A slightly random selection of stuff I picked out of Jonny Baker’s talks at the Breakout Pioneer Conference.
Pioneer ministry is about being prophetic. What did the prophets do? They were birthed in the reality of their own context and engaged in a graphic reimagining of the situation. Sometimes this was with images of judgement against the actual state of it, leading on to imagine the possibilities in a return to God.
Prophetic ministry is about seeing differently. Walter Bruggemann, in ‘The Prophetic Imagination’ said it was the ability, “to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to that of the culture around us” The prophets helped people to see and called people back to the covenant.
Therefore, the question we want to ask is not, is something practicable or achievable, but is it imaginable. [This reminds me of something Frank Skinner said to the Archbishop of Canterbury in conversation – Did the miracles actually happen? When you believe in God, all bets are off]
Totalitarian states are scared of the artist because they encourage imagination and thinking beyond what is there already.
Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
If pioneering is about imagining what could be. Sometime a blank canvas can be paralysing as you may ask “what am I supposed to create?” or even “What am I supposed to do today?”
Ric Stott is a Methodist pioneer in Sheffield and an artist, and felt God calling him to ‘go and create’. So he simply went to the market place and drew and people came to him to see. Creativity and imagination had enabled sacred space.
Art is always embodied and experienced, and it’s difficult to experience through a screen (the source of so many of our interactions) so it brings people together in that way. Can we make spaces where people can be set free to create? Beauty transforms people and how they behave. He gave the example of wild flower seed being sown in fallow ground near an estate, which stopped fly tipping.
Dissent. There can be no alternative vision without dissent p the posing of the alternative. Dissenting people can give birth to that which has never existed, often seen as chaotic by those who are comfortable in the established tradition. Dissent doesn’t have to be negative, just the imagining of an alternative.
There are two kinds of dissenter. The pathfinding dissenter who forges a new path on the edge (or through the middle) and tries something totally new. The Authority dissenter created the necessary space in systems and structures for others to forge a path. They are permission givers.
Newness. There is a phrase ‘innovate or die’. There are a few types of innovation. The first is refounding – the re-imagining not by leaving the tradition bit by driving to the heard of it to reclaim it. They can use symbols that have been known concretely in the culture or community and call us to rethink how they are used of what they mean. This is how the prophets used the Exodus throughout the Old Testament and how Jesus used the law. For the unchurched in my community, what are the symbols?
Tom Wright calls this, faithful improvisation (in New Testament and the People of God) [That’s why Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull didn’t work – because it was an unfaithful improvisation by stepping too far out the bounds of the established genre]. Faithful reimagining looks back at communal memories and forward to the healing of all things.
He then went on to talk about pioneers and reformers needing a mission community of other reformers to sustain and give life.