Pioneers Get The Arrows...

Author: Pastor Charles Tapp
December 06, 2018

Last year during Sligo’s worship conference, Consumed, Dr. Cedric Dent, a presenter and one of the founding members of the Grammy award winning acapella group, Take 6, made a profound statement that I feel bears repeating. In the midst of sharing with the attendees of the conference the story of how Take 6 came into existence, along with some of the unique challenges the group faced as they were embarking upon unchartered waters in the Christian music industry, Dent made the following statement: “Pioneers get the arrows, but it’s the settlers who get the land.”

I have to admit that this statement had such an impact on me that I still remember the emotions I felt when I first heard it. Almost immediately, I began to consider the metaphorical implications of his words for my own life as well as for the lives of so many others. In essence, Dr. Dent was saying that there are those in this life who are determined to chart a path for their lives despite the opposition or “arrows” they know they might have to face, simply because this is the path they feel compelled to follow. But what makes this journey equally challenging is that those who follow it usually don’t receive the greatest benefit from their sacrifice and hard work. That is reserved for those who come after them.

I believe the Apostle Paul expresses this very same sentiment when he says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2). In other words, in order to follow Jesus and become a Christian, we must be willing to become nonconformists. By definition, a nonconformist is a person who by his or her behavior or views is not willing to conform to the prevailing ideas or practices, despite the opposition he or she might face. And if this doesn’t describe Jesus, I’m not sure what does. Whether it was in regards to the prevailing ideas of salvation or in regards to the observance of the Sabbath, Jesus was a nonconformist. Not because he was trying to be difficult, but rather because he always made the decision to follow the way of what was just and what was right.

Because Jesus was a nonconformist, he was not a very popular person. That is, not until long after his death. And for some reason, the plight of the nonconformist seems to be that the value of their contribution is only recognized long after they have departed from the scene. Case in point: The Reformer Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation. History reminds us that it was Luther’s decision to become a nonconformist that compelled him to defiantly nail his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. And because this pioneer had the courage to challenge the status quo of even the church, the settlers, those of us who have arrived on the scene much later, can enjoy the fruit of the land.

 Another nonconformist was Ellen White. As Ellen Harmon at the time, she and her family were disfellowshipped from their Methodist Church because they refused to conform to the prevailing ideas of their denomination regarding prophetic events. They chose to follow their conscience instead, ultimately leading young Ellen to becoming one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And then there is Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King was a nonconformist who chose to go up against not only the ideas of many of his fellow clergy, but also opposed the prevailing laws of the land in order that one day “justice might roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” into the lives of the citizens of this nation, regardless of the color of their skin. Pioneers, or should I say nonconformists, made the decision to take the plunge into the unknown, in some cases the dangerous unknown, in order that those who would one day follow behind them could safely occupy the land and settle in it.

But the question that begs to be asked today is, where are the nonconformists of our time, in our country and yes, even in our church? Where are the pioneers of today who are willing to pay the price and take a stand for justice and and righteousness in order that one day, long after they are gone, those who are able to follow behind them might have the luxury of settling in the land because they chose not to settle for the land? Is it you? Is it I? Sadly, only time will tell, and as we well know, time is running out.

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