4/24/2007

Stand in the Gap

Recent events show the great need our society has for Christian leadership. Oh, for Christian statesmen and pastors and laypeople to “stand in the gap” for the United Sates of America. I think of two people almost immediately, my Mom and my Scoutmaster. (Both of them died at the end of last year.)

My Mother was an elementary school teacher for over 25 years. She poured her life into her students, placing the value on them her God had impressed upon her soul. This value is called “self esteem” by some, but the concept Mom would have thought of was dignity. Dignity is the value we place on a person because they are made in God’s image, independent of other factors like social status or race. It is a concept our society much needs to regain because so many of our problems result from its absence. Mom’s calling was to show Christ’s love to the children in her classroom. She joyfully laid hold of these opportunities every school day.

My Scoutmaster was an electrician by trade and a Baptist lay leader in our church. This man had a unique gift for reaching those from difficult family backgrounds. I think of several young men whose tendencies could very well have turned violent who found themselves focused on meeting the needs of others and contributing to society. They turned to honorable professions in military service, law enforcement, and other areas.

He didn’t run a boot camp; he ran a disciplined Scout Troop. He ran it according to the “patrol method,” the standard method for organization of a troop. Each scout was allowed to group with other scouts of his choosing to form a “patrol.” This gave a small group of people who could learn to work well with each other. It gave us a group of friends. The patrols elected a leader, who became a member of the troop council. Other leaders were elected by the troop as a whole. We were allowed to run the troop ourselves within limits.

The Scoutmaster passed the “easy chair test.” The idea is that the scouts run the functions of a weekly meeting to the point that the Scoutmaster could sit in the corner of the room in an easy chair and the meeting would run itself. Of course, he rarely did that, he was often working with a scout or scouts to organize the next camping trip, learn to train others, or just tie knots.

(It’s worth mentioning that the guy had lost most of one hand to a skill saw; he had only his pinky finger, part of a ring finger, and part of a thumb. He always won knot tying competitions with the other Scoutmasters and adult leaders. It was impressive.)

Did we make mistakes? Sure. Some of them were pretty bad mistakes. But we learned so much. If I had to choose between what I learned earning my Master’s Degree and what I learned earning the Eagle Scout Award, I’d give back my Master’s in a split second. I learned so much about working with people, organizing activities and projects, and training others. We all did.

Both of these roles were “secular” vocations, but both of these people could recount a time when they felt God had “called” them into those roles. They were living examples of a Protestant work ethic which called all vocations sacred, although they might have had trouble expressing this in abstract theological terms. Both used the respect they had earned in the community and in their jobs to witness of the love of Christ with actions and words.

What will our role be? How will we “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4, ESV). So much depends on us.

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