Seattle Police Officer Noah Winningham served on the frontlines amid the violent riots that engulfed the city last year. During his breaks, he prepared the sermon he would preach on Sunday as the lead pastor of Sufficient Grace Church — a sermon on oppressed people meeting Jesus.
“As both a pastor and a police officer, I was able to preach that sermon the following Sunday with a unique context and voice that no other pastor can give,” Winningham told The Christian Post.
“I was able to speak about the sin of when oppressors oppress, and then also about the sin of the violent reactions and the rioting and looting. When people heard it, the weight of my words carried something drastically different because I had stood in the middle of what had happened.”
Though he believes he’s exactly where God calls him to be, the father-of-four never set out to be a bi-vocational pastor, especially in Seattle. It was a series of unlikely events — and an undeniable calling from God — that led him to plant Sufficient Grace Church in South Hill in the fall of 2019.
Sufficient Grace Church is a part of the Acts 29 Network, which includes more than 800 other churches worldwide. The Matt Chandler-led organization offers church leaders “decades of experience-proven training, guidance, and tools for planting churches designed to grow and thrive.”
“My wife and I knew God didn’t want to take me out of the police department, because especially in this area, there aren’t many Christian police officers,” Winningham explained. “Among police officers, there’s a huge suicide rate, there’s a huge alcohol abuse rate and massive depression. We knew God wanted me here.”
“Yet we saw the massive need in our area for another Gospel-proclaiming church. And I felt like God had given me the ability to lead that charge. It was a long process, two years, in fact, of us wrestling with how those two callings would work together. But we both walked away saying, ‘OK, not only does God want me to plant a church, God wants me to do both.”
Serving as a bi-vocational pastor has undeniable challenges, Winningham said, particularly as both pastors and police officers statistically have high burnout rates. To maintain his mental, emotional and spiritual health, he surrounds himself with biblical support, from his wife and the elders at his church to weekly meetings with a Christian counselor.
“It’s interesting getting yelled at for hours and then preaching from the book of John on the weekend,” he said, adding that he was recently diagnosed with PTSD as a result of his law enforcement work.
“I’m still unpacking a lot of the stuff I saw during the riots.”
But his dual calling…