Last year, Lewis Pugh swam the length of the English channel in 49 days, a feat no one else has ever attempted. He famously said, “The world is divided between pioneers and followers; you can’t be both.”
In some way, everyone stands upon the shoulders of those who’ve gone before. This is the mark of progress, the result of family ties, having learned from history, and living in this century instead of the last.
I understand what Lewis Pugh was saying. Either we dare to venture out and be the first—or we follow other people’s successes.
So, what are we? Pioneers or followers?
It’s interesting to think about these concepts in the light of the Bible.
Jesus said Follow me no less than seventeen times (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21; Mark 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:23; 9:59; 18:22; John 1:43; 10:27; 12:26; 13:36; and in John 21:19). An angel freed Peter from prison with the words, Follow me.
We are supposed to follow Jesus. We do well to follow Him. The Apostle Paul said, Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) which lets us know we can follow Christ-followers.
By definition, a pioneer is: “1. a person who is one of the first to settle in an area. 2. a person who begins or helps develop something new and prepares the way for others to follow” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
In the Bible, there’s an example of someone who prepared the way: John the Baptist. Even before he was born, he recognized Jesus. His mission in life was to help people be prepared for Jesus’ coming.
The angel told Zacharias: Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:13, 15-17).
So John the Baptist grew up and started preaching. His message was, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight (Matthew 3:2-3).
The people listened to John and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:6). As he baptized, John said, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matthew 3:11).
John was a pioneer. He prepared the way for others to follow …
Each Christian has a duty to serve the Lord, to glorify Him with his actions, and to shine as a light in the world.
May we break ground so that others might follow—as we follow Christ. Pioneers and followers: may we be both.