Pioneer Evangelism

I was asked what I thought of it. This was my response…

Evangelism is at the heart of all Christian calling, a living out of the baptismal call and is therefore not unique to the Pioneer charism, but the way in which it is intentionally shaped is depending upon the Pioneering context.

As Pioneering is based upon a situational, ground-up approach to building community, so evangelism within those communities is also based upon situational, contextual approaches. The top-down, one-size-fits-all, hierarchically imposed model of discipleship is therefore inappropriate because strategies have to be based upon first the people with whom we are called to work. The model for mission and evangelism therefore has to be a close application of Acts 17: Paul speaking to the Areopagus where he contextualises the Gospel message to begin where his audience/congregation/mission field are at. He assimilates the Hellenistic model of both rhetoric and spirituality and seeks to transform it. Therefore any Fresh Expression which evangelises using an Alpha Course isn’t really Pioneering.

Where I have seen this most effectively is when different techniques and approaches have been adopted for different constituencies: the mid-teens who became involved in the first incarnation of Blessed were inspired by ritual, mystery and setting fire to tealights and incense: a technique which almost entirely failed with a different group of younger people in a different parish (after I had moved) who responded to an interactive story-telling and activity-based mode of evangelism. On the face of it, two entirely different modes of mission, the latter of which had to be experientially discovered.

So, to my mind, Pioneer Evangelism calls for flexibility of approach: a willingness to ditch well loved and well worn familiar techniques of evangelism and an embracing of the context in which we Pioneer; a process of listening and discerning which does not automatically discount the life-experiences of the community, but which speaks their language (a good example would be Fr Robb Sutherland’s Rock Mass in a very poor estate in Halifax), which authentically projects the charism of the evangelist themselves (no clones of Nicky Gumbel or Mark Driscoll required) and transforms any given gathering or community with the Good News of Jesus for them, not some asinine middle-class aspiration of megachurch.