When I’m old and wise and have life stories to tell, I think I’ll call my memoir The Reluctant Pioneer.
Until then, I’ll just use it for a blog post.
I think I was born to pioneer.
(To be clear, not in the traditional “settler” or “frontier woman” way- I don’t know how to sew or ring a chicken or mill wheat or milk a cow or anything. But in the ever-exploring, “building something new” kind of way. Hopefully you see the distinction.)
And I say ‘reluctant’ because pioneering is not something that I seek out. It’s not even something I particularly feel gifted in. I am not the fearless, risk-taking type. By nature, I love order and predictability. I love knowing what to expect and I like rules! I also really hate to fail.
My idea of a pioneer is a daring dreamer who thrives on chance and defying odds. No part of that sentence describes me.
Even so, despite my very precise picture of a pioneer, it seems I am eternally curious and like a good challenge more than I care to admit. Thus, I always seem to find myself somewhere new, working on something new– creating, establishing, shaping.
I’m not a true pioneer, but I apparently get pretty inspired by them and can’t seem to resist joining the team! How else could I explain how I ended up as the Executive Pastor at Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC?!
My husband Nathan and I moved from Columbus, GA to Charlotte, NC in 2006. We had some dear friends who we deeply believed in that felt called to plant a church. Years prior we promised that when that time came, we would pack our bags and follow them wherever they started this new work. We began our plans to move with no idea where we’d live once we got here or what jobs we’d find to support ourselves, but we were up for the adventure.
Renovatus was officially commissioned that year and there was a lot to do. Pastor Jonathan asked me to be his administrative assistant and run the church office on a part-time basis. I was his first hire.
So, here we were a new church with 2 employees; the Lead Pastor who has never been a lead pastor before and an admin assistant who had never assisted before. Oh, and a host of volunteer staff who also had no prior direct experience in the areas they were serving. It was QUITE a learning curve. It was a long season of pioneering on every front. We were making it up as we went as best as we could. As my friend Mat likes to say, we were building the boat while out at sea. And that’s not the easiest way to build a boat, my friend!
Since then, every season of growth thereafter for the church has brought about new endeavors to pioneer.
Some we receive with joy and exuberance. Others with more reluctance and discomfort than you can know.
In some we soar. In others we flail about just trying to get off the ground. In all of them we learn. (As an aside: Sometimes I think learning is enough. But in more than one of those occasions I’d maintain that learning is overrated!)
Planting a church, growing a church, being the church is non-stop pioneering. Almost 6 years in, I’m still learning to embrace it. I’m still learning to lean into the adventure and walk by faith.
Here are a few beautiful things I’ve reluctantly learned about pioneering along the way:
1. Pioneering is quite the crucible! New challenges are refining and developing. Character is revealed. Leaders and ideas emerge from unlikely places.
2. Pioneering keeps you open. Keeps you expectant. Keeps you curious. Every idea is worth exploring and every option is entertained. Everything has potential and possibility when you are a pioneer. In this way, pioneering can often foster humility & imagination. It can also help keep cynicism & close-mindedness at bay.
3. Pioneering keeps you dependent. I once heard Dallas Willard speaking on the subject of dependence upon the Lord. Someone attempted to challenge him and said, “We can’t always live at the end of our rope, though, right?” His reply was simply, “I don’t know where else you’d live.”
Pioneering is the perfect means by which you reluctantly take up permanent residence at the end of your rope and hang on for dear Life.