The second attribute I think is essential for a pioneer is to think creatively. If you are a scientist, engineer or mathematician please don’t worry and stop reading, this includes you and requires no artistic talent whatsoever. I cannot draw a stick man and if I take a photo I invariably miss off heads or feet and even with idiot proof automatic everything, I guarantee it will be out of focus! However, when I encounter a problem, I can usually think of half a dozen different ways to tackle it. I used to think that everyone could do this but it never ceases to amaze me how people can do the same thing over and over again when it is obvious that it isn’t working. Just look at most church services on a Sunday morning!
What I am getting at was wonderfully illustrated by my younger son just before the end of term. He had a problem with another child at school and decided he needed to do something about it. The next morning I came across a piece of paper where he had been writing. He explained that because he needed to speak to the teacher, he had written down what he wanted to say. This was because when actually confronted by the situation he usually forgot the words he wanted to use so decided that if he wrote them down he would not lose them in the stress and anxiety of the moment. I was so proud of him! This demonstrated he had analysed previous encounters and felt frustrated that he had not been able to achieve what he’d wanted. He had then thought through how he could overcome this in future without any input from anyone else. This is the kind of reflective and creative thinking that is required of pioneers. Once you have seen the problem, felt the burden of it and prayed ardently for God to show you how to respond, thinking differently is essential.
To support this assertion, I came across an incident where Jesus thought creatively. I am quoting from ‘Luke for Everyone’ by Tom Wright on Luke 5:1-11, “One day Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowds were pressing close to him to hear the word of God. He saw two boats moored by the land; the fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little way from the land. Then he sat down in the boat and began to teach the crowd.” (p.52) Jesus demonstrates his ingenuity in coping with the volume of people by taking to the water and using the geography of steep inlets and zigzagging coastline around the lake to make the most of a natural amphitheatre to ensure all could hear His message.
However, as this shows, thinking differently is only half the story. Pioneers must then have the courage to act on their new way to seeing. Taking risks is a given and will inevitably lead to making mistakes and to failure. These too go with the territory. A pioneer must then also persevere. A lot of Christians seem to think that we can by-pass the unpleasant realities of mistakes and failure. If God is in it He will tell us exactly what we should do and so protect us from blowing it and the disappointment that inevitably follows. This is not how it is. Human beings learn from trial and error and I don’t believe God gives us a blueprint for how we must do things. There would then be no room for partnership with Him in His transforming work in the world and there would be no opportunity for us to display the creativity He has made us with. Also, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.” (Romans 5:4) This is my least favourite verse in the Bible and in my ‘Tippex Revised Edition’ it would be omitted! The annoying thing is it is true. Being a pioneer is hard. But the rewards are abundant life starting now and lasting for eternity!