In the fire service today, the number of instructors seem to almost outnumber the students. There are excellent and well educated instructors who have a passion for what they do. There are average instructors who do a good job and there are those instructors who are merely concerned with receiving a paycheck.
Those who feel called to teach and instruct others take upon the role with great respect. They pour their heart, mind, spirit and energy into the work of “training up others in the way they should go.” As believers in Christ, we should remember that God places great responsibility and accountability on those who instruct others. A responsible leader can be recognized by their work ethic, humility, and consistent daily example. They will be concerned more about the mission and vision for the future than personal recognition. So in the world today how can we recognize those who are leading others in the wrong direction? Let us consider biblical principles rather than our own:
Constantly Condemning & Criticizing
“Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do not understand by instinct-as irrational animals do-will destroy them” (Jude 1:1). As a firefighter we are lifelong students, no matter our title or experience level, thus we should be constantly seeking to improve upon our knowledge, skills, and abilities. When we see someone who is arrogant, not to mistaken with confidence, and spends more time tearing down anyone who doesn’t agree with their teaching we should be raising the red flag. Our words should build up, empower, and hold one another accountable not be divisive, destructive, and slanderous. In other words, we are to be above reproach and continuously seeking the higher path in our lives. In this way, we are mentoring others in the correct behaviors and training up our replacements.
Arrogant & Narcissicistic:
“These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm-shepherds who only feed themselves” (Jude 1:12). As firefighters we should stay humble as we progress. As we journey through our lives we should be cautious of those who attend trainings yet aren’t working and make statements such as “I already know this.” These individuals are also noted by their selfish nature. They often promote themselves but seldom promote or sacrifice for others. As leaders, we should be more concerned about being effective than being acknowledged. If our focus is about helping others, influencing positive change, and making a difference then we won’t become distracted with the trap of selfish ambition.
Claim without Consistency:
“Clouds without rain.” (Jude 1:12b) Many fire service instructors teach quite well but fail to perform nor practice the principles, behaviors, or skills they preach. It is an image that is projected but in reality it is a mere illusion of the person they want everyone to believe that they are. As leaders, we should be constantly aware of the danger of hypocrisy and its collateral damage. If we claim to be able to do something; we should not only be able to do it but be regularly practicing it. If we claim to be proficient then our disciplines and hours of training will be consistent with our claims. Our words must match our actions. It must be seen, felt, and demonstrated daily on and off duty. We are to be who we say we are or else we are leading others astray.
In closing, God’s word gives a great instruction in all areas of our lives and in this example we would be wise to recognize the signs of false teaching. We should be aware of these behaviors and surround ourselves with those who will hold us accountable so we may not slip into these traps. And as we work to become the teachers God has called us to be let us not sit in the seat of judgement of those that behave in these aforementioned areas. We should pray that our hearts would be moved with compassion for these individuals and ‘gently instruct them’ back to the right path. For if we condemn and criticize them for their behavior and do nothing about it we are already on the path to becoming a False Teacher.
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries