"Pioneer: Noun, singular. One who is among the first to go somewhere or to do something."
There is a mystique about pioneers. They often seem larger than life, braver, stronger, more dedicated than the rest of us as they bravely go where no one has gone before. When I was a kid I thought it would be neat to be a pioneer – one of the first people to explore unknown continents, open the US West, go to the Moon, or whatever. Now I’m older, I realize it was not as easy as I thought for the ones who were the first to do these things.
Whether being among the first to open up new continents or making some other kind of new path in any age, being a pioneer has an extra share of difficulties most of us don’t have to face. Certainly the first Christians found this. They were pioneers who had to map out and go through a whole new way of life that often met discouraging obstacles and dangerous opposition. Just think about Stephen (Acts 7:59) or Paul (2 Corinthians 11:25) or what many of the early disciples went through (Acts 8:1).
So who are the spiritual pioneers today? Who are the Christians who face the particular difficulties inherent in walking the path alone – in being the first to do something with much more limited support and encouragement from others? Those people do exist in our faith – and their numbers are growing. They are the pioneers – the first in their families or villages to convert to Christianity from other faiths – groups that are often hostile to Christianity itself.
When individuals come to the knowledge of the truth in many parts of the world, they cannot help but stand out; and in those areas they may be regarded as apostates from their background faith – worthy of harassment, punishment, and even death. It is not a hypothetical situation, it is an ongoing reality that sees Christians afflicted and even killed in areas not officially classified as areas of persecution. Often these individuals are rejected by their own families and friends and have no local support to which they can turn.
There are other pioneers also worthy of our concern today. Consider the pioneers in various areas of humanitarian effort – the William Wilberforce’s of today, those fighting human trafficking, substance enslavement, and every other evil in this world – all who are struggling against steep odds and difficult conditions to suppress evil and to help people where help is needed.
Wherever they are, pioneers don’t have it easy. We may sometimes think we do not either, but they have it worse. The pioneers often encounter so many more obstacles, so much more opposition. They face more dangers, endure more discouragement, loneliness and for many, fear. It’s harder for pioneers than for most of us except in one area. It’s easier for them to give up. We need to pray for the pioneers.