i chipped in to a discussion on facebook on a discussion about pioneer and whether it is a helpful term. the post was letting the world know about a new page on the cms pioneer web site which has a series of frequently asked questions beginning with 'what is a pioneer?' paul bradbury wrote most of it and i have then added in some stuff too. i am sure they'll get tweaked and added to and they are not the definitive answer on anything but hopefully they help answer a few questions! anyway i wanted to post the link here and i left a comment which i have pasted below largely because i can refind things on my blog so wanted to keep the thought!
i have come to really like the word pioneer - there i've said it!
in its usage in relation to the church of england it was used in the report mission shaped church to say that starting these new forms of church bubbling up around the edges of the church required a different kind of leading or skill set or imagination to being a regular vicar or parish priest. that makes really good sense to me - it does require something different. they used two ways of describing that - pioneer minister and mission entrepreneur. pioneer seems to be the one that's stuck. i have elaborated on this story and my sense of it in various other places so won't do so here - but see the pioneer gift chapter i wrote for example.
all language is challenging particularly when you are trying to find language to make the world differently. and it's important because language does make a world. in relation to people involved in mission doing something new every word i can think of has something good and something problematic. the word 'mission' itself is problematic for some people especially in the usa church i have found, but i love mission and so use that word and hope to redeem it. evangelist, apostle, entrepreneur, prophet, leader, priest, chaplain, minister, missional leadership, innovation, incarnational, contextual... the list could go on. these all have associations positive and negative depending on your story and context. and like many other areas there is a massive amount of jargon.
but i like 'pioneer' because it isn't in a previous category. it's also a word that gets used in the wider culture - i.e. it's not overtly religious. and i like it because it's a bit awkward - it has some grit to it. but i mainly like it i think because we have used it now for a decade or so and got loads of wonderfully creative people doing amazing things in mission who are pioneers. so when i think of the word i imagine all of them and what they are doing and the brilliant and much needed gift they bring to the church and world. hence we called the book we fist published 'the pioneer gift'.
pragmatically you have to use something and it's as good as anything else. it also takes a long time for the church to warm up to anything. for example the idea of the missio dei has been around about 60 years maybe but it is just about catching on in some places so of course some people want to deconstruct it but i want to keep it. likewise i know some dioceses that are really warming up and starting to get pioneer. so i cannot see any sense in losing it in england at the moment.