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Renewing the Pioneer Spirit:
A Wesleyan Foundation for Evangelism

M. V. (Bud) Scutt

District Superintendent, Southwest Indiana District Church of the Nazarene, Annual Report to the District Assembly, 1995.  First published in the District Journal of the Southwest Indiana District, 1995. Used here by permission.

An indescribable diametric polarity attends the assignment I serve. It is always there. Relentlessly, from the moments before dawn until sleep draws its darkening shade over consciousness, it pulls and tugs, stresses and strains. At one extreme is the heaviness of responsibility and burden; at the other is the elation of fulfillment and anticipation. Simultaneously, I could not be more troubled and overjoyed in spirit. Still, there are also no attempts to renegotiate an agreement with God. A delightful contentment gives incredible peace through the assurance that this is God's assignment, in exactly the place and circumstance that He wills for His kingdom's sake. There are no disposable events or "throw-away" moments for those who have surrendered everything to the fulfillment of His purpose in individual consecration.

Therefore, for me, this is a critical moment. This is not just a time for me to make an appearance with acceptable words. It is a critical moment in my life, and it is a critical moment in the lives of those who represent each of the individual churches of this district. Here is where leadership declares itself. It is here, in this event, at this moment, that the leader speaks forth those things he has discovered in the discomforting quiet hours alone before God. While writing this material, I knew the rare, unexplainable sense of the heavy hand of God on my shoulder. "This is the way; walk ye in it!" Hours, days, and weeks of thought, meditation, prayer, and preparation have gone into this report.

A few days ago, our pastor, Rev. Dean Pickett, invited Cledah and me to kneel at the altar in the church. As the saints gathered around, laying their hands upon us, a great volume of prayer for God's special anointing upon us for this assembly rose beyond the confines of that sanctuary to the throne. God heard! And I believe that this presentation, under God's anointing, is His message to us for this time. This is, indeed, a critical moment.

This is, in effect, the pinnacle moment of the year for leadership by the district superintendent. There are despairing temptations. One might say, "What difference will it make? Hours of prayer and preparation, but for what? Is it just to be read Tuesday night and forgotten . . . or to be critically appraised either positively or negatively?" If you believe that God gives leaders direction, then you will not see this as just another presentation in the long series of "speeches" to which our society is subjected in this day of rhetoric. I know these are not words handed down from Sinai, engraved on stone tablets, but they are, nonetheless, His inspiration.

You have heard me say it before: I returned here to my home district to give leadership driven by a dream. My wife, Cledah, who has heard me articulate and define that dream too many times, recently came to me with a segment from her favorite devotional book, Daily with the King, by Glyn Evans. I think it was to affirm the authenticity of the dream that she gave me this quotation: "I believe that when a man delights in God, the Lord opens his spiritual eyes to 'visions' and 'dreams' that would be unheard of in his natural state. A man without divinely anointed longings does not know much about the Spirit of God." Unfolding the comprehensive definition of my dream for Southwest Indiana District would be impossible, in this limited venue, but I believe God would be pleased for me to explore one segment for emphasis in a theme for the year. The vision I would like to cast before you is that of "Renewing the Pioneer Spirit."

Immediately, mental pictures begin to take shape with the announcement of this theme. Some have probably concluded that I am talking about "revival." I might have used that word if we all had the same understanding of its meaning. Word meanings change with time, and the etymology of that word leads us down divergent paths. Without taking the time to to run down each path, let me simply say that, from my view, the word is used to mean many different things, and even in this audience, few would agree exactly on a precise definition.

Another, hearing the announcement of the theme, might say, "He's trying to lead us back to the old ways." Please understand that the theme is "Renewing the Pioneer Spirit" not "Renewing the Pioneer Life, or Methods, or Styles, or Language, or Liturgy, or Buildings, or anything else." Pioneers are different in each generation. There are few similarities in time or culture, but pioneers have included Abraham, the nomadic children of Israel, Christopher Columbus, the Pilgrims, the westward-moving North American settlers, and modern astronauts. None of those pioneers looked the same, dressed the same, or lived under the same conditions, but they were alike; they all possess the same spirit. That spirit is worth renewing! Permit me to relate some characteristics of that pioneer spirit

1. The Pioneer Spirit Is Visionary. The pioneer does not say, "Look how things are!" The pioneer says, "Think how things could be!" Pioneers embrace yet-unrealized potential. They are result-driven. They do not see themselves simply sailing along on an excursion, and although there often appear to be many best, fertile places to settle down, they move forward with an objective in view that others do not perceive.

The visionary element of the pioneer spirit is grounded in truth before reality. Reality only serves to prove the truth upon which the vision has been formed. The vision, for the church, is founded upon theological fact. Our theology has always included the understanding of God's self-limiting sovereignty. Wesleyan theology has, at times, been adulterated by those who attempt to reconcile it with the popular culture of Christian radio and television teachers.

Lamentably, some Nazarenes now (perhaps innocently) hold to a doctrine of predestination through absolute sovereignty. This doctrine embraces the idea that the predetermination of God is engineering every event in life, individual and collective, inside the church and in the world. That doctrine diametrically contradicts the Wesleyan theology of free agency by a view of God creating humanity in a dilemma of the inevitable. It says, "God is working out His purposes, so why bother." When calamities come or difficulties arise, you may hear, "God has a purpose in it." When the church is failing, or perhaps even dying, the thought prevails, "It is God's Church, and He will bring us through." It is a doctrine that literally destroys vision, because it leaves the final responsibility for God's purposes with Him alone. Remember. God did not just choose Abraham; Abraham chose God! When Abraham packed up his belongings to obey God in an adventure that had no logic for its basis and no known destination, it was called "faith," and God called that faith "righteousness."

Disobedience or faithlessness is "unrighteousness." As God has given each individual free agency, so has He also given the church a collective free agency. He leaves the choice to us; we may either "do" church His way or our way. God's way is the way of self-denial, and to choose our way for our own comfort, no matter how spiritual and holy it looks, is sin! God's will is that we catch the vision; we spread the gospel, we grow the church, we expand the Kingdom, we reach people, and He does not care what it costs us any more than He cared what it cost Him. It cost Him everything, and in the Incarnation He "emptied himself of all but love." We cannot say we are doing God's will simply because we are conducting religious activities. Without a vision, the lost will perish, but so will we.

Historically, the reformers were visionary pioneers. Yet Martin Luther and John Wesley did not battle the theology of the church; they waged war against the traditions that had arisen. Actually, they recognized that traditionalism had warped the theology. The holiness tradition is precious and basic for us, but it is not a form or style or fashion. Traditionalism is form; it is form made religious.

A few days ago, in a meeting of a district board, Dr. Samuel Taylor, with wisdom and perception, observed that we are being confronted by the formation of an informal or "folk" theology. Some definitions of holiness doctrine and ethic I have heard have actually astonished me. Amazingly, views differ widely from congregation to congregation even within a very limited geographic area. When preachers and teachers who are not clear in their own hearts and minds about the matter define doctrines, the ideas they express become imbedded, and a human traditionalism obscures truth.

Provisional or "folk" theology always tends to add something to the doctrine of holiness to prove how much "holier" we are than someone else. That, my friends, is not holiness; it may be the clearest illustration of the opposite extreme. Jesus took the two biblical elements of holiness, the ceremonial and the ethical, and wrapped them into the Christian concept of entire sanctification. For Wesley, "scriptural holiness" was not a new theology cloaked in abstract or legalistic ideas of absolute perfection. Wesley stated, "Christian perfection . . . is nothing higher and nothing lower than this: the pure love of God and man -- the loving God with all our heart and soul and our neighbor as ourselves. It is love governing the heart and life, running through all our tempers (or emotions), words and actions. I ask no more. I'm interested in no other sort of perfection or holiness."

Christian holiness is perfect love. Sin is not some thing or substance removed by the Holy Spirit in the second work of grace; it is lovelessness, or the inward bent toward ourselves. It is expressed in the claim for my right to myself. In the Plain Account of Christian Perfection, Wesley stated: "Scriptural perfection is, pure love filling the heart, and governing all the words and actions." In his journal, he wrote:

O grant that nothing in my soul

    May dwell, but Thy pure love alone!

O may Thy love possess me whole

    My joy, my treasure, and my crown

Strange flames far from my heart remove!

    My every act, word, thought, be love

It is not to our credit that we have a sound theology and that we hold firmly to doctrines that are precious if we do not work these out practically. Negative attitudes and thinking will strangle and result in death, but the Spirit gives life! If the purity of perfect love is not being demonstrated in the church, it is not a holiness church, whatever the name it bears. Holiness is not something displayed in individual or private piety; holiness is demonstrated in relationships. Anything that prevents me from living in authentic, perfect love for God and those around me is sin.

In his book, The Story of God, Michael Lodahl has written, "Generally, new and vital religious movements eventually cool and harden into inflexible institutions, and while denominations within the Wesleyan tradition are not at all immune to this hardening process, they always carry within themselves at least the potential for breaking out into a fresh openness to God's transforming presence. 'And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us' (1 John 3:24)."  Any statement of belief that has no prevailing, all-consuming passion flowing from a fresh vision is not belief at all; it is fantasy!

How can this pioneer spirit be renewed? It can be renewed by allowing God to restore our vision from a sincere and humbly submissive view of our tenets of faith and practice. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26). May our "heart of flesh" be a heart of such perfect love and compassion that vision will once again fire the pioneer spirit!

2. The Pioneer Spirit Is Courageous. Fear accompanies every change; response to that predictable fear is the difference between pioneers and the security-conscious. Pioneers face fears head-on; they are willing to take risks. The fainthearted say, "You might not make it!" Pioneers say, "Yes, but of what will happen if we do make it!"

Abraham risked everything! Stephen, speaking of Abraham in Acts 7, said, 'God removed him into this country in which you are now living, and He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground.' Robert Jewett, in Letter to Pilgrims, wrote, "To leave the certainties of the past and the familiar, to break away from the bonds of family and nation, and to move courageously into the unknown is the requirement for both maturity and creativity. So the person of faith must necessarily be a pilgrim, breaking resolutely from the illusion of security and moving courageously toward the unknown.

Evansville Eastview Community Church has been victoriously learning this lesson of courage this year. Their church board, challenged by a spiritual vision and burden, voted unanimously to plant a new church in the rapidly growing Warrick County area adjacent to their location. Perhaps their view of the project did not include the realization of losing about 20 people and their pastor! They could have taken the small view, saying, "We cannot afford to give that many people . . . our finances will be severely drained . . . we do not want to lose our pastor . . . this will break up our intimate fellowship . . . the new church will be to close to us . . . they will be 'competition' for us." Instead, they have maintained a spirit of optimism, and when I met with the new church board a few weeks ago, I found a highly talented, energetic, motivated group of leaders with vision and courage. They have expressed a belief that the new church will succeed and grow, and a faith that the mother church will grow stronger because of this venture. This church has a shining history of courage. They have planted at least two other churches previously. The church board has continued to display courage by committing faithful prayer support to the baby church, and financial support equaling twice their Home Mission budget this year.

3. The Pioneer Spirit Is Sacrificial. We might say that sacrifice is an element of grace. The marvel surrounding the grace of God is that of His emptying himself by voluntary humility. For us, then, our response is not that of our grasping, greedily drawing upon His grace like pampered children clutching new trinkets while strolling through the market. We must learn to resist temptations of filling our petitions with "gimmes": "'gimme' more healing, 'gimme' more blessings, 'gimme' more wealth, 'gimme' more grace." God cannot give more grace! He has extended all grace toward us, and the proof is found in an ugly, bloodstained cross. Our response to grace must be that of self-emptying, voluntary humility in obedience and service. I do not demonstrate faith by asking for more of Him; I demonstrate faith by giving more of me!

We must stop praying for revival as though our prayers or our earnestness or our fervor would convince God to send what He is reluctant to give. He is more anxious to send revival than we are to receive it, but our prayers must be: "open our eyes to see our own condition, our lethargy, our comfort, our selfishness. Some prayers are equivalent to saying, "Send revival, but do it our way, on our terms, in a way that will excite and bless us but will not interrupt our agenda."

That is one reason I chose not to use the word "revival" earlier in this report. If God sends a real revival, it will hurt before it helps. If we are not willing to receive the hurt, God cannot trust us with the help. Here is what I mean. We know what evil is. We have become proficient at identifying it, we know how to grieve over it, and we know how to rebel and get angry over it. However, accepting the challenge to maximize the effect of the church upon evil is another matter. Sometimes it appears that commitment extends only to the limits of comfort. In effect, some churches are saying, "Sure, we want to see sinners saved, but not that way!"

For example, there are perhaps as many as 30 to 40 churches on the district that are meeting in buildings inadequate for an effective ministry in this generation, with its varied expectations and opportunities. Forward-looking people will recognize that buildings that are "good enough" for us are not adequate for those we need to reach. And, most often, just fixing up or redecorating the old is not appropriate. Expectations today include clean, sanitary nurseries; large, privacy-accommodating rest rooms; open areas with good lighting for conversation and fellowship; accommodations for the physically challenged; open and airy, bright, sunlit classrooms, sanctuaries built for intimate communication from the pastor; and other well-maintained facilities.

Someone has called this the "welfare generation": a generation willing to live off the sacrifices of those who provided the facilities but unwilling to contribute its own sacrifice. In this time of history, when people choose a church, they do not want to be committed to a status-quo. When they settle in churches that have potential for a great ministry and a great future, some tend to write them off as "unspiritual."

Another example is that of a "territorial ownership" or "parish" mentality. We need to plant many new churches on this district. Let me show you why I say that. The record of church planting by decade in our geographic area is: 1900s--2; 1910s--17; 1920s--36; 1930s--27; 1940s--24; 1950s--37; 1960s--11; 1970s--2; 1980s--3; 1990s--0. So that leave us, now in 1995, with churches in the following age-groups: there are 19 churches between 70 and 90 years old; there are 27 churches between 50 and 69 years old; there are 41 churches between 30 and 49 years old; there are four churches less than 30 years old, and there are zero churches less than 10 years old.

The research of national church data teaches us that most of the churches over age 50 will die and be closed in the near future. (Notice that I said "most," not "all.") The same research shows that churches in the 30- to 49-year age-group are very vulnerable; many have already become communities in which nearly everybody is related either by blood or by marriage. That factor alone makes us know that many of these will also be closed within a few years. We know that new churches grow faster than old churches, so, if we could assume that the churches on this district less than 30 years old are new churches, our potential for growing churches is 4.4%. Those churches are: Zion, 25 years old; Bloomfield, 16 years old; Bloomingdale and Jasper, 12 years old.

"Territorial ownership" and "parish" mentality is the greatest obstacle to meeting this challenge. This mentality says, "This is our territory and we do not want competition. Go plant churches in South America or somewhere and we will pay the General Budget and shout about it." This mentality also says, "We cannot afford to give up any members to start a new church. We are barely making it now." Further, it says, "We are in a small community. If we started another church, people in this area would think we could not get along together."

Starting new churches will require sacrifice! The most difficult sacrifice will be that of "territorial ownership" and "parish" mentality. I guess I might agree that churches or the same denominations are too close together if they were less than two blocks apart. Otherwise, I believe we need many new churches: churches offer an alternative worship style, churches that appeal to a different cultural identity, and churches that are open to new leaders.

4. The Pioneer Spirit Is Resourceful. Pioneers realizing a need will not rest until they have discovered a way of meeting it. Obstacles are only challenges. Whether it meant building a saddle to fit a camel's hump, constructing rafts to cross wide rivers, or developing a rocket to penetrate outer space, pioneers have been undaunted and resourceful.

To recapture the pioneer spirit in the church, we must hear resourceful people with innovative ideas and give them freedom to function. Even if it requires doing things that have never been done before, we must find a way to fulfill the mission of the church. This is not to suggest that we surrender to syncretism. The church has always been, and must always be, a counterculture. Absolutes such as the value of life, sexual purity, monogamy, honesty, and individual equality are "foolishness" to the greater society-at-large, but we must never surrender our differences in these matters.

Yet, we must be a resourceful and creative counterculture rather than reactionary. "Wise as serpents and harmless as doves." A reactionary, angry, caustic, censorious, lofty, holier-than-thou spirit will only serve to distance us from the task we have been given. We must find and develop more and better ways to model and teach recovery, deliverance, redemption, and hope in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps we need to challenge the meaning of church attendance. Just what does church attendance mean? On the one hand, it has been perceived, the church "puts on its production" and the size of the audience gathered is the reward for successful and attractive performance. On the other hand, it has been perceived that every "real" follower of Christ will be present for each announced event to affirm dedication loyalty to God and the church.

My understanding of the New Testament makes me sure that God is not interested in developing an audience; He wants to make disciples. Given that understanding, the pioneer spirit does not judge progress by the number of attendees at a certain event, but rather, it judges progress by the extent of the church in ministry. The question, therefore, is not, "How many people did you get under your roof?" The question is, "How many did you get out from under your roof to minister?" It is not, "How many did you bring to Christ," but "To how many did you bring Christ?" Taking Christ out of the church and into the world is far more meaningful than bringing people into a building. Reporting statistics may bring praise and fame, but "He that winneth souls is wise."

Those who are going out to plant the new church in Warrick County have this resourceful pioneer spirit. These are the missionaries who have heard God's call and have chosen to leave the comforts and security of the established church with its finely tuned organization and its excellent program. I congratulate Pastor Roger Goff and these highly motivated, deeply spiritual people who have given themselves to this important work for the kingdom of God.

5. The Pioneer Spirit Is Rewarding. For the pioneer, the reward is not just that which awaits at the end of the trail. The reward is in the journey. Around the next turn there is an exciting experience; over the next ridge is a surprise of exhilarating beauty. Nothing is stagnant or stale; each day is met with fresh and refreshing anticipation.

Life is short. I know that I will probably not live long enough to see the complete fulfillment of my dream for Southwest Indiana District. If I can, in the remaining span of my days, set in motion those things that will make a difference for eternity, I do not need to see the end of the reward. The reward is in the journey. Of my leadership, what shall be written? Will it say, "He kept it going," "He held it together," "He was esteemed and loved?" It is not in the writing of this kind of history that my dream lives. What of heaven's history books? It is being written there now, "and the books will be opened." Perhaps heaven's scribe would be kind enough to write: "He, in the tradition of Wesley, created a restlessness . . . a searching, striving frustration for a better way; a way to make the good news of Jesus Christ come alive to a complex culture, and he helped to open the doors of the church to succeeding generations."

Just who am I to say these things to you? Nobody special . . . just one of you. Not a "nobody" trying to be a "somebody"; a "nobody" content to be a "nobody" so that He who is Somebody may see His will accomplished. Just one of you . . . A child of S[outh] W[est] I[ndiana] D[istrict Church of the Nazarene] who grew up around the church, who knelt at your altars, who attended your youth camps. As a teenager and young adult, I became despairing about God . . . an agnostic, who knew that I could never be good enough for God to ever like me. I knew that I could never live a life deserving of heaven . . . that this tyrant God, who could hardly wait to cast me into outer darkness, was beyond human reach or understanding.

One day, nearly halfway around the world from home, God sent a messenger to me who demonstrated perfect love. Very gently, from his heart of compassion, he said, "Knowing God is not a matter of keeping the rules, it is a love affair with a Person: Jesus Christ." Those words began to bore a hole through my agnosticism, and my defenses became weaker until, at last, Jesus found His way into my heart. Just a "nobody," but one who suddenly became the object of all of God's affection. Reflecting, I can now see that God allowed me to wander about, literally around the world, shaping me to come home; building in me the things that would be needed for this responsibility . . . building in me a vision, a dream, a faith, and mettle for the assignment. Who am I to say these things to you? Just someone with whom God has entrusted stewardship. . . a "nobody" with a breaking heart, a heart breaking to see a renewing of the pioneer spirit.

- M. V. Scutt, District Superintendent, Southwest Indiana District Church of the Nazarene, Annual Report to the District Assembly, 1995.  First published in the District Journal of the Southwest Indiana District.  Used here by permission. (Dr. Scutt is now retired).

Thanks to Marsha Lynn for scanning and editing the article.

Copyright © 1995, M. V. Scutt, Copyright © 2018, Christian Resource Institute
All Rights Reserved.  See Copyright and User Information Notice.

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