What is Success in Pioneering?
Andrew Dunlop joined the Ridley staff team as Tutor in Context-based Training last September. We asked him to tell us about his recent book, Out of Nothing: A Cross-Shaped Approach to Fresh Expressions.
Between 2010 and 2015 I was pioneer minister on a new-build housing estate on the edge of Northampton. During that time we built a large network of relationships through our community activities, and I saw God at work in many ways.
However, had someone told me that, by the end of my stay, the resulting church would have only thirty-five regular attendees (including children) at the worship gathering, I would have been disappointed. This led me to question notions of success.
"What a beautiful book, once I picked it up I couldn't put it down. There was so much that spoke to me on a deep level not just about how God moves in a fresh expression but how our creator God can move and be the beating heart of any expression of church formal or otherwise. In my opinion the cross shaped Ecclesiology is life transforming. This is a book to keep on your bookshelf and read often." Amazon customer review
In Out of Nothing: A Cross-shaped Approach to Fresh Expressions, I propose that traditional models of “success” are flawed. We are often concerned with questions of numbers, sustainability (leadership and finance), or ecclesiality (is it proper church?).
I suggest our notions of success begin with God’s action in the world. God is at work in the community and in the lives of individuals, continually drawing them to Himself. He meets us at our points of questioning, crisis, or need — our places of nothingness — and from these points he draws us into relationship with him.
A broad notion of the doctrine of atonement can help us to understand this. When we listen to stories of what God has been doing in people’s lives, we see his atoning action at work. Surely the goal of any pioneering venture in the church is to see God at work? I suggest that this is the place from which we define notions of success.