shutterstock_cocaine-2For several years, I transcribed police reports for the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department in West Michigan. A vivid memory from that period is the day a stranger asked me to arrest her.

It was a sunny spring day, so I was eating my sack lunch at a picnic table behind the sheriff’s office when a car pulled into the parking lot and a smartly dressed young woman got out. She approached me and asked, “Would you arrest me?”

I explained that I was a member of the clerical staff, not an officer, so I didn’t have the authority to arrest anyone. “Well, I need someone to arrest me because I’m on my way to a crack house,” she said.

I called my sergeant, who came outside to hear her story with me. She lived in a fashionable suburban home not far from our office. In fact, she was hosting a Tupperware party that morning, so a couple dozen ladies were in her living room at that moment. She had excused herself to buy refreshments at the local grocery, but the truth was that she wanted a “hit” of cocaine. She was en route to her dealer’s house in a seedy part of Grand Rapids with enough money in her purse to buy what she needed. “I can’t help myself,” she told us. “Please lock me up so I don’t do this.”

My sergeant asked a series of questions. Did she have any drugs or drug paraphernalia in her possession? No. Was she “high” on drugs at the moment? No. Was the money stolen? No. “Then I’m sorry, but I can’t arrest you,” he said. “I have no legal reason to detain you.”

She broke down and wept.

Sgt. Van Beek was my supervisor, but there was another reason I’d called him. He was studying for the pastoral ministry through a correspondence program of Moody Bible Institute, so together we could offer assistance of a different kind. We joined hands around the picnic table and prayed for her. Then the sergeant called a pastor friend to meet and counsel with her that afternoon.

I don’t know the rest of her story, though I certainly hope God enabled her to break out of the addiction that was destroying her life. But I will never forget the desperate look in the eyes of that attractive woman who asked, “Would you arrest me?”

 

Sorting through the week’s mail, my eye fell upon a flyer from my alma mater, Christian Theological Seminary. I had to read more when I saw the caption inside: “Through CTS, God delivered me from fundamentalism.” Here’s how the story began:

When CTS graduate Amy Miller and her husband were dealing with a personal crisis related to a prospective adoption, her church family fell silent around them. Amy was told she simply didn’t pray hard enough, fast long enough, believe deeply enough.

…She learned the hard way that in some communities, independent thinking isn’t welcome. While her pastoral leaders tried to keep Amy in her place–preferably, the church kitchen–she felt the call of God to make a difference in the lives of children and families.

When she pursued an undergraduate degree in psychology, she was warned the subject would lead her astray. When she enrolled at CTS, her pastor prayed Amy would save her professors and fellow students from heresy. Instead, Amy says, “the open-mindedness of CTS saved me.”

The flyer explains that Amy is now ordained (not with her home denomination, I’m guessing) and holds a master’s degree in marital and family therapy. It says, “Amy is done being held captive to narrow-minded religion. She’s happier being a healthy servant of God.”

I’m not reporting this to brag on my school (though I must say I’m proud of how CTS continues to help people like Amy answer God’s call to ministry), but to challenge the narrow-minded belief that certain people cannot engage in Christian ministry: Women. Singles. Deaf or Blind people. Political liberals. The list goes on.

Too many church boards allow people to engage in public ministry only if they fit the profile of the Twelve apostles: They must be able-bodied married males who circumspectly avoid criticism of current political leaders. Yet the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth:

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

Vocal factions of our society say there’s an inherent weakness in being a woman…or profoundly Deaf…or politically liberal, etc. But when someone’s life is “hid with Christ in God,” she is eminently qualified to lead God’s people. It’s high time to lay aside our cultural preferences for ministry leadership and consider each person’s spiritual qualifications.