prophetic gifting. We strongly believe, and have had it prophesised over us many times, that God has given us a pioneering spirit. More than anything in life we want God to guide us, we want to be in and to follow his will.

As I look at Christians as a group of people today, I see that there is a group being raised up by God. Some of this group of people fit under the umbrella label of the emerging church (without entering into debates about definitions, inclusions and exclusion which are best left for elsewhere!). We are really interested to see what God raises up through this group, and have valued the different relationships we have made with lots of different kinds of people. The thing we often find in common is a pioneering spirit.

A pioneering spirit often means that you don’t know what you are going to before you get there.  You are dependent on God to trust and see what he is doing. You are often entrepreneurial and have a strong sense of journey in your theology. Often people with a pioneering spirit have a strong sense of investing the people in a community. Relationships are important, allowing people to experience and share real life together. It is an adventurous, exciting, yet scary and lonesome journey. Therefore, I think, a pioneering spirit also has moments of complete doubt in themselves. They question what they are doing.  Are they insane? Have they really heard from God? Why doesn’t anyone seem to “get it”? The journey can be incredibly painful at times, and you just want to bang your head against a brick wall and give up.  At other times something so incredibly rewarding comes along that you realize it was all worth it.

Do you think the emerging church is full of pioneer spirits? I do.  The pioneers of the American west were brave men and women who went out to discover new frontiers.  They left behind what they knew and travelled into unknown territory, on what was often a dangerous journey. Once at their destination though, the pioneers became settlers and enjoyed comfortable life. We have a story about the pioneers at home.  On the back the description states that the American pioneers helped to tame the American West.

As pioneering spirits we know we will, and have experienced a dangerous journey at times. Making mistakes. Shedding tears. Moving the church forward is an unknown territory.  Some people may not make the journey; others may become settled along the way. One thing we should make sure we do not do is put Jesus into a box. Jesus is not, and should not be tamed. He pushes us on; He pushes the boundaries.  We should always focus on moving ahead, moving in God’s will, not becoming settled and comfortable with where we are.

What would you say are the characteristics of the pioneering spirit? In what ways has the pioneering spirit worked itself out in your life? Has this expressed itself in ways beyond different styles of church gathering?  What is the ‘wild west’ that we are trying to tame?

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9 Responses to “Pioneering Spirit”

  1. cindy January 26, 2008 at 13:28 #

    Lyn- great post!

    “Yet, when we speak of these things, although people don’t verbalize it, it is easy to tell that they are thinking “but church is fine how it is.” Sound familiar?”

    Yes- it sounds quite familiar. So much so that I have to admit I now go for very long stretches without even trying to talk to anyone face to face about it.

    But I’m not a pioneer. I’m a pragmatist. And I feel strongly (how can I say that to the 10th degree?) about authenticity. So, even though I like to know where I’m going before I get there, when I see that what I’m doing isn’t working and all around me I find inauthenticity, then off I go into the wild blue yonder with you pioneer types.

    I see lots of types of people being drawn away from “church as we knew it.” Like you, I see an abundance of folks- my description would probably put a little more emphasis on those who are prophetically inclined. But not everyone is prophetic. It takes more of those pioneers and prophets to get things moving I suppose. Now I see God pulling in all types of folks. Just like you’d find in a local congregation.

    The online emerging church community is forming in many ways like a local congregation. Teachers, encouragers, prophets, servants, etc- we have everybody. I have to admit, though, I’m not sure where to go from here. Maybe you pioneers can tell us which way to aim our wagons now.

  2. lynhallewell January 26, 2008 at 13:44 #

    Great comment and input Cindy, thanks 🙂

  3. traveller January 26, 2008 at 18:27 #

    This is an excellent post that I can definitely identify with strongly. Here are some of my thoughts:

    1. Yes, emerging folks are pioneers but many are pioneers only as reformers of the current institutional expression of church. So, many are looking to settle down again soon.

    2. It is very difficult to know how to respond to people whose eyes glaze over. It can be very frustrating. This causes me to reflect upon how frustrated Jesus must have felt when people did not “get it”.

    3. Pioneers are often lonely in their journey. By definition only a few are pioneers and only a few go along with the pioneers. Later as many see the pioneer’s vision they do join. By then, of course, the pioneers are on the move again!

    4. This is all a process that takes time. There are tremendous changes coming as we transition from Modernity through Postmodernity to ??????. All the indicators are that the church is in a dramatic transformation as well. But it will take time probably beyond our lifetimes. So, patience and perseverance are important.

    5. It is hard.

    Stay on the journey.

  4. Jeff January 27, 2008 at 04:52 #

    New reader…appreciated your post. I hail from Tulsa, OK, and can totally relate to the pioneer thing and feeling misunderstood by other Christians.

    In our part of the world, religiosity is the power to be reckoned with. As house church leaders for nearly 8 years in a land filled with mega-churches–and actively seeking a more vibrant relationship with God outside the walls–we don’t see as many glazed eyes as we feel stony glares–especially by local church leadership. More than just people not “getting it”–we often get the distinct impression that we are perceived as a threat.

    I suppose when people seek a more excellent way, others who trust in the old ways take it personally sometimes.

    Anyway, just wanted to say hello from across the pond. I recently started a blog myself to begin processing my many thoughts about these matters. Feel free to stop by. Thanks for a great post.

  5. Paul January 27, 2008 at 15:48 #

    it’s a great post lyn 🙂

  6. lynhallewell January 28, 2008 at 12:58 #

    Traveller,

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I really concur with them. It is definitely a hard and frustrating journey, make sure you stay on it too.

    God bless you.

  7. lynhallewell January 28, 2008 at 12:59 #

    Thanks for all of your encouragement over the past week Paul, I really appreciate it.

  8. lynhallewell January 28, 2008 at 13:02 #

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I can certainly imagine in that part of the world stepping out into something different would be met with hostility. I am so sorry that you guys experience this. It sounds like you are involved with and have been blessed with some wonderful stuff though.

    I’ll certainly have a look at your blog. As Traveller wrote above, stay on the journey.

  9. Old Pete January 30, 2008 at 22:08 #

    I can so relate to what you have said. I walked away from the Anglican church in 1969 after being treasurer of the church for five years. I just sensed that there was a lack of radical Christianity. I joined a Sabbath keeping church that completely changed its doctrines in 1994.

    You asked for the characteristics of a pioneering spirit. From my personal experience I would say a willingness to accept a wilderness experience where others just cannot understand – basically because they are unable to leave their own comfort zones.

    There is another world outside both the traditional churches and the emerging/emergent church – and I believe that they all have their place at this time in history.

    Tens of thousands of people have been, or are going through wilderness experiences over the last 10-15 years. I find it amazing the way in which many of us are now coming together and sharing our very different journeys.

    I’m convinced it is a work of the Spirit.

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