“Pioneer: One that goes before to remove obstructions or prepare the way for another,” Webster Dictionary (1828).
Have you ever heard about the pioneers of Christ? Two thousand years ago, Christ died and a movement was spurred into action. The pioneers for the movement of God and what would become known as the capital “C” Church had small beginnings.
The people chosen to spread God’s message of love were not high-level CEOs or highly respected people of the time. They were tax collectors, fishermen, and normal everyday people who knew there was something more to life. These are the people whom Jesus chose to walk with him. Even Paul, who did not personally walk with Jesus, was a highly-educated murderer – prior to having a personal experience with Christ himself – who later pioneered the way for the Church.
These people were not hindered by walls or denominations. They were not hindered by the community's view of them or their work. That being said, they all went out and spurred the movement together, working in unity to bring the call of Christ into fulfillment, even to the point of death. They were true pioneers. Very rarely do we see the workings of the early church (as seen in the book of Acts) in our daily lives. The church has become a very different organism today. It is time to come together and break down the walls of the capital “C” Church once again to return to the ways of Christ in service to others and love. It is time to become the Church once more in modern day.
There are major differences that can be seen between the workings of the Church in Acts and the present day American churches. Today, churches often become consumed and overwhelmed by the ministry occurring inside their own buildings rather than the work of a pioneer in tearing down walls and working together to stir up the plans which God has for the city or community. Admittedly, as a servant at a church in town, I have been guilty myself of this very thing.
The risky actions of the pioneers of the original Church do not seem presently at work in the leadership of the Church today. All, however, is not lost. There are three ways by which we can begin to restore the pioneering attitude of the original Church.
1. The attitude of Christ can be restored through the relationships that we build with one another. True relationships cannot be built with underlying motives. We have to be willing to get vulnerable with our questions, struggles, and even our successes. Church should be a safe place for anyone – especially other church personnel or servants.
In the words of Matthew West, “if we lived like it was true, every Sunday morning pew would be crowded.” We have to restore relationships - first with Christ, then the community, and finally with one another! (Acts 2:44-45; John 15:13)
2. Prayer: We have to restore the nature of prayer and truly interceding for one another. Rather than seeing each ministry as a competition, we need to truly pray for the progress
of each and every calling. If one ministry in our community fails, we all fail and the city is made worse for it. (Galatians 6:2; James 5:16; Romans 12:1-21)
3. We have to break down the walls and start casting nets together. Church was never about the building. In modern day America, however, we have made it about just that. No longer do we see the pioneers from the book of Acts. We see employees, CEOs, and executive directors who believe the packaging for their product is better than anyone else’s. The time has come for us to put down our agendas, stop working for the paycheck, and see the work to be done outside the four walls. (Matthew 28:16-20)
Lastly, I want to apologize to any of you who have been hurt by the Church. Christ’s body is not intended to be used to cause harm to anyone.
If you have been hurt or rejected, to you, on behalf of the Church, I extend a sincere apology. God sees you; he knows your hurts; he has seen your tears, and he was not in that sort of behavior. The individual churches are not God.
Although we are supposed to represent him, we are not perfect ourselves. Even the “leaders” of the church are on their own journey to learn and grow in Christ. I pray that they too will find your forgiveness and grace one day.
Please know, however, that you are not alone. God sees you and he loves you, and he is calling you to become a pioneer for Christ. If you are up for the challenge, he will bring the relationships you need. It is your mistakes, hurts, weaknesses, and passions that he will use. Do not be afraid. Become a true pioneer of Christ as we pave the way and tear down the walls together to create a better tomorrow for the glory of God. The work is risky and often uncomfortable, but “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13; NLT).