The Changing Frontier


I am naturally curious. Not only that but I’ve always been drawn to the new and unexplored (for me). As a family we like to head out for the day and explore a new (to us) place in Oregon. It could be along the coast, a small town in the high desert, or a new wrinkle in the mountains. It is energizing and thrilling.

It is also no wonder why my favorite genre of books are travel or adventure books. Whether it’s about two dudes retracing the Oregon Trail on a covered wagon, a magazine writer exploring Machu Picchu, a journalist following the steps of Central American immigrant children, or the settling of Astoria on the Oregon coast … these rivet me. Much of this then is about geography and adventure smashed into one, a discovery, or writing about adventure, peril, hardships, suffering, and the like.

As a result when I think about church planting this then becomes the backdrop of my thinking. I’m not even remotely interested in the tried and true, the established, the mundane, or anything like that. Instead I’m interested in the edges of the map … the blank spaces. However, that is a moving target. In the early 2000s what got me interested in all-things urban and the city centers was (then) the lack of emphasis on church planting. “Back then” most church plants were taking place in the suburbs. Now? The narrative has flipped and cities are “in” when it comes to church planting. As a result my thoughts and imagination have turned towards the “new” frontier …

Where is the new frontier?

That is both a geographic and demographic question. There really is no uniform answer because it varies from city to city and region to region. What compels me then are places and people overlooked and left off of most peoples’ maps. Usually then this includes off-the-beaten-paths kinds of places, marginalized populations, and other places and people that don’t quite make it into church planting strategies.

If I’ve learned anything in church planting it is this … there’s not much of a pioneer ethos. Is it because there are no longer any blank spaces on the map in North America? Or, maybe putting it another way … maybe church planters actually do have a bit of a pioneer spirit to them (which you have to) but many denominations and networks ultimately point them to places that really are not that pioneering but instead “settled” (which is now mostly about city centers). Every city and state is FULL of blank spaces on the map. Who will go? How will you go? That’s why we’re here.

Church PlantingSean Benesh