Pioneer Practice – Jonny Baker (design/illustrations Jon Birch)
This invaluable book has been pulled together by CMS director of mission education Jonny Baker, who has been in the thick of pioneer activity across the last 30 years. It’s an accessible but thought-provoking handbook for church pioneers, weaving together stories, theology, good practice, processes, creative insight, pithy quotes, emotive photography and more.
The intro, headed ‘Dissent from business as usual’ sets the scene:
“As a pioneer you see something – a possibility, an idea, a way that things could be better or new or different. And then you make something happen out of what you see. It’s a gift, a call, a way of being in the world. You can’t help it – it’s who you are.”
And later he adds “This book is for you if you are a pioneer and you long for and dream of that better world and you want to do something about it. We don’t just want dreamers; we want dreamers who do.”
There is a strong element of 21st century missionaries with a call to engage with unreached groups outside the church, helping them make sense of and respond to the Christian message in their context.
Pioneers are often working on the edge of society, and the book digs deep into the challenge they face – often misunderstanding from church institutions, or tacit support without the backup of real sustained resourcing.
There is a lot to be learned from the quite detailed case studies outlined of pioneers in action, from a boxing community in Essex to a community interest coffee company in Derby, a classic car club to an ethical cleaning company, a course on life issues for teenage girls to an ‘Upper Room’ community in Cirencester serving families in need.
And there is huge value in the different sections on being authentically yourself, seeing things differently, the mechanics of building and the dynamics of change, as well as helpful conversations with pioneers reflecting on what they are learning.
Pioneer Practice manages to both provide inspiration and motivation for the pioneer, while being hugely pragmatic and realistic about the cost, the struggle and the challenge of doing things differently. Full of wisdom, deep questions and electrifying examples of what God can do when people who don’t fit the established order get stuck into changing things.
Russ Bravo is editor of Inspire, and has run and hosted Matt’s Comedy Club, Worthing, since 2008.