How to avoid Star Trek pioneering (John Pickles)

Friday, 24 June, 2011

John PicklesJohn Pickles wants to know how to avoid Star Trek pioneering.

My first idea for a blog subject was to talk about several events that I have organised which brought church and community together - and so begin the train of thought about emerging church. Then I would have moved on to look at the things we need to have in place to move towards fresh expressions. However, subsequent events linked with a project in my area made me think again.

So, new topic:

To not just be good, but to be great, we must be organic. To be organic, time must be our primary concern.

When we talk about being pioneers we can think of people exploring the Wild West, but we imagine it in terms of Westerns on TV – a world of 'life, but with the boring bits cut out'. Or to think of it another way, I like to call it Star Trek Pioneering. This is to boldly go, have lots of activity and crises, and somehow come to a passable resolution despite having lost half the crew – before moving on to the next frantic episode!

Star Trek Pioneering is a danger for:

  • those of us acting as pioneers in our communities because we can live from moment to moment without breath or reason;
  • onlookers - because they expect more than we can deliver;
  • witness - like a funhouse mirror we don't necessarily reflect reality but can become contorted as we try to live out/escape the dream/nightmare (please delete as appropriate)!
The boring bits have to happen. Like a plant growing, we must move at the appropriate pace.

The boring bits have to happen. Time has to be a factor in our efforts. Like a plant growing, we must move at the appropriate pace. In the book by Kosuke Koyama, 3 Mile an Hour God, the author comments that we need to reclaim a faith that moves at walking speed.

In a world filled with cars and planes and time poverty, it is easy for us to run ahead of God. The reality is that many projects have died because people have overstretched themselves, their teams and their resources. This is especially true when we are succeeding. We need to breathe. And our breath needs to be the air of the Holy Spirit. As we grow, like plants, we need to place roots too. For us to be effective pioneers, we need to have support from others who are settlers. And especially as the great pioneer of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, rests on the Father, the great settler, so we too need to rest on him.

When we are not being intentional with our timing we cause others to view us unrealistically. I have seen many youthwork projects become sidelined and then dropped because they have not succeeded in attracting 300 children in their first six months of operation. Likewise, I have seen a number of fledgling groups lose effectiveness because of split focus. They divided and were conquered.

As plants, we have to let Jesus, the ultimate gardener, work on us. This means we have to live with questions that cannot be answered, prune where needed and take time.

When we use time appropriately we can be organic in our approach. We stop being a contorted mirror and begin reflecting the reality of God. In my experience, when this happens everything will still feel incredibly frantic but it will not be a burden, good will become great, sustainability happens and newness is present in the mundane.

About the author: 

John Pickles is Church of Scotland minister at St Andrew's Annan and Brydekirk Parish Churches, Annandale and Eskdale.


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