The Guts & Glory of Pioneer Church Planting: Part 2

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

The Guts & Glory of Pioneer Church Planting: Part 1

The following is adapted from a charge that David Sitton gave during To Every Tribe’s recent orientation week for a new group of missionaries starting their training at the Center for Pioneer Church Planting and was recently featured in To Every Tribe’s latest edition of Ekballo Magazine.

The reason To Every Tribe began, and the reason our training arm, the Center for Pioneer Church Planting exists, is the compelling conviction that pioneer church planting is primary and essential to complete the mission of the Great Commission. Many things are important, but none in mission are more important than this.

Paul emphasizes the point in Romans: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15b).

A pioneer, by definition, is one who begins something new and prepares the way for others to follow—one who is among the first to explore new regions. One cannot be a pioneer and also demand infrastructure to be in place before one’s boots are even on the ground. Pioneers oftentimes don’t have roads—sometimes literally, but always figuratively. Pioneers carve out the first roads themselves so that others may follow. Someone has to go first.

The Guts
The guts of pioneer church planting are the essential elements of establishing a community of believers within a culture where a witness of Jesus has never existed. These gut ingredients include a variety of things such as vision, philosophies, strategies, methodologies, and, not to be overlooked, the actual apostolic church planters necessary to enact these priorities through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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