There are two kinds of people in any church community. We can call them the “pioneers” and the “settlers”. Pioneers love going out into the world, and preaching the gospel, inviting people into a personal relationship with Jesus. They are the evangelists, the missionaries. Others seem to gravitate towards them because they are often very attractive, charismatic, inspiring people. They turn a “chance” conversation at a bus stop or in the mall into a sharing of testimony to their faith in Jesus and lead others to become believers in Jesus themselves. But as they collect converts, they need to have a church or small group setting where they can bring these newly evangelized believers into, so they can be nurtured in their faith, through teaching, sharing, ministering and mentoring.
This is where the other group of people in a church come in – the settlers. They maintain a base of support and encouragement, where new converts can be received and properly counselled and instructed. The pioneers know they can safely leave their converts in their care, while they go on with their task of evangelizing. Pioneers also need these places for themselves after a time of missionary activity, so they can rest and recover and receive ministry themselves, before setting out again on their evangelization activities. Pioneers need settlers to provide safe havens for themselves and their converts. Settlers need pioneers to keep bringing in new believers; otherwise they will become turned in on themselves, stale and stagnant.
This weekend we are celebrating the feast of St Peter and St Paul, two colossii of the Christian faith. We can say that Paul is most obviously a “pioneer” and the Acts of the Apostles are full of accounts of his missionary journeys into pagan countries, where he sees phenomenal responses to his call to faith in Jesus. But Paul also took care to establish churches in the places where he made converts, so that these could receive the continued nurturing ministry and instruction that he did not have the time to give. Acts also tells us that he had his own “home church” in Antioch, where he would return after his missionary journeys to report back and stay for a while to be refreshed and encouraged.
Peter would be an example of a “settler”. We are not told in Acts of his moving out of his homeland of Israel. Even when persecution of Christians arises there, he stays, so he can provide leadership to the “mother Church” in Jerusalem. It is to this church, and to such as Peter, that Paul will come, in Acts 15, to receive support and validation of his missionary endeavours among the pagans. In his letter to the Galatians, chapter 2, Paul makes note that, while he has been charged with mission to the pagans, Peter had been charged with the mission among the Jews.
Paul and Peter, pioneer and settler. Both were essential to the growth and establishment of the Christian church in the years following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Today, the Church still has need of both pioneers and settlers. Which one are you?