Pioneers or settlers?

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” — Psalms 145:4 (NLT)

We are always only one generation away from a failure to pass on the faith. I’m thankful that over 2,000 years ago the Lord Jesus passed it on to His disciples, who passed it on to the next generation, who passed it on to the next, and so on until the present day. Every generation has to take on a “pioneering” spirit and be willing to make sacrifices and take risks to give the next generation the gospel. Yet, the sacrifices of former generations of believers have given us such a safe and comfortable environment in America to hear and believe, that we are in danger of living according to a kind of “settler” mindset.

What do I mean by a “pioneering” or “settler mindset?” Remember the history of the pioneers who set off across the plains of America to explore and establish homes and towns to live out West? They risked everything to go into the unknown. They just went out by faith. Sure, they took some arrows, but they also experienced the joy and adventure of seeing their faith become reality. On the other hand, settlers waited for the way to be more established before joining the move Westward. They didn’t pay the cost that the pioneers did to live in a new and wonderful place. As a result, they didn’t always appreciate what they had and didn’t understand that keeping and growing it would require more sacrifice.

Our church is filled with both mindsets. When we first started out in my living room in 1992, our church was a “pioneers only” kind of place. Everything we did was by faith. We started with nothing, but we trusted God. Little by little and year by year, the Lord grew our church family. We were a portable church for 19 years, renting schools and other locations for our meetings. Settlers would sometimes visit, but rarely stay with us.

But in 2011, the Lord provided a more permanent place, so we moved into the old Regal Cinema and converted it into our church home. Our attendance doubled overnight. For the first time in our church history, we started attracting and keeping settlers. We’re glad to have them. Yet, how do we keep our pioneering mindset? How do we stay on mission to reach our city with the Good News? How can we see God stir the hearts of our church family to never stop pioneering?

J.D. Greer, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh, NC, recently wrote his church about this very topic. He called the pioneer mindset, “first-generation” and the settler mindset, “second generation.” Here’s his list of differences between the two from his blog article entitled, It’s Time to Regain First-generation Faith.

“Here’s the difference in first generation and second generation:

  • First generation does “whatever it takes.” Second generation does “only what I’m asked to do.”
  • First generation assumes personal responsibility. Second generation assumes someone else will do it.
  • First generation expects personal sacrifice. Second generation expects personal comfort.
  • First generation sees problems and seeks solutions. Second generation sees problems and complains.
  • First generation sees possibilities and dreams about what could be. Second generation sees barriers and reasons to quit.
  • First generation hears the voice of God firsthand and owns the vision. Second generation inherits the vision secondhand and questions every decision.
  • First generation steps out with bold, reckless trust in God. Second generation sits satisfied in the stability of the institution.
  • First generation fears holding anything back from God. Second generation fears commitment.
  • First generation feels privileged to be a part of the movement. Second generation feels entitled to the benefits of the institution.”

Based on Pastor Greer’s list, which mindset best describes you? If you answered, “Second generation. I’m more of a settler.” Are you willing to let God change your mindset to a “first generation,” pioneering kind of thinking?

Jesus calls every generation to rise up and answer the call to make disciples. Let’s not be like the generation that followed the one that took the Promised Land:

“After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.” — Judges 2:10 (NLT)

Let’s rise up and commit to always being a pioneering church on mission for Jesus!

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