Letters To Pioneers #3: So You Wonder Where All The People Are?
Do you feel lonely, isolated, and misunderstood? Have you embarked on a journey you know is from God, but you’re the only one who “gets it” and you wonder where all the people are?
If so, I have an encouraging word for you today.
I know what it’s like to begin something and have nobody go with you at first. To have little support (or no support at all). I’ve been there many times. It can be tough. It can be discouraging. You wonder why people won’t go on the journey with you, when the path seems so clear. And sometimes you just want to
shake somebody kick something.
I get it.
And then I learned a truth that made all the difference in the world. It took away my discouragement and frustration with other people. This truth helped me understand my pioneering role in the Kingdom so much better.
This truth explains where all the people are, and why they aren’t coming with you yet. This truth will set you free from discouragement too. Want to know what it is?
Here’s the truth that will absolutely set you free from discouragement:
There are two kinds of people involved in this pioneering process: pioneers and settlers.
You’re the pioneer. The other people (you know, those folks that aren’t going with you–the ones that are lagging behind and seem like they’re reluctant to move out) are settlers. And the settlers are doing what settlers are meant to do. They’re occupying the land that was taken by the last pioneering effort.
I know it feels like the settlers should move away from their safe place and pioneer with you.
(After all, we pioneers think we know the one best way for everybody in every situation, right?) 😉
But the thing is, the settlers’ role is necessary too:
- Settlers come in and settle after the pioneers have opened up the land.
- Settlers occupy the land and preserve the territory for the Kingdom. They defend it from enemy attack.
- Settlers build the land up, tame it, and make it useful to the Kingdom. The settlers bring in the harvest.
It costs settlers a lot to do these things. It costs them sweat, tears, and even blood. It costs them years of investment. Years of labor. A lifetime of faithfulness.
But we pioneers don’t often recognize that, because settling anything looks so tame. And we weren’t made for tame. We were made for rugged mountains and rushing rivers and death-defying journeys.
We were made to pioneer.
But settlers were made to settle, and both roles are absolutely necessary in the Kingdom of God.
In order for the Kingdom to increase, we have to be constantly taking new ground AND preserving the ground already taken. Your job as a pioneer is to take new ground. But the settlers’ job is to preserve the ground already taken.
That’s why those settlers aren’t going with you on your journey yet. They may not even realize what they’re doing, but the Lord called them to occupy the land. Occupying the land is in their blood, the same way pioneering is in yours. And if those settlers moved off the land too soon, we’d all lose the land we gained in the prior battle:
- The very land that people fought and bled for.
- Land that took years of pioneering to win.
- The same land that it took the settlers years to build up.
- The same land from which you get your supplies (but that’s another story for another day). 😉
I know it feels like we should all be pioneers, but settling the land is important too. This Body of Christ is a team, and we can’t survive without one another.
Related: Why The Church Needs Teamwork, Not Independent Cowboys
Meanwhile, you may be thinking:
“But surely the settlers have to come out and settle my new land sometime. How long will it take them?”
And that is a question that, unfortunately, I can’t answer. But I can give you some keys to growth that may help you speed up the process:
1. The more you pray, the faster the Kingdom will expand (meaning, the faster the settlers will follow you).
So pray, pray, and pray some more. Pray for God to bring the people He wants to settle this land. Ask God to thrust out laborers into the harvest.
If you take to prayer, pretty soon you’ll look behind you and start to see the settlers coming. Only one or two may come at first, but then others will trickle behind. First a trickle, then a stream, then a flood. God will send the ones He calls, and prayer makes all the difference.
2. Relationships are key.
Pioneers often fly solo. Settlers, however, are more concerned about their families, their sheep, and their responsibilities. Those things are essential to them in their settling call, and they know it. So settlers tend to move when it’s safe–at least, when it’s safer than it was when your pioneering journey first began.
This is what God spoke to pioneers about in Isaiah 62:10:
Go through, go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway!
Take out the stones, lift up a banner for the peoples!” (Isaiah 62:10, emphasis mine).
Pioneers prepare the way for the people.
So how do you apply this? Well, if you want the settlers to follow you sooner, help those people feel safe. Help them know that their way has been prepared. And you do that by building relationships.
When people get to know you, they get to know your heart. They start to care about you as a person, and they begin to care about what you care about.
Relationships help people begin to catch the vision. When someone gets to know you, they come to understand that this pioneering thing you’re doing isn’t completely crazy. And that makes them feel safe.
Relationships help people see that someone has gone before; that someone is familiar with this to-them-uncharted new territory; and look! You survived! So maaaaaybe they could survive too. 🙂
When a settler starts to understand this, suddenly that new land becomes a lot more attractive than it was before. And at the right time, they’ll move out and follow you.
3. Explain to those settlers how your new land can help them.
I don’t want to hurt your feelings or anything here, but it’s important to understand that people don’t do things because you do. They do things because of what’s in it for them. It’s human nature.
This blog is a great example. You don’t read this blog because you heard I existed one day, and you wanted to know all about me. That would be silly, not to mention boring. No; you read this blog because it has something for you.
This blog exists to encourage YOU. When you read it, the Holy Spirit ministers to you. If He didn’t, this blog would be no more interesting to you than a website about computer chip designs or space-time theory. (My apologies to all the computer chip designers and space-time theorists out there. Especially since I actually love space-time theory.) 😉
You get the point. Human nature follows its own good.
Even in the Kingdom, we still do this. We follow things that are pure and holy, but we still seek after our highest good (Jesus). And that’s the way God made us, and it’s right for us to be that way.
Another example: When Americans in the 1800s began to move West, they didn’t leave the East Coast because life in New York City or Boston was so bad. They left because the lure of free farmland, gold for the taking, and endless wildlife to hunt was more appealing than city life.
When you start to understand this, you will see how to interest people in this new land you’re pioneering.
You have to know what people want. And in the Kingdom, people want intimacy with God. They want joy. They want powerful living. They want encounter with God. They want the abundant life that Jesus died to give them. They want victory over the darkness.
So if you’re trying to help people grow …
If you’re trying to help people see the beauty of new land …
Tell them about the difference it’s going to make in their lives. Tell them how this new thing can help them become all Jesus meant for them to be.
This doesn’t mean you get into manipulation or trickery. God never honors manipulation or trickery. But here’s how I use this principle:
- If I’m mentoring somebody, and I really think they should sign up for deliverance counseling, I explain to them how this counseling will help them become free. Going through counseling may be challenging, but the freedom on the other side will be worth it.
- If I’m inviting people to come to the early-morning prayer meeting at my church, I tell them how strong the anointing of the Holy Spirit is there, and how He ministers to every person who comes. I know it’s hard to get up early on Sundays. But the encounter with God is worth it; that’s what it’s all about.
- If I’m encouraging someone to pray when they’re not used to praying, I explain how even one prayer gets serious answers from God. They may not be used to praying, but they want God to answer; so they suddenly become willing to pray.
Anything you’re pioneering is like that. The pioneering path is hard, and you should never pretend there won’t be challenges.
But become excellent at casting the vision.
People need to understand there’s a reward at the end of this path. Make sure they understand the benefits of the new land. Make sure they see that, if God calls them down this road, the journey will be worth it.
And eventually, whoever God calls will come.
Dear pioneer, I know it can be lonely to set out on this pioneer path alone. I know you have been wondering where all the people are.
But the people will come. Right now, they’re doing their job settling the old land. You go ahead and pioneer the new land. Open it up and help it become safe. When God wants others to follow you, they will. In the meantime, pray. Build relationships. And encourage people whom God calls. Make sure they know the reward will be worth the trials they will face.
Eventually, you will have plenty of settlers for your new land… and you’ll be off to pioneer yet another new thing.
Does this message encourage your heart today? If so, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
- Letters To Pioneers #1: So You Feel Like You Don’t Fit In
- Letters To Pioneers #2: So You Wonder What’s Wrong With Your Timing
- Letters To Pioneers #3: So You Wonder Where All The People Are?
- Letters To Pioneers #4: How To Pioneer Within Your Local Church
- Letters To Pioneers #5: When You’re Lonely And Misunderstood
- Letters To Pioneers #6: When Nobody Gives You Any Credit
- Letters To Pioneers #7: When You Feel Completely Inadequate
- Letters To Pioneers #8: What to Do When Your New Thing Dies
Image courtesy of M01229 on Flickr via Creative Commons license. Graphics have been added.
You have written importantly about God’s way of moving through varieties of personality, Jamie. Tremendously wise advice. And helpful to a pioneer who is learning how to “make things safer for the settlers.” I read a lot of pioneer stories when I was in grade school and high school. They made deep impressions on me and fragments of those stories come back to me to stiffen the spine and give me courage. Loneliness was one of the themes; they were none of them of The Little House on the Prairie genre but stories of almost incomprehensible hardship and endurance. I have known a few pioneers, too. I think we can read some of those North American frontier stories back into Biblical accounts of “pioneers” such as Abram leaving Ur, Noah building the ark, Lot getting out of Sodom and Gomorrah in the nick of time, the reluctant prophet Jonah, courageous Ruth who moved into unfamiliar territory and Esther who dared to break conventions, the great visionaries Jeremiah and Daniel, Joseph leading Mary and the infant Jesus to Egypt also in the nick of time and then all the metaphorical “departures from the ordinary” of the prophets culminating in Jesus Himself who inspired the disciples, the church planters, and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration of Paul, Luke, and others who received the call to break new ground for the Kingdom. It’s not that we don’t have company in one sense, but that we so often have to find our pioneer companions in biblical and other literature or on our knees. Your teaching is clear and true, useful and comforting.
Laurna, thank you so much for your sweet encouragement. I’m reminded of Hebrews 11, that great portrait of heroes of faith throughout the ages. And all of those, though they believed, did not inherit the fullness of the promises… because God wanted us to be made perfect with them. How beautiful is that. You are right. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. It’s inspiring to think that they are, somehow, watching us run. May we make our Papa proud!
This is very encouraging to me at this point in time in my life. I feel like I’ve been thrust into the pioneering role and God is enlarging territory so fast. I smile at your comments once people feel safe and the settlers will slowly move in. The analogy is so true as I’m watching what God has done for me and our new church.
Lana, praise God. Yes, I’m seeing Him move quickly too. It seems like He’s not waiting for us to take the land anymore; it’s like He’s taking His own land and I’m just running to catch up, some days! Praising God with you. So glad you were encouraged. Thank you for reading!
Wow, I’m so glad that I visited your blog today. This post felt like God was speaking straight to my heart! I knew after reading the first paragraph that it would speak to me, because I’m in that very situation… I’ve been praying about it. Then I read this today! 🙂
Thanks so much for this encouraging, insightful post. So much truth and wisdom here!
That’s amazing, Lily. Praise God! Thank you for reading. I pray Papa would give you guidance and direction, as well as some pioneering friends who will share the same heart with you, so you won’t be lonely on your journey.
Have a great day!
I just found this series and I AM LOVING IT! I never considered myself a pioneer but you have described me well! I’m looking forward to finishing the series. I’m meeting with my pastor and his wife after the first of the year to talk about some of these very things! Thank you so much for sharing!
Awesome! So glad it blessed you! I speak grace to that conversation in Jesus’ name!