Setting God’s pioneers free?

The need to release lay pioneers from the Church of England’s narrative of resourcing and equipping


  • James Butler



Lay pioneering, Setting God's People Free, resourcing and equipping, laity, mutuality


This paper argues that the reason that the Church of England has strug­gled to relate to lay pioneering is because its primary mode of engagement of resourcing and equipping is out of step with the realities of lay pioneering. It argues that despite numerous recommendations to release the laity in mis­sion and ministry, when it happened through grassroots communities which became known as ‘fresh expressions’, the Church of England was unable to recognize it. By exploring both the “organizational story” and the “grassroots story”, this paper demonstrates that the problem is the Church of England’s reflex to view everything through a lens of resourcing and equipping. This lens means all problems are framed as deficit, in this case of the laity, which are remedied through the resources of the church. The paper reveals that this lens causes it to miss the gifts and challenges of lay pioneering, and makes it unable to engage in the mutual relationships called for in the report “Setting God’s People Free” (Archbishops Council, 2017). The paper calls for a deeper engage­ment by the Church of England with grassroots stories of lay pioneers and to allow the narrative of resourcing and equipping to be interrupted. It suggests that attentive listening to lay pioneers and their stories can lead to more mutual and reciprocal engagement and as a result enrich the Church of England and other denominations.

Author Biography

  • James Butler

    Assistant Coordinator and lecturer of the MA Programme at Church Mission Society, Oxford and Post-doctoral Researcher at the University of Roehampton.







How to Cite

“Setting God’s Pioneers Free? The Need to Release Lay Pioneers from the Church of England’s Narrative of Resourcing and Equipping”. 2022. Ecclesial Futures 3 (1): 23-40.