Pastor Tests His Church’s Compassion

Orginally published on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 7:57 AM
by Todd Rhoades

Yesterday I got a great email from Pastor Tommy Jackson. Tommy is the pastor of Rose Heights Church in Longview, TX. Tommy wanted to find out if he church was living out the current sermon series on compassion. So, he arranged for a smelly, drunk man to show up in the parking lot on a recent Sunday to see how people would react to him as they entered for worship. No one knew, though, that the person that reeked of smoke and alcohol was actually Tommy Jackson, their pastor.

How did the members of Rose Heights Church do with their new parking lot distraction? A local TV station was there to record it all. The police even got involved. Pastor Tommy then walked out during the service to disclose his real identity...

Check out the full article here...

What a great, innovative idea to put into action a sermon series.  I’m sure that the people at Rose Heights Church will think about compassion differently as they go about their week.  And, they will look at their pastor differently as well… as someone who is passionate about what he is teaching them.

Your thoughts?


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  There are 13 Comments:

  • Posted by Matt

    Wasn’t this done in a book?  smile

    Check out In His Steps (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4540).  I’ve always wondered what would happen if that were repeated in real-life.

    But...let’s take it to heart.  What will we do if/when we are ever in the same situation (not being the “guy” but responding)?  How will we act?  How should we act?

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    It’s an old tactic I’ve seen used before… but a good one…

    We had somebody show up one time who was known to be a local “bad element”, and on of our congregation took a lot of time with him, just listening and being Christ to him.

    He died a short while later, and I was glad that this friend of mine spent some time with him. Who knows what might have happened because of that. We didn’t kick him out, we loved on him.

    And what happened to my friend who talked to that guy? We just hired him late last year as our site pastor for our first multi-site location.

  • Posted by Jason Allen

    “Tactic” is a good word.  It seems to confuse behavior and motive.  Sure I might act with compassion if I have to worry about being caught on tape and/or found out for not being compassionate (who wants to be the butt of a joke in the middle of a sermon some day).  But if this is my motivation am I truly compassionate?  Seems to be a tactic that confuses Gospel motivation and religious behavior.

    Or maybe I’m not being compassionate at the moment.  smile

  • Posted by Jamie

    We’ve expressed great compassion to a particular homeless man in our community. He was given food and a kind word whenever he showed. He was even welcomed in worship one Sunday. He has, however, expressed himself in inappropriate, vulgar, and threatening ways, especially toward women, so our new policy is to contact the police as soon as he shows up on the church property. Compassion- yes; doormats- no.

  • Posted by

    We had an actor friend come in like a homeless person during a sermon a couple of years ago.

    He got really into it and even rubbed dumpster trash on himself.  Then he came into the service late, etc.

    This was a large church and it was interesting to see what people did, as he made a minor scene of getting settled and trying to find a pencil etc.

    I think the point was made.  We did this for 3 services in a row and the reactions were pretty much the same in each one.  I thought it was interesting.

    And there were no cameras to record it smile

  • Posted by Jeff

    WOW - how else can we manipulate people on Sunday mornings?

    Invite an LGBT couple in to shame us in our lack of love? Or maybe ask the church treasurer to read everybody’s giving statements (or lack thereof) publicly.

    I’m not disputing that the church needs to shore up in our commitment to Christ and His principles, but I think manipulation diminishes the POWER of God’s Word at work in our lives.

  • Posted by

    Interesting isn’t it?  I did not see it as manipulation but as a living illustration.  Some people probably got mad and others were convicted and others were relieved they did not see him or have to get caught.

    Sadly, too many believers would resist this kind of accountability rather than just grow and make an adjustment. 

    Heaven forbid we are held accountable to the scripture by each other.

  • Posted by Tommy Jackson

    Thank you to everyone that has given/offered feedback.  Todd told me he was going to put this on here, but I never expected it to cause controversy. If what I did offended you, I sincerely apologize.  My heart was to bring a living illustration of 1 John 4:7 & 8.  Specifically where the Word says, “he thats loves not doesn’t know God, for God is love”.  I was attempting to illustrate that love is THE distinguishing factor in a Christ-follower’s life. The “Kingdom Compassion” message was part of our “Kingdom People” series, and we choose Valentine’s weekend as a time to talk about love.

    I will offer the following as something to think about.  I think we will all agree that God wants to bring transformation in every person’s life.  An email I received suggests that he used this “foolishness” to do just that.  Please read the email below.  The only changes I have made are to protect the identity of the person:

    “Pastor Jackson,

    (I am a local businessman and) I write this, not for business, but as a Christian.  I have become cynical in my world view as of late. I have recently gone through a time of questioning God, pride, self pity and some anger. I saw the story on KLTV Sunday night about your actions on Sunday and got on my knees and asked God to forgive me. Period. 

    I happen to know several of your members and how they speak of your church and now I see why. Your vision and test of “what will the people do?” was moving, sad, and exciting all at the same time.

    We have lost……..no, I have lost…… my basic fundamental love and trust for fellow man, and your “test” on Sunday to see what your people would do was moving, insightful and God driven.

    I decided to blind copy this to some of your members, as sometimes we just don’t let people know how their church and church leaders affect the community. 

    Thanks” (Name Withheld)

  • Posted by

    I don’t see this as manipulating.  If it is, then so is a song or a drama because we are stirring up emotions?

    I think it’s more about making a heart connection so that a person will see the need to make a heart response.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm


    Sounds like your church is known for it’s great love for one another.

    Speaking as someone in a church that is known for that in our community, it feels great, doesn’t it! No, we’re not perfect, I’m sure you’re not, but this is what Jesus said people would know us for. (not our doctrinal statements...)

  • Posted by Brian L.

    Way to go, Tommy.

    I think it’s a great way to take the message from being just something people process on a cerebral level to an actual application level.  Being doers instead of just hearers.  That’s not manipulation.  It’s getting people out of their own ivory towers.

    I’m thinking of having someone do that here.  We’re a small church so I don’t think I’d get away with doing it myself.

    Another church here did invite a poorer man, then interviewed him during the service to see how he was treated.  THAT caused a little discomfort!  I thought it was a great idea.

  • Posted by Gene

    I remember hearing about a pastor doing this over 25 years ago when I was in seminary. Not a new idea but definitely an interesting way to make a point.

  • This was well worthwhile. Thanks for the info.
    Wait, you’re a lot like a friend of mine smile the website is good. it’s nice to know that i won’t have to delete anymore emails that aren’t of interest but honestly, you have offered lots of useful information.
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