I purposefully waited for the end of the week to write my Back Page, thinking that I would have at least one fascinating story to regale you with this week. I’m doing ride-a-longs with the Lomita Sheriff’s station again, and those are usually good fodder for this space. Wrong, not this week. I rode for eight hours and didn’t come away with one interesting story to share. There was an identity theft and a vandalized mailbox, followed by a lot of driving around in circles looking for crime. And talking with the deputy. In reality, that’s why I’m there, right

These officers continue to have a tough job. They begin each shift not knowing what the long hours will bring. They meet people on what could be the worst day of their life. I’m not sure they ever get to experience the best day of anyone’s life. Not on the job at least. They enter situations with training but having to make split second decisions that will impact people, and even their own lives.

It’s not quite the job of a pastor. We can plan out our public interactions. And we get the honor of being up close on the best days of people’s lives. True, we also might be present on the worst days of life as well, but holding a hand and reading The Word is much different from having to make life and death decisions in an instant. Worship services are planned with not too many on-the-spot adjustments. They happened but not all that often.

I want to go on record saying that being a sheriff deputy is a tough job and one that should earn our respect. They are moving targets in the community. Yes, the level of support in our community is high, but that’s not true across the county. And yet, these men and women choose to serve, and they sacrifice much to serve the community.

Are there some bad apples among them? Of course. And those bad apples have made everyone else’s job very difficult. News flash: there are some bad apples among us pastors too, and the consequences are the same. And that got me thinking. No profession is immune from people who have risen too quickly, and among pastors it might be more common in the internet age. In the church (at large), there are those whose gifts have rocketed them to fame, but their maturity has not had the time needed to grow into that fame. The result? They crash and burn. And so does the testimony of the Gospel, which breaks my heart.

The stories of failed pastor and failed churches are growing. Just as there are cops who are unhealthy. There are some pastors who are unhealthy. How do we keep from failing? By keeping our eyes on that which is most important. Jesus. And no one or nothing else. Nothing. Serve with humility. Serve with grace. Serve with compassion for the hurting. That attitude will create an environment in which people can grow in God. And don’t forget to pray for one another, especially those who lead. And law enforcement.

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