Why We Serve as Police Chaplains: Three Perspectives

(1) Jeff Walker
Riverside County Sheriff

The Great Shepherd provided pastoral care not only in the temple and in synagogues, but along the dusty streets of Galilee as well. Wherever there was trauma, drama, or unexpected and sudden pain, you would find Jesus. The Master is my motivation and model for Police Chaplain Ministry.

Men and women of law enforcement hold a unique place in the world. They are described as “ministers of God” by the Apostle Paul, which makes abuse of power by police officers extra offensive, damaging, and painful. To a large degree, police become the sociological proctologists of the world, always seeing the worst, the most heinous, and the most devastating behaviors of our fellow citizens. This reality, coupled with the suspicion, disapproval, and hatred of law enforcement by many people, makes cops tend to isolate. They often maintain a belief that the only people who really understand their world are others in the profession. Many times, they think the only safe place for them to process their adrenalin-riddled shift is with their fellow officers rather than with a spouse or “civilian” friend.

What an amazing opportunity chaplaincy affords us to serve those who are committed to serving society. Loading into a patrol car with a cop for 8 hours a few times a month places pastoral ministry on the front lines. We become Jesus’ incarnational presence. Trust can be built, hearts can be opened, and ministry happens in real-time. Whether to the personnel or for the public, opportunity to bring truth, hope, and grace is found at every turn, on every call, with every officer. Having served as a department chaplain for 30 years and as a reserve deputy sheriff for 27 years, I largely understand the frustrations, struggles, and pain of these first responders. I have love and compassion for them and appreciation for their work. Virtually all are stellar human beings.

Be encouraged to pray for safety, wisdom, and courage for cops. Give them a kind word, buy their coffee, honor them for their commitment, and if you are suspicious or distrusting, sign up for a couple of ride-alongs. Seeing up close the challenges police personnel face may very well change your perspective.

(2) Mark D. Clements
Federal, State, County, & City

Modern day law enforcement chaplaincy began in North America during the 1970’s with the International Conference of Police Chaplains (icpc4cops.org) being founded in 1973. During the summer of 2000 I was offered an opportunity to serve our local police department in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as chaplain. Without knowing much about law enforcement chaplaincy, I responded, knowing in my heart it was part of my calling. Over the past 20 years, I’ve grown in my knowledge and understanding of what the men and women of law enforcement—and their families—face on a daily basis, and, the benefits to “we the people” as a result of their service.

I currently serve in law enforcement chaplaincy on four levels; Federal (FBI, USSS), State (WSP, WDOJ and WDNR), County (LCSD) and in 9 local police departments. In each of these agencies, and among their personnel, I see today the stress and strain of the unrelenting attacks levied against those in law enforcement from various factions in our society and the continuous barrage of insults and assaults in the media. While there is not one among all of the officers, deputies, agents, wardens, command staff personnel, investigators and/or troopers that are perfect, each and every one of them are in God’s Word identified (Romans 13:1-5) as one of His ministers! Scripture tells us that they are “ordained of God” and “the minister of God…for good” and that they “execute wrath (Gods) on those that do evil.” 

Without police in our streets, at our borders and patrolling our roads and highways, the peaceful existence that we enjoy in this country would disappear and be replaced by chaos and anarchy—which we know that our God is not the author of! (I Corinthians 14:33). Our God is a God of immaculate order (I Corinthians 14:40) and in this country, law and order go together. We enjoy security, peace, tranquility, safety and order—because we are a nation of laws. But laws are meaningless without someone being willing to enforce those laws—law enforcement! Every one of us owes our gratitude to those who are willing to put their lives in harm’s way (many times at the neglect of their families, their personal lives and their own well-being) and as Christians we owe them, as well, our prayers. I Timothy 2:2 orders us to pray for “all that are in authority; that we might live a quiet and peaceable life…”

The challenges faced by our nation’s courageous law enforcement professionals are many! Daily, they respond to scenes of death and destruction and deal with every imaginable (and some unimaginable) criminal activity and the traumatized victims and the despair that follows. That they do this demanding and stress filled work while being attacked—both verbally and physically—and criticized even by those in leadership positions, adversely effects their lives physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and also their relationships. I personally have answered the call to assist and support these ministers of God—will you? I encourage you to pray and ask the Lord for wisdom in how you might support and show appreciation for those that serve and protect us —our nation’s law enforcement officers. God bless!

(3) Brian McRay
Metro Nashville Police Department

I have been a volunteer chaplain for the MNPD for two years. In those two years, I have seen the worst of what humans can do to themselves and others. I show up at the car wreck, the murder, the suicide, the overdose, and the heart attack. I am the one ringing your doorbell at 3am to hold your hand as I tell you that your spouse, your child, or your grandchild will not be coming home. I’m the one hugging the officer who has seen one crisis too many that week. 

It has been without question the most intense ministry I have ever done, and also the most rewarding. It is an incredibly unique form of ministry in every aspect.

For these past two years, I have served several days a month in this volunteer role. Nashville’s police chaplains are almost all volunteers whose sole goal is to heal the hurting. We go into all manner of death scenarios, endeavoring to support our police officers on scene and the family members who are left behind to grieve the loved ones they lost. The services we provide, both to those who wear the badge and to those who’ve lost a loved one, are priceless. 

We are there at literally the worst moment of people’s lives. I have been there when a new young officer needed to tell two fatherless teens that their mother died of an overdose—but he didn’t want to be the one to tell them. I did it for and with him, and taught him in the process. In just two years of part-time service, I could list examples like that by the dozen. This is critically important work, and it takes a lot of training, a strong stomach, and emotional strength.

The reason that I perform this ministry is very straightforward: I do it to help bring healing to those who are grieving—whether they be officers or civilians. For many years, I have been sending brother Tony’s book Life After Death to those who lost loved ones. God has used that book to heal people all over the world. While Tony has a very broad impact at bringing healing though the written word, we police chaplains bring healing through our local personal presence. 

At this unprecedented time of national crisis, I have decided to provide my ministerial services to the Nashville police on a full-time basis. That work will begin soon, and I am grateful for the opportunity. Part of my ministry will be to the officers and detectives, as so many of them are planning on early retirement or a change of vocation. Our police departments nationwide are seeing unprecedented levels of staff departures, as well as historically low morale. If this crisis is not soon addressed on a spiritual level, we will see even more chaos than we already have. When most of the best men and women quit the force, who will be there to serve and protect you?

Churches need to rise up like never before in prayer and intercession for their local police departments. Pastors should be leading their congregations in prayer and teaching them to put Scripture ahead of race, politics or any other divisive distraction. Churches need to demonstrate their appreciation for their local police departments in concrete ways. This can be done by simply letting the chief or sheriff know that they are being prayed for daily. Have the youth group take a bunch of doughnuts to the station, have the children’s church make cards and signs showing their support, and so forth.

Make no mistake about it—what we are witnessing on the surface is a war against the police in our nation. In reality however, it is not a war against the police. It is far deeper than that. It is a war against authority. It is a war Satan is waging against every authority, whether it be of God or mankind. It must be addressed naturally and spiritually. If the Church does nothing about the times we are living in, the Enemy’s plans of death and anarchy will succeed. If that happens, tragically, the services we police chaplains provide will be needed all the more.

Let’s all do what Dad Hagin taught us and what Pastor Hagin still teaches us. Dad Hagin taught us how to walk in love with everyone. Pastor Hagin emphasizes the natural and supernatural coming together to make an explosive force for God. So let’s walk in love not division. And let’s address the times we are living in through both spiritual and natural actions. 

Pray and act,

Brian McRay