Continuing through the book Pioneer Ministry and Fresh Expressions of Church by Angela Shier-Jones, she moves onto think about preparing for a pioneering role or fresh expression.
Many churches and ministries can be incredibly creative and hugely successful in drawing people in – to church and to a relationship with God – yet they still operate on a ‘come to us’ model. Run by a group of Christians they aim to put on an event or service which is culturally appropriate to draw people to that as a place in which they can explore the Christian faith. One such example is Messy Church which has been hugely popular all over the country and is now marketed as an ‘out of the box’ solution for reaching families. Shier-Jones does not dismiss these ministries, they are useful and good. Yet, she says, they are not pioneering ventures. They are fresh expressions but they are still based on the idea that
to really know God and be blessed by God, people should come to church.
Because God is already in the world and is active in it, she advocates starting in the communities in which you are places and asking the question, ‘what does being church look like here?’
Instead of being in church and asking ‘What would make people watn to come here?’ start where the people are and ask, ‘What does being church look like in this place?’ God is already in the wold and is issuing the Church an invitation to come and share. Real love of neighbours is expressed by a willingness to join with them wherever the are rather that simply dictate where they should be.
To prepare for such a minister the pioneer must be ‘out and about’ and seeing where people naturally gather in their communities.
Al Hsu, in The Suburban Christian, talked (off the back of a lot of other sociologists) about ‘third spaces‘ in a community, places which are neither home nor work. Where people naturally gather, these are third spaces, be they street corners, school gates, coffee shops, leisure parks or gyms. The pioneer should (Shier-Jones again) hang around and listen to the community before venturing forward, all the time asking the questions, ‘What does being church look like in this place?’ and ‘What is God already doing in this place?’