What is a Pioneer?

12 Apr

Pioneers are a different breed.  Many times they ‘ride’ alone and actually like it… while simultaneously loving to serve the whole.  They love the job that nobody else can imagine doing; making something out of nothing, going where no one else has gone, finding a way for those behind.  They have learned how to be an overcomer whether with little or much.  And necessity will likely require that they forge a greater dependence and deeper relationship with their Maker.  

Dutch Sheets‘ book Pioneer Spirit, starts off with the song Pioneer sung by Rick Pino and written by Nancy Honeytree in 1989 which captures some of the uniqueness, challenges and joys of the pioneer.


Pioneer, pioneer
Keep pressing onward, beyond your fear
Only the Father goes before you to your own frontier
You’re a pioneer

Uncharted wilderness stretches before you
And you thrive on going where no one has gone
Still it gets lonely when darkness deepens
So sing by the fire until the dawn

You travel light, you travel alone
And when you arrive, nobody knows
But the Father in heaven, He’s glad you can go
For those who come after you will need the road

What you have done others will do
Bigger and better, and faster than you
But you can’t look back, you gotta keep pressing through
There’s a wilderness pathway, calling you

Calling you, calling you clear
Keep pressing onward, you can’t stay here
Only the Father goes before you
To your own frontier
You’re a pioneer

Dutch’s book continues to describe a pioneer this way:

You are often dissatisfied with things as they are and you want to help change them
Something deep inside of you comes alive when you hear someone talk about making a difference
Being in the right is more important than being in the majority
The inconvenience of change bothers you less than the staleness of stagnation
Trying, even when you fail, is more appealing to you than risk-free living
You refuse to quit, realizing that dead-ends and failed attempts are just part of the pathfinding process
The beaten path doesn’t beckon you but uncharted wilderness does
The boredom of the familiar scares you more than the fear of the unknown
Status quo bothers you
You have a warrior spirit that would rather fight, even die, than forfeit liberty
You’d rather advance a cause than maintain a position
Playing it safe isn’t appealing to you
You can’t seem to leave well enough alone.
You want your life to count for more than money or pleasure
Makin’ a difference means more to you than makin’ it big
You’d rather die trying than live trying not to die
You march to the beat of a different drummer, and you often hear a completely different song

Being a pioneer myself makes the sentiments above especially relevant and stirring.  Pioneers start things, pave a way for others and then watch others take it beyond what they could have dreamed.  Their strength usually lies in their ability to dream the initial dream and endure the start-up hardships more graciously than others… and function well without kudos or recognition.  Usually, the pioneer isn’t exceptionally polished… in fact, is fairly crude compared to the settlers who will fine-tune and enhance almost all that the pioneer initiated and modeled.  It’s been said that pioneers take the arrows, settlers take the land.

In a more practical application, parent/children relationships are like that.  As long as we’re decent parents, our kids will usually take our aspirations, acumen and accomplishments to the next level.  We’re happy for them… and proud of them.  That is as it should be.  

Here’s a verse that describes the pioneer (the ‘breaker anointing’) fairly well:

“One who breaks open the way will advance before them; they will break out, pass through the gate, and leave by it.  Their King will pass through before them, the Lord as their leader.” – Micah 2:13

Now, read it in my paraphrase:

Pioneers find a way of breakthrough, and then open a gate so that others will be able to pass through into that same breakthrough.  Of course, it’s all under the leadership of King Jesus who leads us all into triumph. 

Thank God for pioneers!  You are vital to the emergence of anything new.  Don’t give up.  Future beachheads, settlements and civilization itself, depends upon you.  We need you!  

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Josh 1:9



Bonus addendum:

An emotion-awakening poem by Rudyard Kipling.  It describes the power of the Whisper which compels the explorer into unknown possibilities.

The Explorer  (1898)
by Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)

“There’s no sense in going further—it’s the edge of cultivation,”
So they said, and I believed it—broke my land and sowed my crop—
Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop.

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated—so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges—
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

So I went, worn out of patience; never told my nearest neighbours—
Stole away with pack and ponies—left ’em drinking in the town;
And the faith that moveth mountains didn’t seem to help my labours
As I faced the sheer main-ranges, whipping up and leading down.

March by march I puzzled through ’em, turning flanks and dodging shoulders,
Hurried on in hope of water, headed back for lack of grass;
Till I camped above the tree-line—drifted snow and naked boulders—
Felt free air astir to windward—knew I’d stumbled on the Pass.

’Thought to name it for the finder: but that night the Norther found me—
Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies; so I called the camp Despair
(It’s the Railway Gap to-day, though). Then my Whisper waked to hound me:—
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Over yonder! Go you there!”

Then I knew, the while I doubted—knew His Hand was certain o’er me.
Still—it might be self-delusion—scores of better men had died—
I could reach the township living, but … He knows what terror tore me …
But I didn’t … but I didn’t. I went down the other side,

Till the snow ran out in flowers, and the flowers turned to aloes,
And the aloes sprung to thickets and a brimming stream ran by;
But the thickets dwined to thorn-scrub, and the water drained to shallows,
And I dropped again on desert—blasted earth, and blasting sky….

I remember lighting fires; I remember sitting by ’em;
I remember seeing faces, hearing voices, through the smoke;
I remember they were fancy—for I threw a stone to try ’em.
“Something lost behind the Ranges” was the only word they spoke.

I remember going crazy. I remember that I knew it
When I heard myself hallooing to the funny folk I saw.
’Very full of dreams that desert, but my two legs took me through it …
And I used to watch ’em moving with the toes all black and raw.

But at last the country altered—White Man’s country past disputing—
Rolling grass and open timber, with a hint of hills behind—
There I found me food and water, and I lay a week recruiting.
Got my strength and lost my nightmares. Then I entered on my find.

’Thence I ran my first rough survey—chose my trees and blazed and ringed ’em—
Week by week I pried and sampled—week by week my findings grew.
Saul he went to look for donkeys, and by God he found a kingdom!
But by God, who sent His Whisper, I had struck the worth of two!

Up along the hostile mountains, where the hair-poised snowslide shivers—
Down and through the big fat marshes that the virgin ore-bed stains,
Till I heard the mile-wide mutterings of unimagined rivers,
And beyond the nameless timber saw illimitable plains!

’Plotted sites of future cities, traced the easy grades between ’em;
Watched unharnessed rapids wasting fifty thousand head an hour;
Counted leagues of water-frontage through the axe-ripe woods that screen ’em—
Saw the plant to feed a people—up and waiting for the power!

Well I know who’ll take the credit—all the clever chaps that followed—
Came, a dozen men together—never knew my desert-fears;
Tracked me by the camps I’d quitted, used the water-holes I’d hollowed.
They’ll go back and do the talking. They’ll be called the Pioneers!

They will find my sites of townships—not the cities that I set there.
They will rediscover rivers—not my rivers heard at night.
By my own old marks and bearings they will show me how to get there,
By the lonely cairns I builded they will guide my feet aright.

Have I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre?
Have I kept one single nugget—(barring samples)? No, not I!
Because my price was paid me ten times over by my Maker.
But you wouldn’t understand it. You go up and occupy.

Ores you’ll find there; wood and cattle; water-transit sure and steady
(That should keep the railway rates down), coal and iron at your doors.
God took care to hide that country till He judged His people ready,
Then He chose me for His Whisper, and I’ve found it, and it’s yours!

Yes, your “Never-never country”—yes, your “edge of cultivation”
And “no sense in going further”—till I crossed the range to see.
God forgive me! No, I didn’t. It’s God’s present to our nation.
Anybody might have found it but—His Whisper came to Me!

On a related note, here’s something from Brennan Manning, entitled Pioneers and Settlers


12 Responses to “What is a Pioneer?”

  1. Becky April 12, 2016 at 5:46 AM #

    Great post! It was recently prophesied that I have a pioneer spirit, and I really had no idea what that meant. I really appreciate this post, the clarity that it has brought to my purpose, and the validation is has brought to my personal belief system. I may only be a pioneer for my family, but maybe God has more than I am expecting. I guess I’ll have to ask Him about that. Thanks again for this post!

    • Mark Hendrickson April 14, 2016 at 12:15 PM #

      Becky, God bless your discovery process. May He reveal His will and wonders to you about how perfectly He has made you and is equipping you. So that you can boldly go where no man (family member) has gone before. Thereby opening up new doors and new breakthroughs for you and your people. Isn’t God so good!!

  2. Mel Wild April 12, 2016 at 8:10 AM #

    Amen! Good word of encouragement.

    Instead of “Go West, young man,” the call of the wild and wonder-filled is, “Go deeper, farther, higher….” I would add that the pioneer, while encouraged by others, does not need approval or affirmation from without when basking in the bright sunlight of Papa’s smiling face from within! He or she honors the past, but doesn’t live there.

    One of my favorite “pioneer” songs is “You Make Me Brave” by Amanda Cook. Especially, the chorus…
    You make me brave, You make me brave.
    You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
    You make me brave, You make me brave
    No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

    • Deborah Fogal April 13, 2016 at 6:35 AM #

      I sat here in tears as you described my life. I thought I was just weird and meant to be alone. Thank you. A few years ago Patricia King gave a word about the “oxen” anointing and asked others to come up. I was not going to go as I did not understand it. Ground breakers did not sound like me, Something pulled me out of my chair and walked me up there for that anointing. I have asked the Lord why. I have received words from others about being a pioneer. You cleared so much up. Thank you so much.

      • Mark Hendrickson April 14, 2016 at 12:03 PM #

        I know what you mean. We pioneers have felt ‘out of step’ with others. And often wondered if something was wrong with us since we didn’t seem enjoy playing with the other kids like they did. But it’s coming more clear, we’re made perfectly… for a vital job! Now we can enjoy and even celebrate our differentness. God is masterful in the ways He’s made His body with so much variety. Blessings as you plow up new ground for others to enjoy.

    • Mark Hendrickson April 14, 2016 at 12:12 PM #

      Great song by Amanda Cook. Perfect love drives out all fear. No down and dirty combat zones required… or allowed. This is about getting safe in love… His love. “Deeper, farther, higher…” To know this love that passes comprehension… then ‘No Fear’ has new meaning… then I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me… He is bringing us out into a large place!

      • Mel Wild April 14, 2016 at 12:14 PM #

        Amen! How awesome our good, good God is! 🙂

  3. kmanley21 April 12, 2016 at 9:08 AM #

    So good Mark. We will together open a path and make a way, bring a breakthrough for the valley this Sunday night. Can’t wait to join with God Sunday night and see what he wants to do. Karen Duggan

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Mark Hendrickson April 14, 2016 at 12:08 PM #

      Karen Yes, looking forward to being with you on Sunday evening in the Lawrence area. Being a pioneer, this is the kind of stuff I love. New settings, new people, new frontiers. Let’s do it. See you soon!

  4. Terry Rasmussen April 12, 2016 at 10:40 PM #

    I wonder how many live for his smile? or even know what that means.

    • Mark Hendrickson April 14, 2016 at 12:07 PM #

      So good! It seems that pioneers are forced by the shear fact that their ‘job’ is in alone-ness… or on-point. This requires a cultivation and discovery of a more functional and intimate relationship with Him. Reading His smile, and face, and eyes. Recognition of the sounds of His voice… and the personal styles/ways through which He speaks to us. Those may be more appreciated by pioneers because He is all they have… and all they want. Yes… living for that Smile!!!


  1. Beyond the Map – Now that’s living! | Beyond the Map - January 23, 2017

    […] The only way I can stay truly alive is to push beyond the familiar.  In fact, for several years I’ve publicly declared that each time I’m ‘in the saddle’ with God (whether privately or in public) I purpose to do something I’ve never done before.  I’ve resolved to explore what I haven’t seen and experienced before.  Furthermore, if there is a sense that others are dependant upon my discoveries in this new territory, then my motivation is fueled in a most fulfilling and empowering way.  Of course, this is the basic drive of a pioneer… a frontiersman.  (I write further about pioneers, here.) […]

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