How To Pioneer Within Your Local Church

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Post 4 in the Ministry of the Pioneer series: How To Pioneer Within Your Local Church by Jamie Rohrbaugh |

Dear pioneer,

So you’ve felt something roaring inside you as we’ve talked about pioneering in the last 3 posts. You have new ideas; you see beautiful, new territories you want to conquer. But something’s wrong: you aren’t making any headway within your church. You aren’t gaining any ground in the thing you want to pioneer.

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    Let’s talk about that some today, shall we?

    First, there are several background points I want to make very, very clear:

    1. To be rightly related to Christ, you must be a connected, living part of His Body, the Church.

    This doesn’t mean you can’t be saved if you don’t attend a local church. But it does mean you can’t be right in every area without being part of the Church. If you aren’t part of a local church, you are missing out. You will never experience all the blessing, growth, relationships, protection, and usefulness in the Kingdom that God desires for you unless you are a connected part of the local church.

    May God help me, I will never back down from this. Never, ever, ever. The Word of God is clear:

    • The local church is where God displays His glory (Ephesians 3:21).
    • Gathering together in the local church is God’s plan for His people (Hebrews 10:25).
    • The local church is the heart of God’s Kingdom. Jesus built His Church, and it will never die. It is the Church Triumphant, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

    2. Yes, God calls some people to go out into the mission field; but when that happens, the Biblical pattern is for people to be sent by the local church.

    Read my note to wannabe preachers, above, for more. Paul wrote in Romans 10:15 that people must be sent in order to preach, and that word sent is related to being commissioned and sent out by your local church leadership. Again, read the article above for details.

    3. A lot of people talk about the local church not doing its job, so they’re “forced” to step out of its authority in order to obey God …

    But whenever I have personally seen that happen, it’s not been because the church wasn’t doing its job. It’s been because the people have been mad at the pastors.

    (Doh! She DIDN’T go there! She didn’t! … She didn’t! … She did! It’s ok, though, you can keep reading. The blunt part is almost over.) 😉

    Anyway, when people don’t get what they want–whether that be recognition, voice, accomplishment of their agenda, or whatever, and they aren’t willing to wait for God’s timing–too often, out the doors they go. They call it obeying God rather than men, but actually it’s just pride and arrogance.

    Honestly, I personally have never seen God bless that. People go out into the green grass of spiritual freedom, but they never find a place to land. So they stay bitter. Their eyes get shifty, and their usefulness in the Kingdom is greatly diminished (at least until they get things right with God and men, get back under the covering of a church, and submit to its discipline and protocol). (Watch the best sermon I’ve ever heard about this subject, by Lou Engle, here.)

    We don’t need to be leaving the local church for the green grass of ministerial, prophetic, or evangelistic freedom.

    Instead, we need to figure out how our callings, passions, and gifts fit in within the local church. We need to figure out how our gifts can build up the Body. We need to focus on how our call can support and expand the influence of the Body, whether that’s in a new mission field, a new prayer meeting, or a new Sunday School class.

    Basically, the takeaway from this particular point is this: New doesn’t equal rebellion.

    ‘Nuff said.

    Are you still reading? You can take a deep breath now. The hard part is over. 🙂 #LoveYaMeanIt

    So how DO you pioneer within your local church?

    I’ll tell you how it has worked for me personally, and I’m asking the Lord to show you His plan for your situation as you read and pray on these things.

    1. Sometimes I have pioneered by accident.

    It sounds funny, but it’s true. In 2010, I joined my church’s orchestra just because I was looking for a place to fit in and something fun to do. I had no reason for being there other than that.

    But you know what? God had reasons of His own. Totally by accident, in the 5+ years I was there (I left the orchestra this year to make room for some new things my pastor asked me to start), God used me to help support our orchestra pastor (also a visionary) as he pioneered some awesome new things:

    • Under the covering of our senior leadership, we started a new Sunday School class for the orchestra (which is now open to anyone and has doubled in size, half musicians and half non-musicians).
    • We taught through Ray Hughes’ minstrel series, so that our musicians would understand the power of Biblical musicianship. It was powerful.
    • We instituted prayer as a regular part of rehearsals. Prayer brought the power of God and much unity into our group.
    • We organized retreats (which brought more power of God and more unity).
    • We prayed through some healing-and-deliverance type of things that needed to be handled with the group as a whole.

    It was awesome. It all happened by “accident” in my eyes; but looking back, it definitely wasn’t an accident in God’s eyes. It happened moment by moment; and my part in it happened as I served, supported our leaders in any way I could, and came up under the mission and vision of the church. I merely got to have a part, but God opened the doors at the right time.

    What’s the application for you? Simply this: follow the leading of God’s Spirit every day, moment by moment. Sometimes those random things you do–the things that seem small–are actually God’s way of beginning an awesome new thing.

    2. Sometimes new doors have opened to me simply because I have served.

    I joined my local church 11.5 years ago, and I’ve been serving faithfully there ever since. I love to serve. I love the church. And when you love something or someone, serving comes naturally.

    So what does that have to do with me being a pioneer?

    Well, it has happened like this (I can’t draw a flowchart, so a bullet-point list will have to do): 🙂

    • I served.
    • My leaders got to know me because I served.
    • My leaders got to trust me because they know me.
    • My leaders have asked me to start new things because they know me and trust me.

    This is not rocket science, folks. God knows who He made me to be, and He wants to use me in the pioneering work He called me to. But He has used my leaders to call me into those new things.

    For example:

    At my church, we just launched a powerful new Monday night intercessory worship service called “The Furnace.” We recruited an awesome leadership team (thank God for them), but my pastor asked me and my husband personally to lead this thing.

    The call to lead didn’t come from me. I had some ideas about how the mission could be accomplished, and I ran those ideas by my pastor after he asked me to lead. He agreed with them. But honestly, those ideas were about all I had to do with this thing. God opened the door to use me to pioneer this new thing, and He used my pastor to do it. All of that happened because I had served, my leaders know me, and they decided to trust me with this task.

    What’s your application, my precious pioneering friend?

    The application is this: Sometimes you just need to serve. Maybe God wants to open doors for you in the thing you’re passionate about, but He can’t because you haven’t served and your leaders don’t know you yet.

    Think about it, ok?

    3. Sometimes I have pioneered by approaching my leaders about a new idea, and trusting that they will hear God about both the plan AND the timing.

    If an idea is from God, or if the method is from God, your pastors will know it. That’s their job–to lead the church as a whole, to guide the church as a whole, and to see the big picture, including the timing of a thing and how to implement it.

    Your pastors are stewards of a huge task. One day, they will stand before God and give an account for how they have shepherded the church. You better believe they take that seriously.

    So what to do if you have a new idea? Here are my suggestions:

    • First, pray about it. A lot.
    • IF and only if God leads you to do so, approach your leaders about your idea. (If God doesn’t lead you to do this, then stay at step 1.)
    • Trust their guidance. If this thing is from God, they’ll know it. If it’s not, they’ll know that too. It’s their job to know, and God holds them accountable.

    I have asked my pastor about new ideas before, and she has said, “Yes, that’s a good idea. This is how it could be done.” I trusted that was from God, did what she said, and it worked out great.

    I’ve also had ideas that I’ve asked my pastor about (a different pastor, over a different area of the church), and he’s said “It’s probably not time for that yet.” But you know what? Looking back, when it’s been a “no,” God probably spared me from something I couldn’t have handled.

    God has placed you under your leaders for a reason. They see the big picture, and they are often more aware of what you can handle than you are.

    Dear pioneer, you CAN build new things within the local church.

    There’s plenty of work to be done in the Kingdom. The key is:

    • Figure out how you can support, not how you can carry out your own agenda.
    • Use your gifts, including your pioneering heart, to serve and build up the Body of Christ.
    • Trust God’s wisdom in placing you under the leadership He has given you.

    If you will do these things, God Himself will open doors for you. He knows you. He knows what you’re made of. He placed your pioneer DNA inside you, and He gave you the dream of your heart. Fear not, precious brother or sister. He hasn’t forgotten you OR your pioneering call.

    And if you will discover how His plan for your life fits within the unity and flow of the Kingdom, through the covering of the local church, will make all the difference in the world.

    Does this message resonate with you today? If so, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!


    Image courtesy of M01229 on Flickr via Creative Commons license. Graphics have been added.


    1. Vern Yamane says:

      Dear Jamie,
      What are your views on church centered vs body of Christ centered projects.
      IE local church vs Universal church? Sometimes I feel that some local churches don’t like it when you mention what is going on at another local church. I wonder where the church would be if there were no pioneers like those in YWAM, Navigators, Gideon, Campus Crusade for Christ etc. I remember when I told someone that I wanted to go to another church to take a class on healing his eyes lit up. It was not that the grass was greener on the other side but I just wanted to taught something that I lacked. Another time I was at a counseling class and I mentioned how God was working through someone from another church. There was no comment.

      1. Hi Vern, yes, unfortunately we can be too territorial. I do believe that parachurch organizations can NEVER be a substitute for the local church, which operates under the five-fold ministry (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher). But parachurch organizations have their place. I’m a big fan of Cru, and YWAM, and Teen Challenge, etc. They are not the local church, but they do have a very important place. We need to learn to recognize each other’s gifts, honor the church which is Christ’s body and where God displays His glory, and work together to get the Gospel out and make disciples. That’s my opinion. 🙂
        Thank you for reading and for sharing!

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