Vanguard: The Origin Story
Discover How The Original Vanguard Speaks To The Modern Warrior
The word vanguard has a very interesting history with amazing applications for those leaders who are serious about being cultural change-agents.
Vanguard comes from the word avant-garde, a 15th century French military term. During this time in history, battle formations were commonly divided into three guards – the van, the middle and the rear. The Van was the advance guard, the front of a forward-moving fighting force.
These were strong warriors with bodies scarred by multiple battles and mindsets hardened to the task in front of them. They were unwavering. Their purpose was two-fold:
Find and destroy the enemy
Secure enemy territory so that the rest of the army could advance
They were bold, a bit surly and seen as a little crazy. After all, who in their right mind would choose the profession of going first into heavily fortified territory?
Every soldier knows that loss is a part of warfare. You lose friends, and often a part of yourself along the way. The warriors of the Vanguard had spent a lifetime on the frontline, but the losses which were meant to break them had only made them that much more determined to destroy the enemy in front of them. They didn’t break and they didn’t retreat. They knew that winning the battle was about more than what they had endured, and so they fought on.
They moved as a team, working together in battle. History says that the Swiss Van was especially lethal. They moved in unison, with incredible flexibility, protecting one another as they dismantled their enemies.
Who Was In This Company?
Typically a vanguard was composed of foreriders and scouts who went ahead of the rest to survey enemy territory in order to gain information and stage raids in enemy camps. High-ranking officers led the Van, and civil officials and their heralds accompanied the fighting men, demanding the surrender of castles and fortified cities.
In addition, harbingers went out well ahead of the army to secure the provision and lodging for the next forward location where the army was to camp. Often, they traveled a day ahead of the main guard so that the army knew their next destination.
Common workmen were incredibly important in the offensive campaigns of the army. These workers, under the direction of the Master of Artillery, leveled ditches and moved fences and gates so that every obstruction in the path of the artillery and baggage of the main army would have a clear path moving forward.
The men of the Van knew each other well. They came from the same communities and backgrounds and had worked together in peacetime. They each took different positions within the Van, but their quest and allegiance was the same. Side-by-side, they fought together under the banner of their lord.
So What Does This Have To Do With You?
If we look at the example of the Van through a modern lens, we see the type of alignment necessary to launch a biblical counter-cultural movement. We need foreriders that will tap into the creativity of God, bringing wisdom from Heaven to create innovative solutions to society’s most pressing problems. We also need scouts that are willing to be the first to go into areas that the church has considered hostile, looking for the best avenues to make an impact.
Many ideas that were once considered counter-cultural have now become mainstream thoughts with legal backing. If we are going to see a biblical shift in our culture, we need leaders that will step up to create policy as mayors, school board officials, congressmen and judges. Leaders not ruled by party, but by a biblical worldview.
As leaders become strategically positioned, there must also be a contingent of heralds – prophets carrying God’s solution to the challenges of society and apostles commanding the surrender of ruling demonic structures in our centers of business and government.
Intercessors with Kingdom vision must begin to employ new strategies in God’s perfect timing to clear out every obstacle that is currently blocking the provision and resources needed to implement God’s strategies.
Harbingers, seeing where God wants to move, must begin to do the work in the spirit to open up new places ahead of the Army. We need a new generation of prophets to release prophetic strategies that show us the forward positions God wants us to move into.
Where Do We Start?
1. It’s Time To Move Back To The Front:
We have ceded our leadership in nearly every aspect of society. With God’s wisdom and creativity, we ought to be at the forefront of innovation and cultural influence, but too often, we find ourselves in the rearguard, letting others take the lead. We’ve agreed with religious lies that have changed our mission from one of leading in all aspects of society, to a mission confined within the walls of the local church. This has to stop. We need to step up, switch our mindsets and posturing back to offense and begin to lead again.
We need to become first movers, boldly pursuing careers as scientists, politicians, journalists, actors and social policymakers, while setting aside religious taboo to become cultural influencers.
Ask yourself, “what new territory should I be advancing into?”
2. We Need Proper Alignment:
We need to put aside our pride and our agendas, and unite. It will mean aligning across denominations, across our gifts and abilities, across communities and within important cultural arenas. We are going to work with people we never thought we would.
Like Peter, we must be willing to put aside our religious prejudices so that we can move fully into God’s plan. We are going to have to trust each other. It might mean partnering with people that think nothing like us. When we do, creative solutions will begin to flow. Collaboration and unusual partnerships will mark where God is moving. Ideals we have doggedly clung to, will fall by the wayside as we begin to see through God’s eyes.
If you only work with the same people, you must consider whether you have become comfortable. In your comfort, can you stretch in the ways God will need you to?
The Van was composed of many different players, each with a pivotal role. We need to find our place in this new alignment.
Do you know your place in God’s Vanguard? If not, what are you doing to find out?
Some might say they are too old or too young, or look at their qualifications and determine they don’t have a place.
To each question, I say, “What’s the risk?” “What’s the payoff?”
Remember, it’s not about who you are, but who He is. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living. If you are God-directed in what you teach, in the laws you write, the deals you make or the patients you treat, things that once seemed unchangeable will begin to shift.
Not many are willing to be the first in. It means going into places that are dark, risking personal security and reputation, as well as spiritual comfort. Very few are willing to do the work to be the best in their field – to bite off the big problems that people have deemed unsolvable. Most of us spend the bulk of our time on our own problems, rather than the problem of someone halfway across the world.
Not many… Very few…
That’s why we need a Vanguard – we need someone who will go first. Someone who’s a little crazy.
It’s going to take a little crazy to see a shift in the direction of our society.
– You have to be a little crazy to think you can impact poverty.
– How crazy is it for someone to run for political office and determine they won’t under any circumstances get caught up in political gamesmanship, because that is the only way to get elected?
– Isn’t it a bit crazy for a young man to become a movie director and determine that he will make a movie that is compelling, yet not gratuitous?
– Or how about a young woman deciding to create the next major news outlet without the typical manipulation of modern media, or the religious pandering of Christian wannabes?
That’s a little crazy, friends…but is it possible?
We need your faults, your rough edges and your battle scars, because they have built in you a passion that sees the world differently. We need your faith and your vision. Let’s bite off some big challenges. Let’s come under His banner and declare with battle-hardened passion, “We Are The Van!”
Michael, Nicholas (1983). Armies of Medieval Burgundy 1364–1477. London: Osprey. p. 22–3.
Rogers, Clifford (2007). Soldiers Lives through History: The Middle Ages. Westport: Greenwood. p. 73 -77.
Santosuosso, Antonio (2004). Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels: The Ways of Medieval Warfare. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press. p 291