VIDEO: FAITH: Often we forget pastors are human too
Published 12:14 am Saturday, October 16, 2021
‘but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So, what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.’ John 8:1-6
So, last week I was pulled over by a police officer for probably only the second time in my life, and for the first time in my life, I was issued a speeding ticket. I was driving through Houston on I-10 where I have driven over 1,000 times on my way to a meeting. I was keeping up with the traffic as I normally do in the city traffic. I passed a vehicle parked on the left shoulder, and in a few seconds the same vehicle was behind me with the red and blue lights flashing. In my shock, I looked down at my speedometer and I cannot remember how fast I was going. As my nervousness and adrenaline began to rise, I pulled over awaiting what was coming next.
Many of you know I am still a Police Chaplain with the Pasadena, Texas Police Department. I have a phone or text conversation with a PPD officer every week, sometimes several times a week. I speak with my former sergeant and assistant chief on a regular basis, and my family celebrates birthdays and holidays with my sergeant and his family. To say the least, I “Support the Blue,” and am willing to do anything I can to help and counsel those who serve in law enforcement. I carry in my wallet an updated and current official State of Texas police identification, which has been necessary to use in many circumstances where I am needed for pastoral and chaplain care.
When the officer came to my truck and asked for my identification and insurance, I presented my police ID as I have been trained to do in instances where I may be pulled over or interact with police officers. The officer immediately began to speak to me in a raised and aggressive voice as he lectured me on the speed limit laws and the reality of Houston being in the top of motor vehicle deaths or serious injuries. I apologized and acknowledged what he was saying was true and how it was obviously important for drivers to abide by the posted speed limits. He when back to his vehicle to run my information and when he came back, I was informed my police credentials were of no value to me and again he lectured me with a raised voice on the importance of following the speed limit. I asked him several questions about what to do now since I had never received a speaking ticket before and then our encounter was over.
For the next several days, I felt embarrassed and even ashamed for being pulled over in the first place and of course for being issued a citation for speeding. I worried about what my wife was going to think. I thought about how my reputation as a pastor and leader in a community service organization is dependent on being seen as an upstanding, respectable, and law-abiding individual. I thought as well of how quickly people in our lives are ready to judge us or give up on us because of mistakes we make or in ways we fail.
I personally believe in and consent to pastors and others in similar positions of public leadership being held to a high standard of integrity, commitment, and humility. I believe strongly in not only the concept of servant leadership, but also in the necessity of living out servant leadership. I must be accountable to my local and international church as well as my family and close mentors and friends. It is more important today than ever for people in my position to not only show the proper behavior and decorum, but also for our heart and life to be legitimately and continually transformed by Christ. I believe it is important for the members of congregations in Orange and Orange County to expect your pastors, priests, and lay church leaders to be the ultimate example of Christlikeness, grace, and holy love, even though all pastors, priests, and lay church leaders are human and make mistakes and even fail people.
‘And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ‘ John 8:7-11
Here is the reality, no one would have known I had received a speeding ticket unless I took the time and space to mention it here. In fact, I assume some who read this will believe it was silly to confess this in my weekly column and might think it unnecessary for a pastor to be concerned with the impact it may have on his reputation. I have brought it to this column for several reasons. In one part, I wanted to use it as a talking point for acknowledging the need for pastors, priests, and lay church leaders to be held to a high standard, but I also wanted to use it to show how people in positions of leadership and responsibility, well at least this person in a position of leadership and responsibility, make mistakes. I often joke with my wife of how I think a lot of people will be surprised if I make it to heaven!
Friends, even with the necessity and need for high expectations and standards for spiritual leaders, I am asking all of us to realize everyone in ministry and spiritual leadership have flaws. We annoy, frustrate, offend, and at times hurt people. It is inevitable and unavoidable. Sometimes when we in ministry fail, the consequences of the failure are catastrophic and require stepping down or taking a break from ministry. Most of the time, our mistakes and flaws are able to be reconciled, but it takes both us and those who we have offended to come together for mutual reconciliation and restitution.
Jesus said: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” These are the words of Jesus, and Jesus would never want us to believe or imply we should never point out sin or even things people do to hurt others. What He wants us to consider and understand is, none of us are without our own failures, faults, and sin, and we should not be people who are eager and even joyful about what someone has done. How we handle the faults and failures of others, even the faults and failures of pastors, priests, and lay church leaders sends a message to the world of how we will receive those who are looking for a Savior.
I close with this. October is Pastor and Priest Appreciation Month for the Christian church. Pastors especially are leaving the ministry now more frequently than ever. There is becoming a crisis of not enough pastors to lead churches in several denominations. Here is a link to a website I found to be interesting. https://shepherdswatchmen.com/browse-all-posts/why-pastors-leave-the-ministry/
I encourage you who attend a church to find a way to show your pastor or priest some extra love and appreciation this month. What really needs to be encouraged is to support and encourage your ministers all year long, especially in the way you handle the faults and failures every ministry has in their life. Don’t let the devil win in our churches! You are Valued and Loved, Pastor B
Rev. Brad McKenzie is Lead Pastor at Orange First Church of the Nazarene, 3810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Orange.