Recently, I spoke at a gathering of social reformers and cultural influencers. My assignment was to unpack the teaching gift from within the five equipping gifts Paul mentioned in Ephesians 4. In my presentation, I shared there are three expressions of a teaching gift in a reformation context - scouts, pioneers, and settlers. I used the metaphor of the westward expansion of the United States during the 1800s to present my material. What I shared was not limited to the gift of teaching. It actually applies to each instance in life when we ask people to consider something new and invite them to make a journey into the unexplored landscape of a fresh revelation.
Scouts Explore and Persuade
Every journey westward in the 1800s began with a scout heading out alone to discover a previously unexplored route toward a new place. Scouts would return from their scouting venture to invite people to make a pioneering journey based on the revelation and intelligence the scout obtained. Scouts found safe passage through dangerous mountain passes and across swollen rivers. Without the knowledge provided by the scout, those who followed to pioneer a new land would experience greater jeopardy.
In a spiritual context, scouts explore the expanding edge of a fresh revelation where an apostolic blueprint is being considered. This is what John the Baptist did when he cried out from the wilderness announcing the approaching Kingdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ. It is what Paul did when he returned from his missionary journeys.
A spiritual scouting ministry extends an invitation similar to the invitations scouts would present to large bands of wagons gathering in the Midwest waiting to begin their perilous journey westward. They presented pioneers with the details of an explored route and convinced those listening to follow them. A spiritual scout’s ministry is persuasive. It challenges the status quo and invites people to entertain the risk required to follow a new route toward a promise.
Pioneers Learn How To Survive
The second group is the pioneers. They are the first to follow the intelligence gathered by a scout. Most wagon journeys began in the spring allowing the pioneers to travel during the summer months. The timing was critical because pioneers would need to arrive at their destination in the early fall. Once they arrived they would only have a few weeks to construct crude cabins to survive their first winter in an untamed wilderness. Their shoes had either worn out or rotted off in the journey along with their clothing. They learned from mountain men and indigenous people how to make clothing and moccasins from animal skins.
When spiritual pioneers finally arrive in the untamed wilderness of a fresh revelation they must learn how to survive the first season. Like the early pioneers of the American West, some of what a spiritual pioneer brought with them at the start of the journey either wore out or was discarded along the way to lighten their load. Spiritual pioneers need to be clothed with new ways of thinking and new methods of operation in order to survive. Like the children of Israel entering the Promised Land, a place of promise is not always a safe and prepared place when we first enter its boundary.
Settlers Create Culture and Community
Once a pioneer arrived and survived the first winter they become a settler. Once settled, they began to build a sustainable community and culture. Settlers would create social structures, government, housing, transportation, and trade. Those elements would lead to the long-term socio-economic health of the community and as a result, those institutions would create a positive and stable influence on following generations.
In a spiritual application, a pioneer must make the transition from pioneer to a settler or the revelation of the promise will not be fully experienced. A pioneer is a survivalist. Everything is immediate and short-term. That mindset is exhausting and does not allow a person to rest because they live surrounded by the on-going threats of an untamed wilderness. All revelation must mature in its application. Without that maturity, our presence will not be sustainable and our influence will eventually die off from exposure to the harsh elements that always surround the new thing God wants to accomplish.
These three unique assignments of scout, pioneer, and settler are present in any enterprise whether it is the fulfillment of the Great Commission, starting a business, establishing a new direction for civil government or an artist exploring a new genre. It is vital to know in which season your gift is currently assigned. Defining your season will clarify your message and its application and help you lead others to the destination of a promise that was not yet seen when it was initially announced.