Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 14, 1963
NUMBER 44, PAGE 3,10b


Sewell Hall

From early childhood we have admired the pioneers, men who have stepped out ahead of the crowd in every field to prepare the way for others to follow. We have honored men like Columbus and Magellan, Pasteur and Lister, Bell and Marconi, Ford and the Wright brothers. In fact, their lives have been so glamorized that some short-sighted individuals sit back in comfort and dream of their days, regretting that there is no more pioneering to be done and wishing they could have been among them. They show by this that they would not have been among them. There is still pioneering to be done in every field, but few in our age have the qualities that pioneering requires.

Spiritual Frontiers

In the field of evangelism, there have been great pioneers. Among them, the apostle Paul must be conceded first place. His pioneering spirit is clearly revealed in Romans 15:20,21: "Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: But, as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand." In more recent years, men like Campbell and Stone blazed a trail through the jungle of human doctrines and organizations, uncovering with the sword of the Spirit the ancient landmarks. A few men like J. M. McCaleb left the comforts of home and crossed the seas to dwell for decades among strange peoples, preaching Christ. Here in Birmingham we honor brother John T. Lewis who came to this city almost sixty years ago when only a small band of disciples were meeting together in an upper room.

Let us not, however, look back to these men and their day with regret, supposing that the days of the pioneers are past. There are frontiers today just as challenging as those they faced. There are whole nations where not one voice is raised for pure Christianity. Relatively untouched are large population areas in our own country as, for example, the state of New Jersey whose needs have been so graphically described in recent articles by Bill Echols. There are cities today, as Birmingham was sixty years ago, where a little struggling body of Christians is seeking a preacher and cannot find one to answer their call. The frontiers are still with us but where are the pioneers?

Qualities Of A Pioneer

A pioneer must first have vision to see what others have not seen. Columbus had to visualize what lay beyond the horizon past which the ships of his day had not sailed. The Wright brothers had to see what no one else had seen and they had to be ready to do what no one else had done. Here is where too much of our evangelism has been aborted. We have not been able to see the peoples of other lands and distant cities as anything but population figures in a geography book. The war with its shifting of population and movement of men tended to scatter abroad the people of God and what world evangelism has been done has been done largely in the wake of that scattering. But the pioneering spirit of J. M. McCaleb recognized the need of the Japanese when only a handful of Americans had ever set foot on Japanese soil.

A pioneer must have a different measure of success from that of the multitudes. The world has always measured a man's success by the clothes he wore, the kind of house he inhabited, the kind of chariot he drove or the amount of work he did (usually in inverse ratio). These things did not concern Magellan, or Daniel Boone, or Edison. They had other goals in mind. In the same way, the pioneer for Christ in choosing his field of work will not be concerned with the size of the church, the kind of building they own, the salary they pay, the vacation time they allow, the house they provide, or the reputation that will attend the position. He has other purposes in mind. Pioneers have always had to stand alone in strange cities, to eat and sleep in filthy and unhealthful circumstances, to speak often to hostile audiences, to be poorly supported, to be the object of ridicule and to be generally unappreciated in their generation. He who would shrink from these things is deceiving himself if he thinks he wants to be a pioneer. The true pioneer says with Paul, "I hold not my life of any account as dear unto myself, so that I may accomplish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24) Success in accomplishing this is the only success he seeks.

A pioneer must be able to adapt to different environments and circumstances. He must learn to adjust himself to new customs, new cultures, and even new languages. This is more difficult for some than for others. Peter was not quite so adept at it as Paul. He found it difficult to "become all things to all men."