Throughout my 43 years of ministry, I have had the privilege of traveling throughout many different countries and cultures, both representing the modern and the Third World, meeting people from every walk of life.
Also, for many years I served as a church consultant here in the U.S., giving me an opportunity to work with multiple churches that represent different cultures. I’ve worked with churches from the Midwest to the deep South to the East Coast, including New York City, and through them all, I have observed they are all made up of two kinds people. People with two very different mentalities or approaches to their spiritual life. One group is what I would describe as pioneers, and the other as settlers.
Let me explain.
A pioneer is someone who thrives on pushing boundaries and exploring new territory, while the settler strives to put roots down and establish a place that offers safety and security.
This is not a new idea. I read an article long ago by a guy named Wes Seeliger who wrote about the distinction between two mentalities or attitudes. He writes that the only similarity between settlers and pioneers is that they use the same language. In all else they differ. When looked at through the Christian lens, the settler believes eternal life is something to be safeguarded and sung about. To the pioneer, eternal life is a quality of life that needs to be explored and experienced now.
To the settler, the Holy Spirit is no more than a comforting presence, especially in sickness and bereavement, who occasionally is challenging, but not to be taken too seriously. He just keeps us on our toes. To the pioneer, the Holy Spirit is the wild explosive breath of God who is constantly opening new realms for them to explore.
To the settler, sin is breaking the traditional pattern of doing things. His motto is, 'We have always done it this way.' To the pioneer, sin is simply turning back. Instinctively, they know they need to continue to press forward and explore new territories if they are to grow and survive.
On a more practical level, pioneers understand their need to take risk, even if that means they might make a mistake. This doesn’t bother them, because they understand that making mistakes is part of seeing their vision come to life. But to a settler mindset, taking risks represents the possibility of losing something that ensures their safety and security.
Because of this, we often see settlers threatened by pioneers and pioneers feel pitted against settlers, which usually ends with pioneers being ostracized by the settlers.
Now I have no doubt that the same dichotomy is found in every area of business life as well. There are always going be people in their perspective fields who are compelled to press the boundaries of what is known and are willing to look to do things better or in a new way.
What is sad to me is that they don’t realize they need each other. We need both settlers and pioneers in our lives. They are not meant to compete against each other; they are meant to work with each other, supplying to each what the other can’t supply for themselves.
I have also seen places where one person has this pioneering mentality, but all their friends are settlers, so they are left thinking they are the weird ones because they’re so different. They feel like a round peg trying to fit into a square hole
So, with all this in mind, my question to you is: who are you? Are you a pioneer or a settler? And once you figure that out, don’t feel bad that you’re not like everyone else. Be yourself; embrace your pioneering spirit or your desire to set down roots. Neither is wrong, and each needs the other.
Celebrate your differences, but also celebrate how you need one another. Scripture puts it this way in1 Cor 12:21: "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'"
Point being, even though we are different from one another, we still need one another.
"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.