New times call for new ways of being church (Michael Volland)

Monday, 22 March, 2010

Michael VollandMichael Volland states that new times call for new ways of being church.

Since the publication of the Mission-shaped Church report in 2004, the church in the UK has gradually begun to recognise that as well as continuing to support and build up inherited forms of church, the advancement of God's kingdom requires the training, deployment and support of Ordained Pioneers who might serve as catalysts for the emergence of Christian communities in the midst of culture.

Here at Cranmer Hall in Durham I have been given responsibility for designing and delivering a training pathway for Ordained Pioneer Ministry. This task has inevitably led to many discussions with pioneers, bishops, and DDOs about how pioneers relate to the institutions that are creating space for them.

As with any new venture, there are bound to be all sorts of complex teething (and ongoing) issues – especially since the rationale for Ordained Pioneer Ministry has involved the church recognising the need to ordain and utilise the gifts of those who may see the relationship between culture and church in fresh and potentially challenging ways.

Many pioneers have an entrepreneurial flare that is being harnessed for the sake of the gospel and used to gather and nurture new communities of faith. But if the whole church is going to grasp the mixed economy vision, Ordained Pioneer Ministers must be ambassadors who are present at the centre of the church, as well as entrepreneurs operating at the edges.

What seems to be required at this point is patient endurance that is held in tension with prophetic creativity

In order to be ambassadors for a ministry with a particular focus on creativity and fresh thinking, the lives of Ordained Pioneers must also be marked by highly visible levels of maturity and humility. If the concept and practice of Ordained Pioneer Ministry is to gain widespread and genuinely heartfelt support, then those engaged in such a ministry must demonstrate a genuine willingness to listen and learn as well to speak and teach. Innovations will be owned and shared within a wider church that feels it is in conversation with pioneer ministers.

There is no doubt that new times call for new ways of being church. The new country stands before us, but the whole church must make the journey into it. For those whose understanding of the times gives them a sense that perhaps they can see a little further ahead, there is always the temptation to rush on alone or with a few others in tow.

But what seems to be required at this point is patient endurance that is held in tension with prophetic creativity. If pioneers catch glimpses of the new country, then they must speak of it wisely. People can only hear so much in one go. Pioneers must tread gently but firmly and they must keep moving forward at a pace that honours the whole church.

About the author: 

Rev Michael Volland, Director of Mission and Pioneer Ministry at Cranmer Hall, St John's College, Durham.


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