Whilst we know that God, the Trinity, is to be worshiped rather than defined, using words is an attempt to map who God has revealed God’s God-self to be. These words assert that the Trinity, who is the God of stability and order, is also revealed to us as a pioneering God. The point being made here is around our understanding of God’s innovative nature. The Father, through the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, who brought all things into being, recreates us through salvation and then makes all things new. Innovation flows from who God is and freshness is their hallmark of what they do. God takes the initiative in creation, salvation and transformation.
Doctor Luke, in Chapter 15 of his Gospel, speaks profoundly in the three parables of the nature of the God who initiates the seeking of that which is lost, who finds and then rejoices greatly at the restored relationship. It seems as though Luke wants us to see God the Father, in the story of the Prodigal, as the seeking and drawing God. He goes on to portray the Son in the parable as the Shepherd who seeks and finds the sheep. And thirdly, He tells of the seeking Holy Spirit in the parable embodied in the lady who sought and found the lost coin. All three persons of the Trinity are involved in the seeking initiative involved in the salvation of the cosmos.
- Pioneering Parent/Father: The Creation stories reveal the Trinity as work (Genesis 1: 1-3) where all three persons are at work in and during creation. By their initiative all things seen and unseen come into being (1Cor 8:6). Concerns about gender have been voiced, but it is understood that ‘the fatherhood of God’ was plainly central to the New Testament and early church, and it means to speak of the relational nature of God. In Tom Smail’s book, The Forgotten Father, he speaks of God as: initiator, integrator and goal.
God the Father takes the initiative. The Father, as the Creator, brought a new reality into being. God is love and love takes the initiative to express this love in fresh and meaningful ways, in fresh forms of life. As in the birthing of children we see life in fresh forms that are not clones, but are unique. So God creates unique beings and amongst them, life-giving unique movements.
God the Father, as the integrator, longs for us to be connected and restored to himself and that longing draws us. No one comes to the Father unless the Father draws them. The message of scripture is that if we know the Father we know that we are recalled to the whole picture of salvation as central to all we do as a people of God.
God the Father as goal is shown in the relational way Jesus relates to him, in that Jesus is not a slave to God, but lovingly obeys and follows the Father’s leading. Our goal is worship of the Father, to love God and enjoy him forever, and God’s people do this in fresh and meaningful ways as they journey together.
The Father sends his one and only Son, as the Christ, as the expression of God’s apostolic heart and will. God’s initiative is also found in God’s apostolic nature, call and work, reflected in Jesus.
- Pioneering Son: Jesus is known as the innovator through who he is and what he does, how he died and rose again. Jesus Christ, the dominant name given to the Son, was sent from the Father to be ‘God with us’, full of grace and truth, and to reveal God to us. God, in Christ is the One who takes the initiative and reveals to us who God is. We would not know God, unless God revealed God’s God-self to us. The story of the Gospels is of God who chooses to unveil who God is to all of creation, the cosmos. The initiative therefore, is always with God, be it in creation and especially in the Incarnation. God is the One who makes all things new.
The Kingdom that Jesus announces was a shock to the hearers. The context of the Gospels see Jesus as very different from their ‘religion’. Being religious meant for the hearers an offering of a sacrifice or some feeling of affinity towards something, yet it did not require a belief in them. But Jesus, and the message that the church proclaimed from the start, was something very different. Accepting that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the only Son of the Father, embodies the central theme of a relationship with God offered to us by a pioneering God. It was not a form of religion Jesus was offering, it was something completely new and fresh. It was a religion of the heart, not of overturning the political powers of the day in the way they had thought. This Kingdom was and is about relationships.
Jesus shows us that God is supremely interested in human beings, so much so that God becomes one of them, to live their life and die their death. He transforms this by rising from the dead and initiates a new way of being in this life. In all this Jesus takes the initiative and moves towards people. Jesus listens to humanity, both Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, both seemingly powerful and small people, as seen in his encounters with Zacchaeus and the woman at the well (Luke 19: 1-10 and John 4:7). The listening that Jesus offers is a reflection of the way that God connects with people, opening the way for speaking God’s words that brings healing, exorcism and direction.
The cross is that identification with humanity at its most degraded, in other words - death itself. Death is full realisation that we cannot save ourselves and even find peace by ourselves, and need a Saviour. Jesus takes the initiative and comes ‘to seek and save the lost’ (Luke 19:10) and to ‘serve and give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).
The resurrection of Jesus and the promise that He is the first of many to be raised from the dead shows that God holds every human as of ultimate worth and should not be left to die. So the incarnation, death and resurrection is not all that is to be said about Jesus, but is at the heart of it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4: ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…’
The mission of God is Jesus, who he is and how he lived reveals what his people are to do about it. The apostolic nature of Jesus as the One who was sent by the Father now sends his people to do the same (John 20: 21). Our mission is to pioneer new forms of living in the way that Jesus pioneered our salvation for us. The Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20) flows naturally from Christ’s life and work. He charges us to follow where he leads in this pioneering work. The sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father and the Son is God’s way of making sure that God’s pioneering work continues in order to fulfil the words of the One who sits on the Throne and who says: “I am making all things new!” (Revelation 21: 5).
- Pioneering Holy Spirit: The hallmark of the Holy Spirit is freshness. The Spirit proceeds for the Father and then Son and hovers over all creation during creation. The Holy Spirit takes the initiative within each person to enable them to say ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Romans 8: 15-16). The Holy Spirit enables people to know the power of Christ’s saving work which is salvation for themselves.
When the Holy Spirit connects people with Jesus, Church happens. People enter into a relationship with the Triune God and are formed into community and deep fellowship. The Spirit makes this fellowship possible (2 Corinthians 13: 13 and 1 John 1: 3). So those who are sent are the ekklesia of God, which transcends cultures, geography and time (Acts 2). It is the primary work of the Holy Spirit that causes faith to arise and grow, by pointing to Jesus and enabling faith in Jesus.
The Holy Spirit then empowers these people of faith to speak of Jesus and establish new communities of faith. It is the pioneering Spirit that empowers people to go beyond Jerusalem into Judea, Samaria and to the known ends of the earth at the time (Acts 1: 8). The Holy Spirit is then known as ‘God as Pioneer Minister’. Pioneer ministries find their authentication and strength in the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit that enables worship in these communities. Tom Smail likens the Holy Spirit to an artist who endlessly paints pictures of Jesus in new and creative ways for us to see God. Each worship experience is a new opportunity for the Holy Spirit to bring the timeless Gospel into the ‘now’ and transforms the ordinary into the holy and the mundane into the miraculous. So in worship, Christ-followers pray ‘in the Spirit’ (Eph 6: 18) because worship is what God does in us and not what we do for God or what God does for us. Thus, we know that all authentic expressions of worship are real gifts from the Holy Spirit.
This same Holy Spirit transforms human beings from the inside out (2 Corinthians 5: 17) and so they engage with the ministry of reconciliation and transformation as an outworking of grace. The context then increasingly reflects the newness of God in the glory of God in us and as we shape the spaces of our influence around God’s Kingdom (2 Corinthians 3: 18). The ‘new thing’ is the Holy Spirit transforming the old into the new, as in a chrysalis, so the Spirit is taking us into the future where God’s work is complete. God’s Spirit is alive and dynamic, birthing life, and so is not passive and static and with empty traditions for the sake of them. If sin is unresponsiveness to God’s initiative in all forms then responsiveness to the Spirit is life in abundance. This life in the Spirit is meaningful, purposeful and creative, enabling the world to know God, God’s Kingdom and a new way of being.
The Trinitarian God has freshness in a hallmark. We see God as missional. We have a picture of God who takes the initiate in creation, salvation and transformation of the world and declares this as ‘good’. God, as innovator, creator, revealer and empowerer seeks for all God’s people to follow him in this activity as well.