I had an interesting discussion with someone last week. We were talking about statements like these: 

“You’re a volunteer, you’re not a real firefighter.” “You have a job so you can’t be in ministry.” “You’re at the bottom of the seniority list, you can’t be a leader.” Take a minute to come up with the list of statements like these that you have heard over the years. If you are the one making comments like these, please read the whole blog in context before passing judgment. 

What’s intriguing about comments like these is where and when they are made. Typically these comments are made in the context of an occupation, whether someone is paid for the activity or not. Secondly, these comments are made within the confines of a organizational chart. Another thing about these comments is where they pop up and where they don’t. I have never heard someone say, “you’re not a fishermen because you only fish weekends.” “You’re not a high school football player, you only play 8 games a year.” “You can’t be a wood worker, you don’t own a business.” But when it come to areas of life involving leadership and life safety, these statements come out of the woodwork…sorry couldn’t help the pun. 

Let’s take a look at a couple of principles before we look at the statements above. My son Andrew asked me a question awhile back after attending his drivers ed class. “Dad there was an ad for a first aid kit that said I am a first responder. Is that right?” I responded “yes”.  Regardless of who you are, if you are the first person on a scene you are a first responder. What makes the difference is what level of training and experience you have. I know life guards who have never had to make a save. I know people that just as part of life, have a half dozen or more. Whether you are paid or just in the right place at the right time, you are the one who saved a life, if you took appropriate action. It’s all about being available and then acting when a need is evident. The second thing to look at is leadership. It’s tough for many people to handle, but here it is. Leaders are people that others follow, not a position on an org chart. Someone may have all the titles they want before and after their name, if they are not a leader, noone’s going to follow them. Leaders are people that have many different qualities and styles but through their actions, compel people to follow them anywhere, through anything.

To start summing this all up, it boils down to this: You are what you are made for, what you step up to do when it’s needed and what you specialize in. There are many kinds of firefighters and they are all firefighters. The kid digging line, the logistics unit leader, the finance team, the runners, the radio dispatchers and all the other positions on the team are firefighters. Regardless if their job at home is biologist, business owner, full time, part time, volunteer, retired or housewife. They are all still firefighters regardless of anyone’s opinion or expectations. 

The same is true when it come to spiritual things. It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor, church worker, new Christian or lifer. Your availability to meet the needs at hand have more to do with your ability to minister than any title or pay grade. Here is another hard pill for many to swallow. If you are not willing to live life with people, you are incapable of carrying out the Great Commission. Let that soak in a little bit. Remember, you are what you are made for, what you step up to do when it’s needed and what you specialize in. Whether you are paid or not, it’s about being available and taking the appropriate action that saves lives. 

Over the years, I have found one other similarity in pretty much every person I have heard who the beginning statements are made about. They are almost always servant leaders. They don’t care about accolades, position, or power. They care about being available to do what God made them to do. They care about meeting the needs of those who have needs. They put others first because it’s the right thing to do. I heard an EMT tell a reporter one time, “I just do what I hope someone would do for my family if they were in need.” 

These beginning statements are made in ignorance, with uninformed expectations and non-practical standards. If you hear someone make them, put them in their place. If you make these statements, think about what you are saying. Realize that your understanding does not determine other’s understanding and most importantly their willingness to be available when needs arise.