Leaving a legacy
I’m embarrassed that I have got to part 6 of my series on being a pioneer and am only now referring to the dictionary definition. The Oxford Compact English Dictionary defines the word ‘pioneer’ thus, “(noun) – 1 an initiator of a new enterprise etc. 2 an explorer or settler 3 Mil – a member of an infantry group preparing terrain etc. for the main body of troops.” It is this last aspect in particular that has really struck me this week. Pioneers start something but their success can only really be measured by the lasting impact of those that follow.
I have been thinking about the issue of prophets seeing differently for the breakout conference of pioneers that will take place on Wednesday 21st-Friday 23rd September 2011. I talked of this attribute in an earlier blog, but to recap, pioneers, like prophets, see where God is at work in unexpected places. They then partner with him to create opportunities to reveal His presence and Kingdom way of doing things for the benefit of all creation. However, while looking at a passage from 2 Kings, chapter 6, verse 8, I was struck that not only did the prophet Elisha see what was going on from a spiritual perspective but was able to open the eyes of the others so that they might see too. I also touched on this in another blog about envisioning others. However, if we apply the dictionary definition above, I am not sure that what I said previously goes nearly far enough.
Pioneers make a new path that others will walk in. It is not just about starting something new, for it to be genuinely pioneering what is created will have longevity and change forever the environment and way things have always previously been done. Wow this is quite a challenge and on this basis I am not sure I have the presumption to call myself a pioneer! But, I feel excited that I am part of a movement that I believe will have this kind of enduring legacy. The momentum such a movement has to really change how we see church and do mission is, I think, due largely to true pioneers such as George Lings and Bob and Mary Hopkins. They have diligently plugged away planting fresh expressions of church before the term had been invented and teaching and empowering others with the wisdom they have gleaned from their invaluable experience. I think it is no coincidence that much of what is really innovative and inspiring is happening in Sheffield or somewhere has its roots in their ministry.
I think the danger is that now pioneering is recognised and in fashion, we are quick to label anything vaguely different in these terms. We also forget that many of us might actually be the next wave of troops benefitting from the privations of the real pioneers who are the unsung heroes in our midst. They were pioneers when it was not trendy to be one. I just hope they can enjoy our successes and celebrate with us the fruit of the sea change they were instrumental in affecting. And maybe we will be labelled as pioneers but only in retrospect, when our lasting legacy can be truly judged and appreciated.