The Pioneer Church Planter
A pioneer church planter is one who is wired with a kind of “apostolic DNA.” Not every believer has an apostolic gifting, but even if someone doesn’t have it, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a vital part of a pioneer church planting team. All Christians have gifts to exercise which are absolutely necessary for success in church planting, however, the characteristics of the apostolic leader are distinct. They have robust vision, coupled with faith and boldness to charge forward into danger. Pioneers require courage to embrace a lifestyle of physical and spiritual hardship and remain undaunted by initial failures.
Alexander MacKay was a Scottish missionary to Uganda in the late 1800s. Before his team even left Scotland, he wrote a letter of instruction for others to follow when he was killed: “I want to remind the committee that within six months you will probably hear that one of us is dead. But … when that news comes, do not be cast down, but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.”
It happened just that way. Within three months, one of their team of eight was dead. Within a year, five more had died, and by the end of two years, MacKay was the only one left. MacKay led his team on an 800-mile overland trek heading for the south end of Lake Victoria. Severe malarial fevers knocked him out and he was hauled back to the coast to recuperate. Once he recovered, MacKay and his team hacked out a bush road from the coast to Mpwapwa—230 miles inland.
Pioneers are like first-responders. They are the first ones to respond to a crisis. They are the ones who charge into burning buildings and jump into frozen lakes to rescue dying people. I call them Revelation 12:11 missionaries: they are among those who “loved not their own lives even unto death.”
Pioneer missionaries are spearheads. A spearhead is the tip, the initiator, and the first part of the spear that punctures a target. The head leads and the rest of the spear follows hard. The pioneer is always moving their feet toward the fields where Christ is not known—always pressing for the regions beyond. That is pioneer mission.
Pioneer missionaries aren’t superheroes, they simply have a specific gifting. Apostolic leaders also have weaknesses, so they need a team. But if that person is to last very long as the leader of their pioneer church planting team, it is essential that they have the right blend of these DNA characteristics.
*Check out part 1 of this article here.