Church Army united with Pioneer Ministry?

I have just been reading many of the thoughts of Mark Russell in the church times.  Many are down to the question of rebranding the church army and the possibility of becoming a religious order to clarify the role that the Church Army has.

I don’t think that the militaristic image is always helpful… but we’re not a church, and we’re not an army; we’re not a church in the army and we’re not an army in the church.

…The final change Mr Russell hopes to see implemented in the organisation, is to bring all those involved in pioneer ministry into the Church Army.  Many of them currently feel isolated and unsure of their relationship with the Church of England, he says.  The Church Army would be a “natural home”.

What do we all think of these developments?

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14 Responses

  1. truthfully…..it worries me for a number of reasons. some of those are my own own personal corcerns about the church army but others are much more to do with the idea of ‘Pioneer ministries’ been drawn together in this way. Surely ‘Pioneer ministers’ should feel a level of isolation and seperation……isn’t that sort of the point?!

  2. Aha! Good point!

  3. I have been thinking about it since yesterday and there are two ways of looking at it.

    Either, we have been looking for support mechanisms for different forms of pioneer ministry and the Church Army (or whatever it becomes) are offering to provide that support structure and give a sense of community for those who feel isolated.

    However, there is one problem I see with this and it is related to your “isn’t that the point” comment. We have been seeing those structures emerge over the last few years. If all pioneer ministers are brought into the church army structures will that in itself take away the space and freedom that the pioneer ministry has? Suddenly we may find that we have another programme working in our churches. Another set of rules to follow and a centralised body bringing all of those things that we are trying to avoid.

    A much more cynical reading may be that all church organisations are in recession. Not a financial recession but a personpower recession. By getting the wider church to place pioneer ministry into their care they can secure their future numbers and keep the organisation going.

    So I am torn. Usually I am generous….

  4. I don’t think its possible to just sweep up a bunch of disparate people doing different things and cram them into another organisational structure.

    A move like that would have to be organic, fluid, over time, naturally occurring. Not in response to the need of the ‘host’ organisation. Especially when ‘pioneer’ folk (here comes the sweeping generalisation) can be a little tricky to fit into large organisations and are on the edges doing odd stuff.

    I think if the church army were to offer support, equipping, training, the benefit of their experience etc to pioneer folks, without strings attached, there might come about a meeting of minds, a rapproachment, in future but it would be wrong to hijack a newish thing by cramming it onto the side of an existing one if it isn’t naturally leaning that way in its development – is my own personal view at least.

    But hey, what do I know…?

  5. I would suggest that you are probably better qualified to say it than either of us. We both decided to work within the big organisational structures that already exist – with the benefits and limitations that this brings.

  6. Well, am not really in a position to say anything yet, but what you said is kind of the point. If folk choose the big structure, thats what they chose. If they didn’t, is it right to shove them into some – other – big structure? We are oddballs – if they got us, maybe they’d soon want to get rid of us – it’d be like herding cats?! I wonder what other response there’s been to the idea?

  7. You are going to have to know what you are getting yourself into – and be able to tell them that you know what you are getting into. I’d say that qualifies you to have an opinion 😉

    My worry is that this may actually be what Pete Rollins was pointing out at Greenbelt. By giving pioneer ministry a legitimate place it could effectively stifle it and tame it to a point where it is no longer pioneering.

    As I have mentioned before, my position has always been that it is possible to pioneer from within. Hense the standard CofE ordination route. As you say, if that is not your position, then it is placing yet another structure onto it.

  8. My guess is that there’s no one answer to this, due to the many different aspects of pioneering. As you say in ref to Pete R, some people and initiatives may be stifled by it, whereas others, such as your own and other ‘infiltrator’ types might be quite happy with it. There will be some for whom it would drive them out, no question.

    My main point is what is driving it to happen – if its for the benefit of the large organisation, it would be better to look at it and what its purpose is, why is it needing this to happen etc and deal with the root of the issues raised there and examine a range of possibilities. Someone needs to post a poll on the Share website and others and see what the response is?

    I am reading ‘Transforming Communities’ by Steve Croft at the moment. It raises a lot of questions with me about exactly what it is I am getting into. Change because you HAVE to is a difficult place to start because all the backs are already against the wall.

    Does the ‘average’ (I know, there isn’t one) congregant, or PCC, of a trad church feel there is any need to change, and what are the reasons they would be prepared to do it for?

  9. I guess the other thing I should add though, is that what they do seems great (from what I read) and very much in the spirit of what fresh expressions and pioneering is about – and therefore pioneers may find kindred spirits and understanding there – rather than the scepticism and sometimes sheer incredulity that I/others have experienced in the traditional church.

    I personally have no experience of the Church Army (perhaps as I live in a rural area) and I guess he’s right, the militaristic thing is a little weird, especially in a world where we have abhored the war lately.

    So much of it comes down to emphasis, and what we believe church is about, I reckon.

  10. Well…….. lots of questions there.

    Average PCC/whatever (as there is increasingly other structures in our area and a joint PCC). Difficult one to answer as most congregations are made up of a variety of different people. Also, the point of pioneer ministry is not that it is changing “the traditional church”, it is pioneering something different. From my point of view sitting within the traditional structures is encouraging communities, both within and without the church, to think outside of the box and pioneer.

    From the point of view of “pioneer ministry”, it needs to be outside of those structures and pioneering in new ways.

    Does that mean changing Sunday mornings with a congregation who come and worship God regularly and faithfully? Not necessarily. I would rather be and/both. How can we devalue the people who have passed on the faith for the last 2000 years? We need to be thinking about different contexts and different times and different communities within our communities. Then we will pioneer. We will challenge the new frontiers and move forward.

    Do they see the need to change? I have been in a lot of churches so I can generalise a bit. There are categories of people.

    There are those who desperately want change.
    There are those who desperately resist change.
    There are those who are able to dream dreams and have visions.
    There are those who enable people who have dreams to realise them, the facilitators.
    There are those who want it to “be done” to them each week and desire no other commitment.
    There are those who want to lead and those who want to follow.

    Lets face it, I could be talking about the staff room of the school I used to work in. It describes the local working men’s club and the committee therein. It describes the local community centre. The church is made of people. That means that when you look who is there you will find people. Expecting anything else is crazy. These are all places that have some people filled with scepticism and sometimes sheer incredulity.

    I think the problem is that if we don’t like people we think that if the furniture were to be moved around it would all be better. Perhaps if we start emerging our Martian communities things will be better.

    In reality I suspect that the way forward is to encourage people to flourish. The blossom into what they have the potential to be. Then we can support each other into the future with those who are pioneering with support from those who are traditional and those who are traditional being supported by those who are pioneering. More importantly, we can all get supported by God for it is Him we are being supported by and it is His church that we are invited to become.

  11. I reckon the way forward is to encourage folk to fall madly, truly, deeply for Jesus. Thats the catalyst, the goal, the means, and the end. We model it as best we can and we love em along the way as they start to journey with him for themselves.

    The 2 difficulties I have are: 1) folk who don’t want to know 2) folk who don’t want to do it for themselves but want someone else (ie priests) to do it for them. I need more experience and maturity in how to deal with those.

  12. Aha – yes!! Love. Discipleship. Encourage people to follow Jesus!! That is why I feel called to be a priest!

    I have the same difficulties. I think it is something to do with youth. The older I get the less harsh I become and the better I become at loving people. Unfortunately it means leaving my youth behind 😦

  13. Hmm, at 40 I’ve already long left my youth behind – but somehow haven’t quite picked up all the replacements I should’ve 😆

  14. Age is a state of mind. I just assumed that you were younger than me. Makes a change. I normally place anyone in church as older than me 😀

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