Interview with Chuck Gilliland

Can a police officer be a Christian? Today in the studio we have the privilege of having Chuck Gilliland, the president of the National Board of Directors of The Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers.

About Chuck

Chuck is the president of the National Board of Directors of The Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers. He has authored two books, The Book of Proverbs Through The Eyes Of A Cop and The Gospel of Matthew Through The Eye Of A Cop. Chuck has a heart and passion for law enforcement personnel, both encouraging believers in the field as well as sharing Christ with others

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EASLEY: The Apostle Paul when he wrote the letter to Rome arguably his most doctrinaire book writes some very practical instructions in the last half of the book. In chapter 13 he begins, Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. The passage we don’t like to read. We don’t like to think about following authority. Today in the studio we have the privilege of having Chuck Gilliland. Chuck is the president of the National Board of Directors of The Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers. Chuck is that an oxymoron? Christian Peace Officers?

GILLILAND: Believe it or not, we hear it alot. I get emails constantly. Can a police officer be a Christian? There was a guy that wrote a book. I won’t give his name or the book because the premise was military and police officers cannot be Christians.He tried to make a lot of arguments to prove his point. No,I believe that every police officer should be a Christian. Of course I believe every person should be a Christian.

E: You know it’s interesting in the New Testament especially, whenever we are dealing with a soldier, which would be an equivalent I would argue, probably first century…

G: Yes.

E: They are always in a good light in the New Testament. They are men of good faith; they understand authority; Christ exchange with them is always in a positive light but you don’t hear much about that, do you?

G: No, I love the fact that He’s critical of the Pharisees, but He’s never critical of a single Centurion, but of course they were men of faith also.

E: Did you always want to be a cop?

G: I did. My grandfather was a highway patrolman for Texas. I remember as a little kid sitting around in his house and his brother, my uncle, was also a State Trooper. I remember them exchanging stories and just could see the passion in their eyes and yeah, from a young age that was the thing I always wanted to do and I knew I was called to it. Now,when I was in high school I felt very strongly the calling of the Lord, but I didn’t know at that time that you could be called into law enforcement. I thought gosh is the Lord calling me to be a pastor? No,I’m not smart enough to be a pastor. Is He calling me to be a music leader? No, I can’t sing a tune. So my thought was gosh, He must be calling me to be a youth pastor.That didn’t turn out, I went to college, got into law enforcement and Criminal Justice program at Charleston State University and went to work for the Dallas Police Department. It really wasn’t until a couple of years after being a police officer that I realized that God had put me there for a reason. He gave me a ministry to law enforcement officers at the time just in my area. I’ve seen so many people that he’s put a deep passion on their heart for law enforcement because we are considered an unreached people group. Only ten percent of all law enforcement officers in the United States claim to be Christians.

E: Interesting.

G: I think back in my times, younger when I would need a police officer and the thought of someone coming to my house in my most critical time, maybe when I’m the most broken, when I need ministering to the most, would I rather have a Christian police officer who shows Christ compassion, His grace, His mercy, or would I just rather have somebody just there doing their job going from one call to the next? So, I truly believe God has put police officers in a position of ministry. It’s not just a passion of mine, but the board with FCPO every one of the board members is deeply passionate about it. I’m so blessed to be a part of those guys.

E: You said FCPO for those of us who can’t keep up with acronyms of Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers.You’re also an author. You’ve written two books Through the Eyes of a Cop Ministry and the Gospel of Matthew Through the Eyes of a Cop. Fun journeys?

G: Truth of the matter is,I’ve got dyslexia and I’ve got it pretty bad. Growing up in high school, I barely got out of high school. If it weren’t for my grandmother coming over and tutoring me on a regular basis, I probably wouldn’t have gotten through high school.

E: But you wrote these books for a reason. You wrote them to help other officers in their day to day when it’s a domestic call, when it’s a violence, when it’s an incident on a highway, trauma,internal politics with the police. I mean you’re touching a lot of these areas.

G: Absolutely. And that was the goal. I’ve heard you mention this time and time again. I’m the little a author. We know who the big A author is, not claiming that any of these books are gospel by any means. Just goes to show that God used the least of these to do some pretty good things and I definitely when it comes to reading and writing and coming up with a book, I’m the least of these. So I can’t claim any credit for it whatsoever.

E: But God’s using it, right?

G: I came back from a FCPO board meeting where we had discussed officers from all over the country calling up and saying, “We need some material for law enforcement. We can do Bible studies but we want something that relates.”

E: Something that relates, yes!

G: It just kind of went in one ear and out the other because when I’m listening to this I know immediately it’s not from me. When we got back home to Texas, I was laying in bed about 11:30 one night, a week or two after I’d gotten back, and the Lord put it on my heart clear as a bell. You need to write something in a briefing format that a police officer can understand. So I got up and I ran to the kitchen and I grabbed my pen and started writing. I went back to bed, and ten minutes later I got up and went to the kitchen and wrote some more, and went back to bed. Finally my wife said, “Just go in there and write. If the Lord wants you to do something just go in there and write.”

E:( laughing) “Let me sleep.”

G: Yeah, pretty much, so that was the beginning of it. As much trouble as I have writing and sometimes reading, it was an easy process because I wasn’t relying on myself. I wasn’t leaning on my own understanding.

E: Let’s talk a little about law enforcement from another level. First of all why would anybody today, young men or women, why would they want to go into law enforcement?

G: I don’t believe they would. With the hindsight being twenty twenty, and people having weeks and weeks to dissect a decision that took you a half a second to make, the troubles that law enforcement find themselves right now, officers being indicted for doing their job, and even some of the instances here recently after the investigation, did the right thing.

E: Exonerated, but..

G: There’s still people in the community that want to see him prosecuted, persecuted, hung.

E: Well if we’re thinking of Ferguson in particular even though he’s resigned as a police officer. Someone asked the question recently, “How does he get his reputation back? How does he have a life of any kind?”

G: We’ve talked about him at the workplace too and I don’t know of a single person  that ever believes he’ll be able to work as a police officer again. If that was his passion and career, he is done at an early age. I believe the pendulum will swing back. It always does, but it’s a dark time right now.

E: You said you were called to law enforcement. For the average police officer, let’s say that doesn’t have a relationship with Christ on a worldly level, why do they do it? Do they want to catch bad guys? Is there a high sense justice inside them? Were they traumatized as a youth? What are some of the reasons?

G: I know some officers who got into it for just the right reasons. I mean they wanted to help people and that was the end goal. As a rookie cop that is what most of them get into it for. Now it changes soon after the adrenaline dumps and chasing the bad guys. Back in the early nineties there was a big stink about how some of the larger departments in the United States were recruiting people. Miami in particular,if you looked at their recruiting video, it was like Miami Vice. It was cops on speedboats, chasing people down in cars.

E: Isn’t that what you do everyday?

G: Absolutely not.

E: Thousand dollar suit and a couple of concealed weapons and a little James Bond on top.

G: And it looks great, but at the same time, if you contrast that one to the video or the promotion that New York City was putting out, New Yorks recruitment video had an officer walking a beat saying “hi” to everybody. He knew everybody by their name. He was checking doors. He was the friendly approachable police officer. He was the guy you could trust, the guy you depended on. So there was this big contrast of which is the way to go? I think it depends on which kind of officer do you want as to the way you recruit. Some guys do it for the car chases and…

E: We can look back on 9/11 and see pre and post, a lack of interest in military, a lack of interest in patriotism, and we saw this surge. It did not last very long. Most of our kids in high school today would not know 9/11. Arguably, we would say our generation still remembers Dec 7,1941, but 9/11 yeah, maybe we brought that on ourselves? Maybe it was conspiracy? On and on it goes. That has to leak over to law enforcement in general because you have men and women in uniform to protect you whether it’s a car accident , DUI, someone breaking and entering, drug deals, on and on and on. Will it take something like a Ferguson, and a New York situation and what’s going to happen next and somehow can that be turned to say, and I don’t mean to use reform the way we hear reformed used, but to reform the ideal of, “this is a good and noble calling: to go help people.”

About a week ago our police chief came in to our briefing and the topic had been Ferguson and how people hate us and on and on, and the chief sat and listened for a moment. He’s a very wise man. I have a lot of respect for him and he said, “Guys, that’s a small percentage of the population. Most of them love you. Most of them know what you’re there for.” As I go out through the day, I’ve noticed people stop me and say, “Hey, I really appreciate what you do. Thank you.” I’m trying to keep a very stoic face because we are taught to be in control at all times. You don’t want to just gush but it means an awful lot. There’s a lot of people out there that do appreciate it. Like I said, we are trained to be control freaks.We are taught from day one in the Police Academy, every time you go into a situation you have to maintain control, and if you don’t have it you better get it or you’re going to get hurt. That spills over into every aspect into our lives and I do believe that’s why we have such a low percentage of men and women who follow Christ because we’re control freaks. It’s hard to give that control over to Jesus into our lives.

E: The corollary being a self made man. I don’t need that.

G: Yes, if you’re not maintaining control you are weak and we are a very macho centered profession, even the women. Women are…man, I know some really tough cops that are females. We can’t show weakness to each other and that’s the sad part about it. I think that’s part of our problem spiritually.

E: What do you do ethically, let’s say you’re dealing with some of the ten percent who are Christ followers. They love the Lord and they’re wearing the uniform and they’re conflicted. In any organization, you are going to have some corruption and some under the table things going on. It’s amplified because there’s eighteen television shows  about police corruption at any given time. There’s always under the table stuff whether it’s legal or the cop on the street, so how do you help an officer in that situation? The temptations there. The opportunity is daily, whether it’s drugs, or money, how do you help them?

G: The same way Jesus sent His disciples out. You can’t do it alone. Jesus sent His disciples out in twos. I firmly believe that in every law enforcement agency especially where there’s a Christian that, and I’m not pushing FCPO. I don’t care whether it’s your local church, whether it’s a different police organization, need so you have to have some place where you can come together and fellowship, where you can lean on each other, where you can be accountable to each other. One of the favorite verses we use is Proverbs 27:17 and it says, As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” It’s incredibly hard to go out there by yourself as a Christian and try and John Wayne it because when you do get frustrated and you do get down, you need somebody to talk to. Typically, police officers, even the ten percent don’t go to church so we have to provide that for ourselves. That’s what FCPO does, tries to help establish an organization within a local city or town where other guys from other agencies can come in and can be that iron that sharpens each other and be that accountability group.

E: In your career, you were faced with temptations?: With bribes? How did that happen to you? What’d you do?

G: Absolutely. God has blessed me with a shallow brain, I think. There will be a lot of times where I’ll look back on something and I realize, “Oh my gosh, that person was really trying to give me something.” But at the time, it went over my head. You know I believe that that’s a gift from the Lord. I think it depends on what your focus is a lot. For an officer, whose facing that, it is tough. I can tell you when I was with Dallas, there was one time in particular where my partner and I got called to a loud music hall, which in this part of Dallas, was a very low priority call. We show up and a girl comes to the door in a negligee and we’re both married, young, newlyweds, looked at each other, and we both looked at each other and we were like, “Uh-oh we are in trouble.” She wanted us to come in and talk to us. There was no loud music, we left, she called back the next day wanting us to return. I knew and I went home and confessed to my wife that I did nothing, but here’s what’s going on, and this is not good. I’ve always thought of myself and I hated it when I was younger, I was always a little naive to things going on around me. But again as I grew up and grew older, I don’t know if that’s not a gift from the Lord because I can’t really recall a lot of situations, especially lately in the last ten years or so, where anybodies tried to stop me at a traffic stop or…and maybe the Lord knows that I’m such a weak little person that He’s afraid I’d give in so He doesn’t allow me to be tempted with that.

E: Or maybe he’s equipped you to be able to smell it and not get pulled into it.

G: Yes, I hope so. I would hope that people could see integrity and know that, “Man, if I try this I’m going to get in trouble.” I can’t say that’s what it is. Just wishful thinking.

E: There are no simple answers, but when we look at Ferguson, New York, other cases that have been and will be in the media, let’s say overinflated at least from a public standpoint, we’re going to align racially. If I’m an African American in a community, I’m going to align with my people; if I’m wearing blues I’m going to align with my people. How do you deal with the tension? The first thing that crossed my mind with Ferguson was that we had white patrol officers in an African American neighborhood. So automatically, it’s polarizing.

G: Believe it or not, we get some of those politics within the department because I don’t know of a single department that doesn’t have a racial mixture of officers. I made sure right after all this was over, my shift knows this but we’ve reiterated this time and time again. “Guys, when we get in the car and we go out there, we’re blue. We’re not white. We’re not black. We’re not brown. We’re blue and we have to be blue. When you get off shift and you go home and you take the blue off, you can be whatever you want, but we can’t afford to be anything other than blue when we’re at work. Again maybe just being naive we’ve had not racial problems at least on my shift. I can’t speak for every department everywhere obviously. It’s not something that I’ve seen within the department. I’m sure the officers have opinions, feelings about what goes on. It seems to be there’s enough respect when we get to work that we don’t talk about it. When Officer Ferguson got acquitted, the white officers weren’t all screaming, “Yeah, he got off” because I know other officers know how that’s going to make some of the black officers feel, and vice versa. They’re very respectful and we’ve got to be a family. It’s easier to be a family when there’s not the conflict going on, when there’s not a Ferguson, there’s not a New York, then it’s easy to be family and be blue, and to back each other up.

E: If the bad guy is a bad guy, we all agree he’s a bad guy, it’s a little different. When we have a shooter in a school and you have something like that, you know you’re going to have the aftermath coaches talk about history and sociology, and background and those types of things, but when we identify evil as evil, it doesn’t seem like it matters what color it is.

G: It’d be nice if the entire world was black and white like that. Truth and nontruth.

E: When you look at the average church, how can they be supportive of those in authority? How can they also be wise knowing that not every person wears a uniform is necessarily a good person with integrity? But yet as I read Paul’s passage, submission to authority is the beginning and my father said you say, “Yes Sir” and “No Sir” and you say, “Yes Ma’am and “No Ma’am” and you do what they tell you to do. It’s probably going to go a lot better than if you have an attitude.

G: Absolutely!

E: But we’ve lost that in this self promotion culture.

G: Yes. I’ve got a seventeen and a fifteen year old, wonderful children, but they grew up different. The culture’s different.

E: Very different.

G: The social media and media access to all kinds of opinions. You know growing up if you wanted an opinion, you turned the TV on to one of three channels and that was it. You got the media that they gave you and now there’s opinions coming from every direction. You can find an opinion that agrees with you and that does tend to make it harder because when you talk about authority, and if you find an opinion that agrees with you and it came from a national media, you think you’re right. You think that’s your truth. It’s just like you say, don’t let the world teach  you theology, you’ve got to be anchored in the truth.

E: There was a bit part on the media this past year, where a police officer was throwing a football with a kid in the neighborhood and it made a little bit of a splash. On the one hand that’s great, but I can also hear his CO going, “What are you doing throwing a ball around with a kid?” You can’t win, you can’t fault him for trying, but at least there was a community effort there. This guys a good guy and he’s here to help you if something goes wrong especially in a dicey neighborhood where drugs are so prevalent, if there are a handful of kids, maybe their mothers saying, “Don’t get into drugs. Don’t have sex before you are married” and they’re trying to stem the tide in that little community, and there’s a guy there in a blue uniform or a gal saying, “I’m here to help.”

G: Yes, I think that’s fantastic. I, personally don’t see a problem with that, but there are some who will say, “That is not your job. What are you doing?” But to build relationships with the people you work in, and with, and for is paramount. I like the old policing days where you rattle doors at night to make sure the doors are locked, and you knew everybody in your area. But nowadays officers jump in the car and seems like they go from call to call to call. The only time they meet people is when they’ve called for police, they’ve either lost control and they need the police to regain control, they’re having a really bad day.

E: Percentage of calls in the Dallas Fort Worth area of a domestic problem?

G: Luckily at DFW Airport, we have no residence so our domestics are few and far between.

E: Would you say nationally, is that still the number one reason for a police call? Domestic?

G: Yes, yes. Number one call: for violence. I would imagine that ranks number one in just about every category, potential for violence, whether it’s the officer getting hurt, family members getting hurt. The number one reason most people go to jail or at least it was in my experience in Dallas. We went to jail in Dallas at least twice a night. Now that I’m at the airport, I look back on it, “How in the world?” It seemed like community policing at the time was putting your community in jail , but I worked a really rough area of to jail. It was to jail, to jail, to jail. Family violence always our number one…

E: Chuck, if someone was listening to you and me and they’ve got a friend who’s a police officer, what would you say is the best way to minister to that person they know?

G: I would continuously invite him or her to your church. Getting them into a place where they can hear the truth is the absolute best thing. It’s what we all need. If you can get them into a local law enforcement ministry, I think it’s even better because law enforcement is kind of a closed community. We get to where we are very untrusting of the people we serve.

E: You’re taught to be suspicious of everyone.

G: Yes, and in a typical day the people we come across are violators. Ninety nine percent of the population are non violators. We don’t see that ninety nine percent, but if you see that one percent day in and day out, you get to where your perspective is everybody’s a violator. That’s the only kind of person I come across so we become a closed society. We won’t confide in anybody else accept for another police officer because they know how I feel. They can understand me, that’s why it’s so important to have police officers who are out sharing the gospel, the good news with other police officers, because they’ll listen to another police officer. But if you’ve got a friend and you’re not a police officer, get them to church, get them to somewhere they can hear the truth. Most of all pray for them. Pray that God will soften their hearts because we’re a hard hearted, stiff necked group. We really are.

E: In some way, you kind of have to be, right?

G: Yes, defensive.

E: You’ve got a tough hide, as you said be in control. What about the police officer, the man and woman, who knows Christ, but they’re way far away from him?

G: I’ve been there too,the Lord called me back in 2005, but I had ten years before that where I was trying to be the tough guy. I thought I was super cop. I would pray, but my prayer would be, “God let me be the hammer of your justice. Let me find the bad guy.”

E: Wow!

G: I don’t believe that was even a sincere prayer. It was just you know my way of “I still need to keep in contact with the Lord.”

E: Making it right, yeah.

G: The officer that knows Christ but is far away from them: bringing them back to the truth, praying for them. Romans Chapter 13, if you can just share that with them and bring them back because for law enforcement we like to use that is: all of you non law enforcement out there, you need to obey authority. But you know what? We’re under authority. We’re men and women under authority and a lot of times we don’t use the same measuring rod on ourselves  in our lives. But we have authority and our authority is Jesus Christ and we need to be submissive to Him so prayer, prayer, prayer. One of the big things, I think police officers lack especially ones that have fallen away is knowing that we lose sight of where our hope and where our peace comes from. Police officers on their days off don’t have a lot of hope or a lot of peace, they get very calloused. I think telling them that Christ and God’s Word will bring you back to peace and bring you back to hope. That’s the only way you’re going to get it. It may be a good start.

E: Chuck Gilliland, President of the National Board of Directors at the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers. Chuck, thanks for being with us today. You’ve got some events coming up. April 10th, you’ve got a golf tournament in Chattanooga, and then July 24-26?

G: Our national conference which will be in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. We’re lining up some really good speakers. It is going to be fantastic. A great place for Police officers to get together and share with each other, and share their problems and become iron that sharpens iron.

E: Encourage. Elkhart, Indiana, October 2nd?

G: Breaching the Barricade with Jim Bontreger. This is the twenty first year and it is a Law Enforcement Appreciation for law enforcement and their families to come to spend some good peaceful time with each other.

E: You’ve got information on the site for how to find out about Chuck. Chuck Gilliland, thanks again for being on inContext.

G: It’s my pleasure.

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