One final lesson that those of us in leadership at local churches or parachurch ministries can learn from the documentary The Overnighters. Previous lessons learned are visible here and here.
Hurting people hurt people. Alan and Paul turned on the pastor. They were quite angry with him and their outbursts were caught on camera. Comments in the director’s cut help me understand that they struck out in anger because of the hurts in their lives.
If I have the story correct, Alan shared that he was rebuilding his life when he first stayed in The Overnighters program.. What he left out was he did not have a driver’s license and did have a rather old conviction for sexual misconduct. If the documentary or director’s cut explained the age or nature of that conviction, I didn’t catch it.
His ancient history caught up with him after the tensions were already running high in the city and the program. It is not a surprise that a key player in the program who had an undisclosed conviction revealed at that time would have to leave the program.
His particular story, along with the underlying narrative of the documentary, raises an incredibly good point: when do we as a society finally let someone with a really bad record start over?
How long do we hold a conviction over someone’s head? How long do we grind someone under the heel? 10 years? 25 years? Until they die?
The troubling question becomes how can someone ever stand on their own if that conviction is forever front and center in their life?
Anyway, he struck out in anger. Quite a spectacular rant, too.
Paul had lots of things going on that he didn’t share (of course). Jay Reinke did not share those issues on camera either. That was out of compassion I think, and out of confidentiality I assume, because it wasn’t appropriate to share at the time.
In the director’s cut, we learned Paul had some “go rounds” with other pastors in town. The details are not provided, but reading between the lines that means he had some significant conflicts with some other churches. Inference is there were multiple incidents.
Something that is not well known outside leadership is that pastors of different churches actually talk to each other. They even talk across denominational lines. (Shocking, right?) Thus, Jay Reinke knew there were problems before. There is a comment that he also “wasn’t working out” at the house. I don’t know what that means, but things weren’t going well. Shortly after that comment, there is mention that he had an argument with one of the daughters in the family.
Put all those comments in the director’s cut together and you can tell there was a lot more trouble in Paul’s life than was visible when the camera was rolling. The nature of his struggles are not visible in the documentary, but he had hurts.
If those comments are as understated as I think they are, it is no surprise Paul was asked to leave.
That also means it is not a surprise that when Paul was asked to move out of the Reinke home, he struck back in anger. He was very upset. If you watch carefully and if you read between the lines, the documentary strongly suggests that it is Paul who went to the newspaper to tell them that some of the men staying at the church had convictions for sexual offenses. I think that took place in the spring, which would put it 2012, since the major article came out on Halloween (not a coincidence per Jay Reinke), with the program closing the following September.
Yeah, hurting people hurt people.
Combine this and the previous lesson learned: Hurting people lie.
We could develop other lessons.
For example: engage in constructive debate and healthy arguing. One of the men in the meeting with the district pastor (which makes him part of elected leadership, an elder I’ll guess) went to the city to complain about whether the program was complying with city code. It is quite unhealthy when someone in elected leadership calls official attention to a program the elected leader is trying to stop.
Next: part 6.