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Pioneers & Settlers

Want to know a conundrum? I am a pretty much middle aged introvert who loves people… The best thing in the world is to be in a house by myself and not see anyone for days. Weeks. Months! Oh what Joy!

Then there are people... I love people. People are amaze! I really love people, I love all our different colours and personalities, all our different cultures and languages, songs, stories, the way we develop and grow. We are such a fascinating being, with such capacity, such potential.

I particularly love to explore difference. It is such an amazing thing to be able to recognize and celebrate the things about you that are unique to you, that things that God has made you to be that nobody else could be or do.

There is also something amazing about those places where we have collective difference. Where we become types of things together. For example: gender, parents, cat people, dog people, horse people, spider people, runners, definitely-not-runners, tennis fans, left brains, right brains, personality types, cultures, skills, trades, gifts, talents…etc. I. Could. Go. On…!

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

Several years ago I found out about two more definitions to add to my growing list of collective nouns. These kinds of things are the things I bliss out over- you know, apart from all the other things I bliss out over…!

I was with a group of friends and we listened to a sermon that talked about pioneers and settlers. The person speaking (unfortunately I don’t remember who) spoke about their observation of different types of people spiritually. Some people settle the land, hold the ground that has been claimed, till the soil and establish long term growth. Some people are pioneers who go ahead, experience things first, and are often three steps (sometimes several years) ahead of where the rest of the body of Christ is at. It was a fascinating and transforming moment for us. We had a great discovery discussion afterwards together, identifying our own strengths as individuals. It explained a lot of things for each person at that time about why we felt ‘funny’ in different situations and why sometimes it was difficult for us to understand each others’ perspective.

I have a ‘pioneer’ type personality. I do best when God is taking me into the unknown. Leading me into places that haven’t been explored, showing me things and having me pray through things that may (or will) never come to pass in my lifetime. It is both a Spiritual thing and a personality thing. He is never going to lead us into something that we are not made to enjoy, to love, to thrive in.

It helps me to think in pictures, and the picture I have with this one is the difference between circles and ribbons of influence.

For me, settlers have a circle of influence. They are in the middle with Jesus, and their circle grows from that central point.

Pioneers have a ribbon of influence. They often don’t see the influence they have, because it is behind them, like the wake on a boat, and their eyes are fixed ahead, looking for the path that the Holy Spirit is forging in front of them.

Both kinds overlap each other. Unless the Pioneer finds the way forward, the Settlers can’t move into the opened up, explored space they’ve left behind.

As I understand, the size of the circle, or the ‘wake’ of the ‘ribbon’ depends entirely on the strength of our relationship with Jesus. Also, we cannot judge that influence by what we see here. Again, as I understand it, it is only part of our influence that can be seen here, in time as we understand it. We know that as Christians, as followers of the Narrow Way; “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16b (NIV)

One of the issues that we have as humans is that we aren’t always comfortable around difference. Even when we know that the person next to us is a friend, is in the same situation as we are and is looking for the same things we are; we find a difference between us grating. When we are not able to process difference so that we understand it to our personal satisfaction, conflict can arise. In the past, in ignorance; instead of allowing my Settler brothers and sisters in Christ to be who they were created to be, and do their vital jobs for the Kingdom of God. I have questioned, railed, determined them slow or stupid, and a host of other stuff. In turn, Pioneers are often subject to being labelled as deliberate disrupters and overzealous.

Actually it’s a question of maturity. We notice in the NT that the further along in his walk with God that Paul gets, the smaller the title he gives himself. He starts out calling himself simply an Apostle. As time goes on, the more the years pass, he ends up a servant. It seems that the more we know of ourselves in God, and the more knowledge He gives us of what is going on around us, the lower we need to go. The less we need to make space for ourselves and the more we end up making space for others.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Philippians 2:3-5 (NIV)

I am not talking about not having appropriate boundaries. In fact, our appropriate boundaries increase as we learn who we are in Christ, who God has made us to be and how to live that out. However, our ability to be that person, not matter what is going on around us, is completely secure. We do not need others to change in order for us to be ok. Christ is in us, and that is more than enough.

Unfortunately, sometimes we can also suffer from a case of ‘the grass is greener’. Trust me, if you’re a Pioneer, nothing could be worse than trying to settle down in one spot for an extended period of time. I have had to do it for a couple of years as a season, and that’s bad enough…eewww! I assume that for a Settler, the idea of being able make discoveries might be amazing, but to always be in a new place without any idea of what was going on for your whole life? I don’t know if that would be quite as attractive? If you’re a Settler, you’ll have to tell me. Not being a Settler, it’s a big assumption for me to make...

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (NIV)

I can’t tell Settlers to stop being so much like a Settler if that’s who they’ve been made to be. It’s none of my business. They’re doing their job within their relationship with Jesus. It is my job to grow in maturity and in my relationship with God so that my Pioneering ways follow His lead AND leave a legacy that clears the most effective space for them to move into and occupy.

I just pray that I continue to follow God’s lead both in growing up and in the expansion of influence, the influence He considers to be important.

God Bless You Very Much


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