Monday, February 13, 2006

What Can Church Learn From the Police Dept?

What Can Church Learn From the Police Dept?
I wrote this about a year ago...after being arrested by the Chief of lunch

Whenever I do it, I grow and stretch; and hopefully morph more into the image of the Messiah that I am called to reflect. This holy stretching happens every time I intentionally poise and position myself far enough out of the box, and church, to ask, with no strings or preconceptions, : "What can I learn about God/church/faith from _______________?" And I recklessly fill in the blank with anything (that's the point); especially those persons, technologies, and entities that at a lazy first glance would seem as far removed from Christian mentors as I am from perefectly reflecting; never deflecting, said Messiah.

It's often precisely those people and groups that are not quite Christized than can catapult us into the most productive stretching - learning curves. "All truth ," if it is indeed as we have cliched it, "God's truth"; then we ought to "expect to expect" some of its richest gold to be embedded among the dross and dregs of culture. Could it be that a benevolent Man of stealth wealth with a holy wink in His eye, has buried it there, and now watches expectantly on hidden camera and on tiptoe; hoping to Himself that some day, He'll catch some band of appropriately-greedy, religion-free prospectors boldy coming along, intentionally and eagerly seeking and finding it. Intentionally is the word he's underlining here: he hopes they'll "take initiative by God's initiative" and come; as opposed to tripping over the lid of the treasure chest, and continuing on the way to "church"; assuming it was only trash. But wait a minute, we're not even allowed in that neighborhood, anyway; so how can we even be encouraged, let alone sanctioned to explore and plunder the goldmine, for Christ's sake?... Unless that is the only Sake and Stock we have. I modestly propose we need to explore more often , and with the same wild and wide-eyed joy of the Holy Embedder who has planted such gold among the thorns, ask daringly "What can I learn from the gold to be found in________,?" It may not be politically correct to speak of plundering Egyptians, but it would be good politics to, if you are not familiar with the implications of that biblical analogy for the task and gold at hand, look it up and live it a "theologically correct" way, of course...

So it's really not that large of a stretch, and a modestly modest proposal ask, for the rest of this article, what I/church can glean from the philosophical principles of... say..let's see.... the Fresno Police Department! (You were afraid I was gong to suggest fellowshipping with neoNazis, eh? Next article, maybe!) After all, police departments at their best are clearly after some "compatible with the Kingdom" goals: healthy communities, bettering society etc., right? Is anyone in favor of rampant crime, ruthless murder, societal lawlessness? Sure, some well-meaning churchfolk would Pharisee us into saying we shouldn't mess with plundering potential gold-lessons from even "good" "secular" groups..companies, police departments and the like... because we, as the church, are too "spiritual," and don't even want to be accused of trying to learn from(holy gasp!), let alone incorporate insights (holy heresy!) from "worldly" folk or organizations. The Gold-Hiding Head of the Church, however, actually challenges us in Luke 16:9 to purposely and purposefully "use worldly methods and even worldy wealth" for Kingdom lessons and ends: "Be wise in the same way the worldly are wise..but for right and godly purposes and reasons." This of course is the same irreligious, non-gnostic, rule-breaking Jesus who dared to commision His goldmining gang to be "as sneaky as snakes and as docile as doves" ( Matthew 1o:16) .

I confess, then, I am not yet snake-like enough. I; as an entrenched enchuched person; have a lot to learn, from snakes and pagans, let alone the police. Not to say those three groups are interchangeable!..

...Especially here in Fresno,California. Jerry Dyer, the chief of police, is a Christian.

Now, if you are prematurely saying "yay!" for the wrong reason: "Wow, they have a "Christian police chief! Good news!"; or as some readers I now see, are prematurely saying, "That may be the bad news'. Both sides imagining, by the way, another bully-pulpit sherriff, with Bible and badge both aimed at converting the town against their pagan will." Keep reading. Humble, honest; yet public and unabashed chaser after Christ describes Chief Dyer. He gracefully , not grandiosely, moves in the Matthew 10:16 balance of power. Having allowed the Lord to navigate him through the crucible of personal tragedy and moral failure has authenticated his witness via the requisite and real brokennness. He is not proud of his humility either! Chief has earned his stripes (literally) and his authority. I remember his inauguraration ceremony..or do I I mean worship service? Yes, that's what it was: both/and. I left the sanctuary..excuse me, government hall... remarking to a fellow pastor, " That was one of the most awesome worship services I have been to. " He amened me.

By the way, for the's what I don't mean, and couldn't amen about a worship service/chief of police installation: A hijacking of state by church...or vice versa, which is also a vice...; a grandstanding "enpulpiting" of Christian entree into a public arena and event. The installation liturgy was not hardwired with a "sinner's prayer" where all present accepted the Republican party as their personal Savior, "Let's all worship the stars, stripes and cross; and take back our heathen city for Jesus!", yada yada. Instead, the unsassuming yet uncompromisng faith of the chief earned him incredible favor in simply sharing his story: warts and all; Jesus and all., as he accepted the mantle of his office. His self-effacing , and even "sneaky as a snake and docile as a dove" style granted him the ability to choose the hymns, prayers and pastors that contoured the ceremony in a way that amazingly eschewed triumphalism.; and might even have left the most hardened blue-state ACLUer (Hey, "What can the church learn from the ACLU?") at least picketless, if not accidentally defenseless and humming and hymning along.

To the goldmine then. When I heard that the chief, and the five regional captains who work under him..better yet, alongside him...were to speak to a lunch meeting of Christian leaders; I went eagerly..with gusto for the gold. My only question when I arrived was why didn't I see anyone else taking notes? My prospects for prospecting were encouraged by the official title: something like "The Fresno Police Department's Philosophy and Approach." I came with ears attuned, and prospector's axe sharpened, to hear a talk, for all pracitical and prophetic purposes, "What Can the Church Learn From the Police Department?" I have no idea of the chief was aware of the cross-disciplinary framejacking that he had encouraged, and I was about to commit.

I was not disappointed with the notes; I am about to let you look over my shoulder at them. But I was surprised at how much the simple presentation atmsophered like a senior pastor sharing the vision for the systemic organization of his church; while letting his five associate pastors also speak and testify. Kind of a new wineskin church growth seminar...lunch included. Maybe that's part of who why we are to pray for civic leaders, and why they are "God-instituted authorities over you,": in a very real but underappreciated sense they are pastors/gatekeepers of the city, and the church in a given city. Even if, especially if, they are technically "unconverted."
By the way, and speaking of conversion, as I convert my mess of glossalalic steno-scribblings into a coherent computerized version thereof, I will not work hard at overly organizing my thoughts and outline, nor at drawing out extended specific appplications. For one, I hope the bridge from police to church world will be fairly obvious; even if it is a bridge less travelled.

Mostly, though, because I want the conversation to emerge among all of us in the Christ-community as we go "golding" together. Which leads directly to the first lesson: In a touching and genuine moment, Dyer taught me again how to be a leader/pastor; head of staff without being head of state; a strong leader realizing strength is in the team...working and golding together. He basically gave all the credit to our city's noted turnaround in crime to..not himself, not God (at least not directly), but the five captains that "God gave me." I love hearing senior pastors bragging and blessing on their staff like that, especially when they really mean it (!) it's actually true(!!) and they gladly confess it publicly (!!!). He truly belives in his leaders, trusts them implicitly, and knows that he should spend quality time with them, sharing his heart and home with them..and not just as a smokescreen for forcefeeding his "vision" onto them or barking out organizational commadments (Pastor types; take copius notes). He took no spotlight for himself, but sneakily as a snake-dove, astutuely repositioned it towards his associates, preferring them over himself (I was tempted to stand and read Phillipians 2:1-11, then adding "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing"...but heavy mistake and huge irony that would have been, it would've cost the point and lost the chief's reward. But I do recommend inserting a careful reading of it right now).

The catch is, an astute observer of Fresno's Police Department will recognize that much of the turnaround has indeed been captained and implemented by the city's senior pastor..uh, chief..and his leadership style. A style that apparently is downwardly mobile enough to include the oft-quoted but little-followed leadership maxim, "There's no limit to what God can do through a leader who doesn't care who gets the credit." . After each regional captain shared about the happenings, flavor, problems and turnarounds of their particular zone of the city, Chief Dyer would immediately follow-up with an enthusiastic statement like, "Here's something Captain _____neglected to share...". He then would praise one specific sucess of that regional captain. As a pastor, this is something I always have tried to do with staff in public moments. I thought I learned it from John Maxwell, but I experienced it incarnated with Chief Dyer. It was encouraging and emotional to see the tangible comraderie and trust, and telltale good-natured teasing and hugs that spoke volumes of the health the chief has intentionally "life-blooded" the system with. He is not afraid to "boldy C.E.O. where no one has gone before," but he has simultaneously turned the classic hierarchichal organizational flow-chart upside down. New wineskin leadership can do that; the Wine is even sweeter. But Old Guard Guardians, self-appointed keepers of the wine and wineskin desire both, as well as that flow chart, under lock and key. Oops, I am preaching...

In a city such as ours that has been blessed with some nationally-recognized ("What is God Doing in Fresno?", Christianity Today asked) passion and impetus towards citywide unity, a city in which the motto, "One church, four hundred fifty branch offices" has taken hold, walls have been broken down. Some we are still chipping away at. And we can , now more than ever, fall into the temptation to trust that we have arrived, and neglect to actualize the unity in practical ways. And many sectors of the city have not heard of Christianity Today....the magazine, let alone the reality. So when I heard one of the captains state, "Now the chuches in our zone finally see themselves as one congregation," that was exactly the kind of gold-advice I was scouting for. The secret? What kickstarted the "now'? What finally birthed the "finally" to this often quixotic quest for John 17:23? When police first started seriously looking to churches to partner with (is that radical enough?), they found pastors whose church buildings were literally two blocks from each other, but didn't not just know each other (sin enough!); they didn't even know each other's names! If we are in actuality one Christian congregation in the city, such a disconnect is not only unacceptable, but impossible. Thus someone has to intercede; that's all God is looking for. I love and suusbcribe to Walter Wink's definition of intercession: "spiritual defiance of what is, in the name of what God has promised." Since God has promised we are one Body, someone had to intercede, intervene and defy the non-Christian reality of local Christianity (what "is", but is not of God) of pastors not knowing their brothers/neighbor's names, congregations or situations two doors down. Who rose to that prophetic task, on Christ's and the city's behalf? Not me, to my shame. It was the police department's zone captain (pastor) who took the amazing historic defiant step of...actually introducing pastors too each other! A basic function of apostolic ministry. Yes, and for a "secular" reason: to work together on crime, etc. But why did it take the intervention of the police department to call a meeting that should have been the norm and form from the beginning? Perhaps because they are, as Paul lays out, "servant-messengers appointed by God," but perhaps also because the church has a lot to learn from "secular" sources. The zone captain went on to talk about police and church sponsored block parties, incuding one where 22 people gave their lives to Christ. This was not quoted in a gloating, "got some converts" way; in fact, I do not even know if this captain is a Christian. But he knew Christians working together,and reproducing 'after their own kind" can be an answer to the city's problems and the church's prayers. " We can't do it without you," this captain earnestly promied and begged; this captain who had in fact (to our shame) done something without u: gotten 70 pastors together in same room..unheard of in many locales. Unless the church can learn from police, I guess. "I looked and looked for someone to stand in the gap and intercede," the Lord complained in Ezekiel 22:30, "and I found one!" In another (Isaiah 63:5) frantic churchcombing search for apostolic citywide gapstanders, he admits he found no one, and had to do it himself. I hope in our day he has some willing police offers, and maybe even a handful of us pastors. Who met at the police-sponsored meeting. The alternative, as spoken the chilling conclusion to the Ezekiel word( 22:31), is decidedly not a desired outcome. Yikes!

The lessons went on. Again, it won't take much imagination to make application to church (But it will require imagination to imagineer the lessons into the church life). These are all things we learned in Sunday School..or seminary..but may have to learn afresh from God's chosen prophets, the police. How about how the PD has developed a network of neigborhood cell groups, strategic listening posts constituted by both officers and citizens, officers who actually know the citizens! Small and strategic groups with mapping centers, information sharing to do some damage to the "enemy's camp". Bring the applications on. I want the cells in our fellowship to be more like that, Wolfgang Simson, a taxi-driving apostle, in "Houses That Change the World," suggests that such Kingdom outposts are " persecution proof".: terrorists, for example, can't destroy the "church" in any city, beacuse having realized it's not about buildings or fiefdoms anyway, they are people clustered all over the city, and in tune with the God, the world, and the war at hand.

Chief Dyer spoke of the following five "prongs" of the Fresno PD's approach. I realize that when I suggest them as appropriate models to goldmine, I realize that part of the current Kingdom mess is we have instead been golddiggers, not goldminers, here. We have in fact , obeyed them, but in a wholesale whoredom way; bending them consumeristically, and steered them down a faulty fundamentastic dead-end. No pot of gold at the end of that line. So here what I am NOT saying, in addition to what I am.

1)Identify trends quickly so we can deploy quickly. Hello, church? Enough said? I'm not here to trend-surf, and the church has certainly baptized trends and bastardized herself thereby, but I want instead to line myself and church up with the lineage of Isachaar people, who in the "timely for our times" words of1 Chronicles 12:32, understood both the times they were living in AND the Lord they were living under..."grasped the times, and what the Lord wanted his people to do". Now there's a tribe I want to number myself among; one that is capturing kairos.who simply caught the times and tides, understood the word and the world , and deployed quickly with specific marching orders. For thsi church this may start with reading George Barna books, but it cannot end there. And the "deployees" cannot be galvanized Gonzo-guerillas for the culture war; but Isacharian, Dyer-like, goldmining disciples who venture out of their aforementioned cells (having there identified trends, done spiritual mapping, charted God-sightings, consulted with police and God) to terrorize the devil, outsnaking the snake, all while as docile as doves.

2) Strong enforcement Towards this end, traffic safety has been a huge thrust in our city. Would-be speeders, for example, complain they can't get away with anything...a cop on every corner! We had twenty four traffic-control officers two years ago, and eighty-five now, all without a dime's increase in budget or taxes! The answer is astounding yet obvious: this department is self-funding. As long as therev are violators who get fined! It's an "abuser fee" when it happens, which may relate to Kingdom economics, try it out). Now the church application should not be about "traffic cop" pastors on every corner, and legislating morality in a shame -inducing way. Been there, shamed that. We as church don't anymore need to "should" on people; we have tried legislating morality. But the police deaprtment's motive, though obviously, literally and necessarily "legislative," is intrinsically motivated by a preventative grace-shaped approach. As simplistic as it sounds, the chief knows that lives are saved when violators are approriately stoppe and fined. The captains spoke almost in tears about how Chief Dyer takes personally any life lost in Fresno due to traffic or crime. His mission is saving lives. Isn't mine? The department brings in five million dollars a year on towinng fees alone..none of which goes to PD office parties, or raises, but back into the traffic control department, whuch is not just about getting people to "stop sinning," but saving lives. (No, the "towing fee" aplkication may not justify the sign spotted outside a church/convent: "No Parking. Violators Will Be Towed....--The Sisters of Mercy.")

3Relentless follow-up, especially in cases of violent crime. No, no, please no relentless and repentless "follow up" to church visitors, at least the version that seeks their scalps and souls in a home visit ins alim sady disguise of "thank you for coming to church." That's rape; something the police..and the church..are supposed to be against. Because we are FOR people. So if there is any relentlessness to follow-up, let it be in the vein of what Brennan Manning (what a police officer he would be!), coins the "relentless tenderness of Jesus"; such fierce mercy manifested in His people that it blesses a church and city by its careful care. I simply cannot give up on anybody; in the Body or without. I have to see God-potential in criminals, including (as T-Bone Burnett sings) the "criminal under my own hat" who needs loving and relentless mercy and follow-up.

The church needs to dream up new ways to follow up, instaed of letting an explosion of evanglism scare them off prematurely. One version of this is still door-to-door, admittedly...but has to do with a church distributing free items (drinks, flyswatters, toilet paper) all to "show God's love in a practical way." This is one brand of what Steve Sjogren has called "servant evanglelism," amd gains us the huge privilege of entrance into people's homes, not so we can recite a canned outline all over them, or sign them up to join a committee, but so we can hear their story with relentless mercy, "especially in cases of violent crime," which by the definition of John 10:10, every resident on our block has been victimized by. Don't let the police be the first to knock on their door. Be sneaky doves, and knock first.

4) Building relationships of trust within and without the department. "We have 467 standards to comply to if we want to be accredited and awarded...and though we plan to meet those standards, but we can win all the certificates and awards in the book, but if the people don't feel safe, it's all meaningless." Sounds like Jesus harassing the "long-flowing robes" and titled leaders of his day, but again it's Chief Dyer blessing the police department of his. It's also 1 Corinthians 13.

5)Partnering with all sectors and segments of the community, especially the faith-based.
The Chief admits that he is unshamed in seeking huge help from churches and faith-based groups, "not because I am believer in Christ..."and with a pregnant pause, he made this my favorite prophetic quote of the day. "..but because I am a believer in Christ's people. " Wow, I want to be like that.

The police in Fresno partner alright: with apartment managers, through Care Fresno, a creative cooperative project of church, police, apartment managers and schools (ever put those all in the same sentence, let alone the same room?). The apartment managers come to the table because they have graffiti on their buildings and drugslords in them. But the table they come to is often a church table. Because the police in our city, whether or not they believe in Christ like their chief, believe that teh local church is the hope of the city. Which is why last year, for "Family Awareness Day." an annual gathering of chuches to celebrate family, the police brought the bouncehouses. While one church practice "servant evangelism." They may have ven set up the stage for the gospel musicians. Forgive me if this reminds me of the old joke about the Christian lady who prayed out loud on her porch, "Lord, you know I'm broke and need groceries. Please help me!" Her atheist neigbor overheard, and decided to teach this believer a lesson. He bought groceries and that night, snuck them onto his neigbor's proch and waited. When she came out, and discovered them, she of course shouting "Thank for my groceries!" The neighbor jumped out of hiding and annouced"Aha! There is No Lord! I bought those grocreies, not the Lord! She immiediately shot back; "Thank you Lord, for the groceries..even though the devil payed for them!"

And please, I beg large forgiveness not just for the joke, but for appearing to compare the police department to the devil (I'm not). But God loves to use "secular" sources, sources we believe are demonized, to faciliate and pastor things like... buying groceries, manning bouncehouses. This is no advocating a loosey-goosey ecumenism and "fellowshipping with darkness." It's just recognizing that every good and "perfect gift comes from God" do the partially good and imperfect gifts..they are still gifts. And thus of God. What more could we ask for than a police officer setting up the gospel tent? That's a goo and nearly perfect Holy Spirit set-up.
And tas those hsoe concerned about the chuch "taking" worldy weatlh...Mammon even ..remember it was Jesus, not his enemy, who commanded and demanded us to do just that. I that gold tainted? "Mammon" is a name of a spirit!

Other goals the chief mentioned for the department are below. I will comment on a few, you all fill in:

1)Respond to calls for servcice in a timely fashion, especially "Priority Zero": life treatening cases.
2)Proactive approach to crime fighting.

3)Proactive approach to traffic safety

Here maybe think about "traffic" in church. How safe is it? It is by definition 'dancing with porcupines," especially on the way to the "worship wars." Brennan Manning again, on the main problem with Christianity: Christians. So any help in "letting us all get along" is welcome.
Fresno, I believe, the chief said has the most traffic checkpoints of anywhere in the nation. Now, I am against church checkpoints, if they are of the kind that Jesus overturned in the temple. His temple tantrum wa not about folks "selling stuff in church." It was about something far more offensive: Racism. Denying a particular people a place to worship. The moneychangers and dovesellers had set up their booths and boxes smack in the middle of the Court of the Gentiles, the only place allowed for non-Jews to worship. No wonder Jesus was ticked. But note he said "My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations." Not "Thou shalt not sell stuff in church!" And having recently returned from Bethlehem, where thee Israeli/Palsetine situation has been "made real on the ground" by Checkpoint Charlies and barbed wire, I wonder how often default or desgn, set up borders, walls, checkpoints.

We do want checkpoints, but to let folks in, not keep them out. Here I refer and defer to the
extremely helpful "bounded set versus centered set" articles I have culled.

I was thrilled to hear that the zone captain for my region gave a "testimony" about how one day he pulled weeds and rased graffit in our area...and I don't think it was a mandate from HQ..again, it was built into the DNA of the system. I want to be more like that. I hope if anone spots me around town, knowing the rumor that I am a Christian type..even a "clergy" type...I will be found doing something as Kingdom as that.

I am going to quit, hopefully before I'm behind. Because I am indeed behind on the learning curve, and I am anxious to hear from you on the topic: "What Can the Church Learn From the Police Department?". There's gold there, share the wealth you see, regarding your local PD, library board, my friend who is director of that entity all about his I can learn about Jesus, church and life!.

We are blessed in Fresno in many ways. Not just because the Chief of Police is born again. But beacuse the whole system and society is in the birth pangsof being born again. And it happens not by getting a Moral Majority, and it may have nothing to do withy a Christian mayor, police chief, fire chief, etc. I just want to be more Christian. And to do that, I need to dare to find prospective Kingdom community principles anywhere God has hidden them.

So I had a great lunch. Heard a great sermon by the chief. Actually it was a better "pastor's conference" than many I've been to. But as the chief reminded me, It's all a meaningless lunch without living more ingdomly today. And how I need to again "become a believer in Christ's people." I need deconversion, detoxm death and conversion to beome such a believer. "Christ's people," as imperfect as we are..are the very hope and light of the world. But the only hope of the hope of the world in these amazing and historic days, is to garpple with the the crazy "open secret" that the men of Isachar specialized in...simply getting a little more into the world to learn how to bless, heal and reach it, in Jesus name. Holy worldliness indeed. There's gold there.

Note: Here is the chief's website, and his testimony in
Charisma magazine.

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