Third-Class Tickets

In the days of stagecoaches, outlaws, and the Wild West, you had choices. When you bought a ticket on the nine-passenger Concord stagecoach, you could choose between three options.

First-class tickets guaranteed you a seat in the coach no matter what the weather or circumstances, though you might still be robbed or shot. Second-class tickets required you to get out of the coach from time to time and walk alongside it, if the horses were tired or the road too muddy to allow easy passage. Third-class tickets—the cheapest—allowed you to ride in the coach but required you to get out, roll up your sleeves, and push it when it was bogged or negotiating particularly steep terrain…and do so without complaining.

No prizes for guessing what ticket you purchased when you said “Yes” to Christian leadership. Or is that not so obvious?

In a culture steeped in entitlement, a culture that expects leadership to involve perks and privileges, and a culture that believes leaders have a more sacred role than followers, we may actually (perhaps even unintentionally) start believing that leaders are “first-class ticket-holders.”

But the Kingdom of God, in typical fashion, turns such wrong-headed thinking upsidedown.

The decision to follow Jesus and walk by the Spirit of God is a commitment to “get out and push whenever asked—without complaining.” Indeed—surprise, surprise—there are no first-class or second-class tickets available!

Upon her Inauguration as President at the beleaguered and struggling Vanguard University (Southern California) in 2010, Carol Taylor received a Third-Class Ticket. The speaker in that service—Dr. George Wood—made it clear that Presidency was not the pathway to privilege but the responsibility to serve; sacrificially, whole-heartedly, and uncomplainingly.

Grumbling and complaining can reach sophisticated levels among us. We like to look like martyrs without shedding a drop of blood. But our chronic misery (“Woe is me”) perhaps betrays a “first-class ticket” heart.

In many respects, the American Wild West has not passed into history. The stagecoaches may belong to museums and historic sites, but we must still choose our ticket. And as Christ moves you from one place to another—through one season and another—for one purpose or another—what class ticket have you bought?

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8 Responses to Third-Class Tickets

  1. Our founding fathers hit rough seas on their way to America. On this election day, let us remember that one must make it through the rough waters to arrive at the final destination. Our final destination in American is freedom, and the Bible tells us that where the Lord is – there you will find freedom.

  2. says:

    Isn’t this the truth!!! I’ve got the dirty hands and knees to prove it!! Update on my dad – hospice from the VA has given him six weeks, maybe less. Would you consider coming by the care home and administering Communion to my dad, my mom and I?? I believe this act, which will relate to my father – a former altar boy – will help my dad confirm that Jesus died for his sins and the leaving of this body is intentional, for the Kingdom of Lord is where our hearts find home. Bless you! Happy election day! What is loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Heide
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  3. Tim Brokaw says:

    I just preached on October 28 from 1 Peter 5 on elders. I wish had access to this post then! Good stuff.

  4. Thank you David. Very true words, and always good to remember…especially when in the midst of ‘pushing’ on sometimes our hands and knees! The layers of leadership are many, and many of them are less-than-glamourous. Remembering the true heart of service the role requires helps us remember leadership is not about position, perks or separation from those we may be leading, but about collaboration, connection and at times, ‘pushing the stagecoach’ right along with others. Great post, David. Thank you.

  5. Jan Neff says:

    Anyone who has worked in a church start-up where there’s set up and tear down every weekend should, hopefully, relate. My frustration was with one staff member who believed we staff shouldn’t have to do ‘that’ work. I always figured you lead from the front, and if I wasn’t willing to do it, I shouldn’t expect anyone else to. But sometimes we have to overcome how we were raised, too. As the oldest girl in a farm family, I was just expected to do and be certain things. I see a difference even in a younger sibling. Plus, now that I’ve reached a certain age, it is easier to see the entitlement in many younger people. Hmmmmmm, wonder how they got that way?!

    • David Timms says:

      Thanks for your note, Jan. Reminds me of my childhood when each family was rostered for a weekend of “church cleaning.” There’s something to be said for pushing the wagon uphill together. 🙂

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