By Mark Dance
Pastors and police have been at the forefront of many news stories in recent years—and both have several challenges in common.
Having served as a pastor for 33 years and a police chaplain for six years, my respect toward these two important professions is immense. Conversely, my disrespect against someone from either profession who preys on those they’ve promised to protect is also immense.
I think it will be helpful to both ministers and officers to consider these four challenges we have in common.
People have trust issues with us.
Gallup’s annual poll asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethics of 15 different occupational groups. Here’s how they ranked in order of favorable opinions:
- Medical doctors (77%)
- Grade-school teachers (75%)
- Pharmacists (75%)
- Police officers (52%)
- Judges (43%)
- Clergy (39%)
- Nursing home operators (36%)
- Bankers (29%)
- Journalists (28%)
- Lawyers (21%)
- Business executives (17%)
- Advertising practitioners (10%)
- Car salespeople (8%)
- Members of Congress (8%)
Despite all of the negative attention police have had since the murder of George Floyd in May, police officers ranked fifth this year—only dropping from 54% to 52%. Police officers are the only non-medical profession about which a majority of Americans (52%) say they have high or very high ethics and honesty.
I was obviously disappointed that trust in clergy is still so low (39%). We have a lot of work to do because trust is so hard to earn and so easy to lose. Each time people read scandalous headlines of trusted church leaders who preyed on rather than protected, trust erodes a little more.
Until recently, pastors and police have enjoyed widespread public trust, but I’m afraid that we no longer get the benefit of the doubt.
We live and work in a fishbowl.
Pastors and police both signed up to be public servants, and with public service comes public scrutiny. Like it or not, our private lives will always be somewhat connected to our public lives. Although we were called to this line of work, we did make a conscious choice to swim in this fishbowl.Although accountability is sometimes awkward for us, it is always good for us. — @MarkDance Click To Tweet
Accountability for both pastors and police has increased significantly since I became a pastor, which is a good thing. Although accountability is sometimes awkward for us, it is always good for us. It is only a threat to the arrogant and guilty, and its ultimate goal is to protect people, including us.
Respect is very important to us.
Although ministers and officers like to be liked, we consider it to be negotiable whereas respect is imperative to us both personally and professionally.
Regard them very highly in love because of their work (1 Thessalonians 5:13).
One of the best demonstrations of respect I’ve seen is the End of Watch Call ceremony police use at retirements and funerals. I have yet to watch one of these in person or on television without tears.
Since last May, many loud voices have boldly spoken up against bad cops, and others have spoken up for the good ones. There has never been a better time to do both. The same is true for pastors.
We are first responders.
Pastors and police, along with firefighters and EMS, serve as “first responders” who consistently get the toughest calls first. We see the depravity of man up close and often, so we sometimes fight cynicism and burnout.We see the depravity of man up close and often, so we sometimes fight cynicism and burnout. — @MarkDance Click To Tweet
Every pastor and police officer I know sees their profession as a calling. Police are “God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4), and pastors have likewise been “appointed to the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12). Both professions must live up to that calling, and as they do, they deserve prayers and respect from the public, the church, and each other.
People come to us first when they have a problem, but who do we go to for help? Here are two free, confidential places to start:
- Law Enforcement Hotline: 1-800-COPLINE (800-267-5463)
- Pastoral Care Line: 1-844-PASTOR1 (844-727-8671)