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Gathering in the outcasts

03 January 2012

Steven Croft looks at examples of, and a guide for, pioneers

Pioneers 4 Life: Explorations in theology and wisdom for pioneering leaders
David Male, editor
BRF £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10

PIONEER ministry has a growing place in the life of the Churches in Britain as the ministry of those called to establish new congrega­tions and communities for those who are not yet part of any church.

Pioneers can be lay or ordained. The Church of England has itself pioneered the concept of ordained pioneer ministry, and our example is being watched and followed by other churches in the UK and around the world. I have four licensings in my diary over the next two months, and three of them are to pioneer ministries.

Pioneers 4 Life will be a resource for anyone thinking about pioneer ministry — especially those explor­ing ministry as a Church Army evangelist or an ordained pioneer minister. It will also be helpful to vocations advisers and theological educators.

The book is a collection of essays by contributors to the Breakout Pioneers Conference (an annual three-day gathering), and is edited by David Male, Director of the Centre for Pioneer Learning, based in Cam­bridge.

Pioneers 4 Life is great value. There are two original and helpful essays from New Testament scholars (John Drane rehabilitating Paul as a pioneer and Richard Bauckham on Acts). We are offered seven snap­shots of pioneer life from (among others) the pastor of an internet church; an artist-evangelist; a charity leader working with young people who have fallen through the net; and several church-planters.

There are a couple of punchy chapters asking questions of the Church of England in return, and some excellent insights into pioneers, prayer, learning, and discipleship-in-community. Mike Moynagh packs a great deal into his essay on sustain­ing fresh expressions of church; Graham Cray gives the whole thing a wider context; Kate Middleton looks at the psychology of pioneering; and Lucy Moore offers a very sparky essay on pioneer­ing women.

What’s most helpful? It’s really good to have so many good con­tributions to the book by the women who are helping to shape this move­ment: Lucy Moore, Beth Keith, Pam Smith, and others. What could be improved? I hope any future collec­tions would engage a wider range of church tradition and theology. But this is a great book to kindle (or re­kindle) the imagination of pioneers in all kinds of ministry.

The Rt Revd Steven Croft is the Bishop of Sheffield.

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