The Pioneering Bridgehead

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You often talk about a ‘pioneering bridgehead’ in church planting. What do you mean by this?

  • Sometimes you need somewhere to land as a pioneer when you are moving from place to place.
  • When Colin first came to Manchester, there were a couple who were already praying for a church to be planted there, but needed someone who could lead it. Their house was a bridgehead into the city.

Can we do this intentionally, or are we just looking for people who are already there?

  • In the Bible, Paul deliberately asked Priscilla and Aquila to go to Ephesus and to get established as a bridgehead there.
  • Some people will go to a city or a village but they won’t be the right people to lead something (and they will acknowledge this themselves).
  • They can open their home, gather a few people and give you a room to go to when you are ready to start some meetings.

What are some of the key gifts and qualities that you are looking for in a bridgehead?

  • A good relationship with those who will be coming in after.
  • People who are not trying to grasp things, and who are not phased when another leader comes in.
  • Good Christians!

How do we make the transition from the bridgehead leaders to other leaders as smooth as possible?

  • Sometimes it can be tricky.
  • If there is a grace on it, then it might be that the person who was seen as a bridgehead actually gathers people and can lead it after all.
  • Those coming in afterwards could actually wreck something if God has his hand on it as it is.

This model of church planting could leave things quite ill-defined. How do you help people to live with this?

  • Don’t scatter too broad.
  • Don’t over-promise.
  • When Jesus sent out the 72, they were bridgeheads going ahead of him.

What tips do you have for church leaders who are looking to establish bridgeheads around them?

  • You need to start by getting a new mindset.
  • Many church leaders think mainly about their own church, but you need to take a step back and think in terms of a region.
  • In order to reach 5, 10 or 20 towns/villages in a region, then the life of the leader will need to change.
  • If you don’t have this mindset shift, you will end up with some very frustrated pioneers.
  • Paul seemed to think in terms of regions (e.g. ‘Asia’)

When you have identified potential bridgehead pioneers, what are your first couple of moves to help them get established?

  • Keep in mind the goal of getting a congregation and some kingdom activity going in that place.
  • Look at what gifts those people have and see what you can do with those gifts.

What encouragements do you have for people who are currently pioneering?