American Airlines

Greg McBrayer has been an air traffic controller for more than 30 years. September 11, 2001 changed him and the airlines industry forever. Today Rev. Greg McBrayer is Chief Flight Controller and Chaplain to American Airlines. He operates the largest Airline Chaplaincy program in the world out of DFW in Dallas, Texas.

Christ is Calling YOU

Greg McBrayer: There's been a national emergency, all planes must land at the nearest suitable airport. Flight seven 12. You've been cleared to land at Richmond. This we'll be looking for you. Please keep your crew together and at that time, would you please contact me on arrival?

Probably the most defining day in my career and in my ministry was 9/11. The day was a day like no other for many people and obviously in this world, but in our industry especially, and they're just streaming up the east coast. It was a beautiful day and then all of a sudden we get a call from the command center in Washington DC that said they wanted us to put all our aircraft on the ground immediately at the nearest suitable airport. We got everything on the ground. It was extremely busy. The thing that probably marked me more than anything was the next day I went into work the next day and we work in a very busy, very stress filled, hectic environment in a flight control center. And I went in there and it was as quiet as this chapel right now. And we had nothing in front of us.

There was no traffic. There's nothing on our radar, our computers, there's nothing to do. And we're sitting there. And at that moment, it really and truly spoke to me, and God spoke to me at that moment, and I've often thought about that moment, countless times since then, and I equate it to 1st Kings. I think of Elijah wanting to hear from God and he's hiding from God and he finally hears him in the soft still voice of the Lord and the silence. And I looked around that room that morning and I saw my coworkers and I could see the anxiety and the fear and the anger on their face, and I was already in ministry at that time and in church ministry. And I remember looking around that room and thinking to myself, dear God, we need you here bad right now. And I can still hear his voice saying, that's why you're there.

Serving Where You’re Most Effective

After that moment, I realized the need for what I was doing and what I could offer in that setting. No one was offering. God places us where we can be most effective, and he raised up one of his own in that environment to meet a need there. And it didn't take the company long at all to recognize the value of that. And I realized that my ministry was tenfold what my colleagues was. I mean, I'm able to do it every single day. It redefined the way I looked at ministry, look at the pages of scriptures. We got a whole Bible full of people that were tent makers that brought ministry to where they were and they're calling their lives. And that's where Jesus went and called them from in their lives and they minister to the people that they knew. Scripture doesn't make it clear, but I'm quite sure that since Matthew was a tax collector, Jesus continued to let Matthew talk to tax collectors, to bring them to faith where he was effective the same way in our work.

There's nowhere else that you can be more effective than where you're at. Anyone in ministry, no one ever feels equipped or qualified, and truthfully we're not. The fact of the matter is God doesn't call the equipped. He equips the call and he places us where we can be most effective.

Caring for Those Around You

Well, in American Airlines, in my daytime job, I am a chief flight controller, which marine means I'm an old guy that's been doing it a long time, but I sit on the flight control bridge that runs American Airlines worldwide. We run the whole company there operationally, tactically, and strategically every day. And that is what my role is, my vocation in that, and that's my profession. But my vocation is I come to work as a priest and a pastor every day. When I go to work in the morning, if there's a need somewhere around American Airlines, I've come in there at four in the morning and at seven found out that we've having an employee that's in Chicago that's at the end of life and they're requesting me to be there and I'm on the next airplane in Chicago. And the company values that.

Pastoring the flock means you're providing a level of care for people in need. And that's what the shepherd does. He cares for the sheep. That's how I envision what I do at American Airlines. I'm surrounded by a bunch of people. A lot of 'em have church homes. A lot of 'em don't. But what they all do have is a need. And you know what? It crosses denominational lines, it crosses faith lines. I have prayed with people from the Muslim faith, from the Jewish faith because when people are in that need, they want someone to compassionately be there in that moment with them. It's the ministry of presence and it's priceless.

I think that the primary need is the same needs that are on the outside of the workplace. I mean, we can't compartmentalize our lives when we come to work. If we're having a struggle at home in our marriage or we're having a struggle at home in our health or with our children or something like that that comes to work with us, we may try to keep it on the other side of the wall. But the fact of the matter, it does come to work with us. And that's where it's hard for a pastor. A person has to come into church a lot of times before a pastor can find how to best because we bring our best selves to church. But when you come to work, it's a little bit different. You bring your family and your problems and all your challenges in life with you, and that instantly becomes part of the way you do your job.

But the fact of the matter is if people are not going to church or not, or they've gotten busy on Sundays with all the other things now that come in our lives and that has diminished our attendance in church, God is deploying to people to where the mission truly is. That's where He is placing in the workplace. It is the greatest place where you can be most effective. You know what? The mission field comes to me every day and the mission field is right where you are, wherever you are, whether it's corporate America at the Walmart. If you go into your job, into your workplace with the intention of what saying, I can be used by God in this place today, there's nothing more rewarding than that because at the end of the day, I know that I was used by God today.

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