A Fire Service Accountability Lesson

Are we really who we say we are?

We serve in a tradition of sacrifice, service, and compassion to our fellow man. But somewhere along the way we became lost. The fire service was once a calling and has now become something completely different. Our values are being slowly compromised and eroded. And in all of this we have forgotten someone. We have forgotten God! We model ourselves after the verse “Greater love have no one than this; to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).  But this seems all too often to be played out at the end of one’s life rather than sacrificing for them while they are still on this earth. We choose not to sacrifice for God or for our brothers. The Lord says if we will seek Him first He will give us the desires of our heart and “a broken and contrite heart He will not despise”.  A tradition of those serving their neighbor in their moment of need without thought of recognition or reward has been replaced with irresponsible hero worship of one’s self and actions. We are not invincible and we need to be reminded of that. I understand that this is not the case for everyone in the fire service but if you spend any significant time reading the news, fire websites, or work in the fire service your senses have had to be awakened to this alarming trend.

Where we should begin again & Who will take us there:

The foundation of a house is the most important part. Without a proper foundation the house will collapse. Our future is dependent on us building on a solid foundation. The question we should be asking ourselves is this: What foundation is currently being laid for the future houses of fire service leadership? Is it one of brick and stone or of sand?  Or are they building houses without a foundation at all? What principles, morals, and values do they hold fast to? “But the one, who has heard and not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of the house was great.” (Luke 6:49).  Why is this important? An intelligent leader who doesn’t have a solid moral foundation will ultimately fail the organization personally and or professionally.  They will be manning the life boats alone while the entire organization goes down with the ship. Anyone can learn to be competent in their profession but to be exemplary is to be the one standing up for truth, caring for others, and leading by example (at home and at work). “Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). This is integrity and is what we are missing. Have we become so politically afraid due to the media that we dare not speak up for our beliefs anymore?

Why being good isn’t enough:

The world is constantly telling us how we should look, behave, talk, and act. And if you notice, it is becoming less compassionate and more self centered. It is less about God and more about the individual. In a profession that prides itself in team work, sacrifice, service before self, camaraderie, integrity, courage, and honor we should be about the business of maintaining these foundations. Where is it that the traditional fire service values originated from? Where they from man? Where they from a government? “I know of no other worldview, religious or otherwise, that has the explanatory power of the realities that you and I confront in our daily lives that are inescapable” (Ravi Zacharias).  Christian values are those that our very country was founded on. Whether you believe in God or not, these values are God given and found in His word. An individual’s unbelief in God doesn’t stop Him from existing, nor does it stop his eternals truths, and historical Biblical precepts from changing the very heart of man.  The source of these values is from God and is modeled in the very personhood of Jesus Christ.

I want to share a quote with you:“The character of Jesus has not only been the highest pattern of virtue but the strongest incentive in its practice and it has exerted so deep an influence that it may be honestly said that a simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the dispositions of philosophers combined” This was written by a skeptic, an atheist, W.E.H. Lechey who recognized the greatness of Christ and His influence on mankind. How much more as believers should you and I take to heart the teachings of Jesus? We should be moving mountains in His name and sharing His love every day.

 God’s values should be our foundation

The values that are currently being espoused on us and our children are one of one-upmanship, narcissism, sexual immorality, and they teach that we should be tolerant to all beliefs yet they condemn anyone who disagrees with them all the while removing the very foundations of the freedoms that allow them to say & do these things. Why is this important from a fire service leadership perspective? Our next generation of Captains, Chiefs, City Managers, and leaders are developing their worldview right now under this current doctrine. The following statement sums up the direction we should be heading instead of our current path.

“There is discipline in transformational behavior in that people take actions based on the greater good, or for the right reasons, rather than based on self interest”-Firehouse Zen

Let us be perfectly honest with each other. We are ultimately responsible for this. We are accountable for those nearest to us. This is our 401K if you will. We should be earnestly investing in those around us. If we are not directly influencing those around us, those within our fellowship, we are failing to act and failing to lead. We are, in a sense, being morally negligent in our duties to others. “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is a sin.” (James 4:17).  Wherever you are, whatever role you may be in, there are those that look up to you and watch everything that you do. I have heard it said: “There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the life of a Christian. Most people will never read the first four.”  As Christian leaders in the fire service we must hold ourselves accountable. We must walk in integrity, disciple/mentor, and train others up in the way they should go. The future of the fire service depends on your current Christian witness. Our lives, our successes and our failures, should be living testimonies of our faith. The seeds you sow now will reap dividends in the future. Are you sowing seeds for the future others or for your immediate future? Are you encouraging those around you? Are you leading by example? Is your life one that will leave a mark on others and not just a memory? Is your passion about positively influencing the lives around you or merely how many accolades you receive?

Bring us back O God, let us be refreshed, renewed, and “fan into a flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6). Let this gift of God bring back brotherhood and glorify your name. May this all be for you Jesus who was the greatest servant of all. “For the Spirit of God does not make us timid but gives us power, love, and self discipline” (2 Timothy 1:8)

God Bless & stay safe,

Andy J. Starnes

Isaiah 65:24


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