When you think of the Pilgrims, what do you think about? For many people, the only noteworthy thing about the Pilgrims is that they were the first to celebrate Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims did in fact have a “thanksgiving” feast with the natives of New England to celebrate God’s provision. (Interestingly, some of the main menu items were venison and seafood!) And the Pilgrims’ peaceful relationships with those natives is noteworthy when you consider that other groups had no desire for peaceful coexistence. But the Pilgrim story is about much more than a holiday. The Pilgrims’ faith, passion, and vision are worthy examples for Christians to follow today.
The Pilgrims were a group of men and women who travelled to America in 1620 to start a community in which they could raise their families in the instruction of the Lord, spread the gospel to the New World, and worship God without oppressive government dictates. Their story begins in England, under the tyrannical reign of King James. The king and his bishops forced everyone to attend state-sanctioned church services. Today, that would be like President Biden telling you what church you are allowed to attend! The Pilgrims first fled from England to Holland. They spent over ten years as sojourners in Holland, living as a close-knit church community, following the Reformed faith, and applying the Bible to their daily lives.
But they had a bigger vision. They were passionate about the advancement of Christ’s kingdom in history. And they sought the Lord’s guidance on how they should be part of that advancement. William Bradford, the famous governor of Plymouth Plantation, wrote that they had “a great hope and inward zeal…of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way hereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”
The Pilgrims were indeed stepping-stones for others who came after them. Their faith, courage, and resolve in travelling to an unknown world led many other Christians to follow. Much of the Christian heritage that our nation enjoys is due to these faithful men and women. This Thanksgiving, let us not only remember the Pilgrims, let us emulate their faith. May we be stepping-stones for those who will come after us for the performing of the great work of advancing Christ’s kingdom.
I thank God for the example of the Pilgrims—men and women who lived out their faith.