Summary: A sermon about following the great commission with courageous faith.

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SERMON TITLE: Pioneers or Settlers!

Texts: Matthew 28:18-20

We’ve all heard stories about the westward expansion of the United States. Leading the way were the pioneers. They were the forerunners who preceded all others exploring the uncharted territories. Their ambition was to investigate every valley, climb every mountain, traverse every desert, cross every river, and face every foe as they explored the land of opportunity that lay before them. They were adventurers, ready to face danger and quite possibly even death in their quest to conquer the new frontier.

After the pioneers came the people we call settlers. When a pathway was created and territories mapped out, caravans of horse drawn wagons took colonists on a westbound trek looking for a place to establish a community and raise a family. When such a place was discovered the settlers pitch tents and then erected homes. Then they built towns, stake out farmlands, and began settlements. Though willing to face danger if it came their way, they had no desire to go out and place themselves in harm’s way. They had no desire to explore the next valley or climb the next peak. They were more interested in safety and security then with adventure and excitement.

That’s the difference between pioneers and settlers. Pioneers are explorers, seeking to go where no one had gone before. Settlers are different. They seek safety. They avoid risking life and limb preferring the shelter and security of the settlement to the adventurous danger of uncharted territories.

I. Pioneers Versus Settlers

A fellow pastor recently made an interesting observation about pioneers and settlers. He said: “It use to be the settlers who were assured of safety. It was the life of a pioneer that was fraught with danger. In today’s world this has changed. It is no longer the settlers who are safe, but the pioneers. The settlers are dying. The pioneers—those who are willing to venture forth and take risks—they are ones who are truly safe because they are the ones who have the potential to grow and experience new life.”

My friend was thinking specifically about the church when he made this statement. He argues that the contemporary church has rejected the opportunity to be pioneers, opting instead to be simply a settlement. The church today sees itself primarily as a fortress to which believers can retreat from the pains and disappointments of daily living. The church today sees itself as an exclusive club created for the satisfaction of the believer’s social needs. The church today sees itself as a cloister designed primarily for the enrichment of the individual Christian’s personal piety, nothing more. The church today sees itself as a settlement of safety amidst the dangers and difficulties of our contemporary culture.

At no place is this more clearly demonstrated than in the area of church finances. Consider these startling and sobering statistics accumulated David B. Barret. Barret reports that as of 1988, Christian numbered nearly 33 percent of the world’s population, yet they earned 62 percent of the world total earning. Of their earning, Christians spent 97 percent on themselves, 1 percent on secular charities, and gave only 2 percent toward operating the structures of Christianity. The institutions of the Christian church didn’t fair much better. Barret states that the total annual income of organized Christianity was $160 billion, of which $152 billion (95 percent) was spent on ministries for the religious community. Only 5 percent was spent on some type of outreach or ministry for those outside the church. The problem seems clear. The church has become a settlement whose primary purpose is to take care of its residents rather than a community of pioneering pilgrims blazing a trail for the Kingdom of God.

The difference between the pioneer and settler mentality can also be seen in many other areas of the church life. When it comes to ministry, for example, the settler church is self-centered, focused primarily on the wants and desires of those in the church family. The ministry of the pioneer church, on the other hand, is centered on the needs of the world—on feeding the hungry, caring for orphans, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless. When it comes to outreach, the settler church says: “Everyone knows we are here! They can come and join us if they want to.” The pioneer church, however, goes out into the highways and byways to offer an invitation to the Kingdom. The settler church views the members of the parish as a group of hurting people who need continual strokes of support and encouragement. Conversely the pioneer church sees the members of the parish as a group of people who have been blessed by the knowledge of God’s grace and are therefore gifted to be a blessing to others. The settler church sees the pastor as a chaplain whose primary job is to visit members to make sure they feel good about the church. The pioneer church, on the other hand, sees the pastor as a visionary leader whose primary job is to equip the saints for ministry and evangelism.

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