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“I’ve always enjoyed building and fixing things,” says Brandon Yates.
After high school, Yates became an electrician. A fast study, he advanced quickly through the first two electrical certifications, apprentice and journeyman. Finally, when he became a master electrician in 1999, Yates founded KC One, an electrical contracting services company based in Kansas City, Missouri.
Craftsman is a lost word in our day,” says Yates, now 37, who aims to change that by recruiting hardworking high-school graduates with an aptitude for making things. KC One’s apprenticeship program provides on-the-job training and certifications for one or two young electricians each year. “Society teaches these kids that they’ll become losers if they become electricians. My job is to unteach them.”
The perception that the trades offer less status and money, and demand less intelligence, is one likely reason young people have turned away from careers in the trades for several generations. In Yates’s school district, officials recently shuttered the entire shop class program. In our “cultural iconography,” notes scholar Mike Rose, the craftsman is a “muscled arm, sleeve rolled tight against biceps, but no thought bright behind the eye, no image that links hands and brain.” Thinking, it’s assumed, is for the office, not the shop.

Josh Mabe (photo credit:  Gary Gnidovic // CT Magazine)

Josh Mabe (photo credit: Gary Gnidovic // CT Magazine)

But considering that Scripture identifies Jesus himself as a tektōn (Mark 6:3, literally “craftsman” or “one who works with his hands”), we think it’s high time to challenge the tradesman stereotype, and to rethink the modern divide between white collar and blue collar, office and shop, in light of the Divine Craftsman who will one day make all things new.
These paragraphs opened up an essay I worked on for a few months with my friend, Jeff Haanen. It was an exciting project both because of my own history and because it’s a hugely important issue in our society. Writing this essay also provided the opportunity to celebrate the work of two friends—Brandon Yates and Adrian Groff—and share their stories with the Christianity Today audience.
You can read the full essay here, The Handcrafted Gospel. If you’re hungry for a few more stories along these lines, check out a few of the other articles I’ve written for CT along these lines.