We are in a generation where in the last 15 years there have been more attempts of new church starts than in any other generation. There have been more innovative ideas than ever before.
There is a "pioneer" generation that has been raised up. There is a generation who believe that they can steer away from the norm of church as usual and make a difference. This generation of pastors and leaders firmly believe that they can break traditional molds and do something "new." We have great models in this generation to draw from. We have the Rick Warren's for the late 40's and 50's. We have Andy Stanley and Erwin McManus for the early 40's, and Craig Groeschel and Steven Furtick for the 20-30 age range. Great examples.
The only issue with having models is that they are the "exception" and not the rule. Sometimes we believe that if we dress like certain pastors, preach like them and adopt their philosophy, then we can see the same results. As I stated before, we have more "church plant" attempts than any other generation. The reason we have so many attempts is because I don't think we fully grasp the idea of "pioneering." The idea sounds cool and cutting edge. The reality is that it is brutal and unthankful along the journey.
I sat with a pastor last night who is a pioneer model/hero to me. He does not run thousands of people or has he ever preached at Catalyst. He does not have the latest blog or newest book. He does not have a podcast (which he should!), or a video cast. He is a true pioneer. As we ate sushi last night he shared about what God was doing in their outreach program to the inner city. He shared with passion about prison ministry. He shared about the signs and wonders he has recently seen. He also shared the wounds that he has experienced in the past year.
As he was talking, I was thinking, "Who the heck am I?" Sure, I have good ideas and have done some good things, but man- I don't really get it.
Pioneers, please take this advice from a 31 year old. Honor the generation who went before you. Don't think because you have a better idea that you have arrived. Until you walk through the battle and live to tell the story, with wounds and scars, listen and honor the pioneers.
The "white steeple, white door, red brick" churches with pastors that are gray headed and wear ties have a place of honor. My friend Billy Mitchell calls them "Legacy" churches.
1) That church that you want to be so different from was the place (generally speaking) where your grandparents gave their life to Christ and began a godly line in your generation.
2) There are faithful preachers who will never be noticed and serve for years in these churches.
3) True pioneering is not glorifying, but crucifying. You are misunderstood, overlooked, under-appreciated and outcasted from popular groups.
4) You will experience a lot of failure before you see the great successes come forth.
5) Pioneering is not spiked hair (or bald in my case), graphic tees, LED lights and the newest music. Pioneering is not a cool church name or logo.
Pioneering is the cross. Pioneering is bleeding on the streets of your city. Pioneering is being underpaid and overworked. Pioneering is helping the hurt, not building a fantasy land for happy people. Pioneering is settling new land. Pioneering is being betrayed. Pioneering is feeling like God has forgotten you at times. Pioneering is reaching the least, last and lost of your city. Pioneering is totally worth it.
Let's gain perspective on the pioneering work we are doing. You may be pioneering a new kind of blog, ministry or organization. Let's also honor the pioneers of our previous generation and the crosses that they have bore.