International Bulletin

of Missionary Research

Vol. 39, No. 4
October 2015
pp. 236–45

Article in PDF Back

Book Reviews

The Pioneer Gift: Explorations in Mission.

Edited by Jonny Baker and Cathy Ross. London: Canterbury Press, 2014. Pp. xii, 236. £22.99 / $36.99.

book cover image

This superb collection of essays illuminates one of the most important mission problems of our time: As pioneering Christians initiate new forms of mission, how should church hierarchies respond to what may seem to them a challenge to unity and church order? Consisting of twelve short chapters and an extensive index, this book is “a collection of research and reflections arising out of pioneering mission. Several of the papers were first presented at a pioneer research and conversation day at Oxford” (17).

The book cover communicates the whole of the pioneering theme. One sees a shower of spent arrows pointing downward, about to end their flight; but one arrow, upward bound in the opposite direction, has just taken flight. “Pioneers,” writes Jonny Baker, “bring an amazing gift. . . . They see and imagine different possibilities to the way things are now, to business as usual. They are then able to build a pathway to make real what they see or imagine” (1).

Protestant church hierarchies may perceive pioneers as troubling and disorderly. (We envy the Roman Catholics and Anglicans, whose hierarchies are more ready to permit pioneers to organize new mission efforts.) A church member who invites others to initiate a special-interest mission effort will discover a stubborn truth: a governing body must act before its members can form themselves into voluntary societies. Ralph Winter’s article on this subject, “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission,” is mentioned by one of the contributors. Winter points out that there were two structures in Jewish first-century Palestine—synagogues and mission socie-ties. Both were adapted by first-century Christians. It could be that Luther and Calvin had eyes to see only one New Testament structure, what we call the church. When the Reformers dissolved the Catholic monasteries and retained for church hierarchies the sole authority to initiate mission efforts, an unfortunate 270-year Protestant mission ice age set in. Only with William Carey’s proposal that “a company of serious Christians form themselves into a society” did the Protestant mission era begin in earnest.

The pioneer is like a pawn (both words are derived from the same Latin root) on a chessboard. The pawn is the weakest of all the pieces in the game, but it has one crucial role: typically, it moves first. The work of the Holy Spirit is often set afoot by the least likely persons. Baker and Ross and the other contributors to this book have given us a gift that will inspire other pioneers to initiate much-needed mission efforts at such a time as this.

—Robert A. Blincoe

Robert A. Blincoe, president of the Frontiers U.S. Sending Base in Phoenix, Arizona, is author of A New Social Contract Relating Mission Societies to Ecclesiastical Structures (William Carey International Univ. Press, 2014).


To cite this article:

[Chicago] Blincoe, Robert A. Review of The Pioneer Gift: Explorations in Mission, ed. Jonny Baker and Cathy Ross. International Bulletin of Missionary Research 39, no. 4 (2015): 242–43.

[MLA] Blincoe, Robert A. Rev. of The Pioneer Gift: Explorations in Mission, ed. Jonny Baker and Cathy Ross. International Bulletin of Missionary Research 39.4 (2015): 242–43. Web. .


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