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Former police officer trades badge for Bible

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–“I will shoot you!” shouted the kneeling police officer.

With pistol aimed, he wasn’t bluffing. The fugitive knew it.

So did fellow officer Spencer Haygood, who rounded the mobile home just in time to see the criminal cautiously backing towards him and away from the other officer.

You can do a lot of thinking in a split second, and the next few minutes would provide Haygood with several meditative moments. In fact, the 1994 event eventually would help convince the current Southern Baptist Theological Seminary student to stop serving arrest warrants and begin serving God.

Haygood remembers the remainder of that morning standoff in vivid detail.

As the fugitive continued his slow retreat towards Haygood, the fugitive’s hand menacingly massaged a pistol poking from underneath his jacket.

Without warning, the fugitive tripped and fell. It was Haygood’s chance.
Charging forward, Haygood tackled the hooded assailant. The two tumbled down a hill behind the trailer. In the fray, the fugitive pointed the gun at Haygood and pulled the trigger.

It misfired. Haygood retaliated.

“I explained to him how unhappy we all were about that [attempted shot],” Haygood recalled with a smile.

He survived the conflict, but a lasting impression was made.

“I’m 42 and thinking, ‘Man, life can be over before you can bat your eye. Things can go from bad to horrible in a second,'” Haygood said.

Several months later the 16-year law enforcement veteran, owner of 32 departmental commendations for actions taken in the line of duty, gave up public service for good. And he decided to give himself fully to a ministry calling he had felt more than two decades before.

Haygood’s journey towards ministry began as a 20-year-old student at Clemson University. The Winnsboro, S.C., native had grown up in a Christian home, but his faith was empty.

Haygood’s roommate, though, was a Christian. And he proved tenacious in his witness. He kept asking Haygood to read a certain book. Haygood kept refusing.

But his roommate’s persistence finally paid off, and Haygood picked up A.W. Pink’s The Attributes of God.

“I sat down one afternoon to read that — just me in that dorm room,” Haygood recalled. “I read the first chapter, and I was so disturbed by that. … The only impression I had was that, if this is God, then I don’t have a clue.

“I believe I began reading that book an unbeliever and finished reading it that same day with a new heart. It broke me. It broke my heart. I saw God and who he is and who I was in relation to him.”

God had arrested Haygood with his grace. Soon, the new convert became involved in a Reformed Christian organization at school. He also played guitar in a Christian band.

Because of his love for music, he moved to Greenville, S.C., in 1974 to help start a Christian coffeehouse. The pastor of a local church — Fair Heights Baptist — allowed the group to use its old sanctuary for their music. But the pastor’s daughter was of more interest to Haygood. Allyson and Spencer married shortly thereafter.

By then, the 22-year-old Haygood had developed a call to ministry. However, his father-in-law/father in the ministry counseled him that if he could do anything else and be happy, he should do it.

And Haygood had always wanted to be a police officer. So by 1980, he was serving in the Greenville Police Department.

He worked in Greenville for almost 10 years until he moved one county over to serve in the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s office.

After several years, though, that same call to ministry returned. He quit his job, but soon returned to serve as a narcotics intelligence officer. Yet, the call remained, and he began preparing himself for the ministry while on the force, attending North Greenville College and even taking on a bivocational pastorate.

But in November 1994, when confronted with that fugitive’s gun, Haygood realized it was time to devote himself entirely to God.

“All of a sudden you’re faced with the fact that I’m a well-trained police officer. … And yet some knucklehead here with a gun in his pocket can get the first round off,” Haygood said.

With this “object lesson in how fragile and temporary life is,” Haygood knew he could not wait any longer.

He graduated valedictorian from North Greenville in 1996, and he came to Louisville in 1997 to pastor Kosmosdale Baptist Church and to enroll at Southern. He will graduate May 18.

“They [Southern’s professors] have given me just wonderful tools for applying myself to the very thing the church wants me to apply myself to — the ministry of the Word and prayer,” Haygood said.

But Haygood is not sorry for the time spent in public service. In fact, it’s enhanced his theological understanding.

“Let’s just say I have no difficulty at all with the doctrine of total depravity,” Haygood said. “God took all that and touched me very deeply with the fallenness of the world. … He broke my heart, and gave me a heart to minister.”

Haygood also understands the sovereign grace of God.

“But for the grace of God, any of those people I dealt with could have been me,” Haygood explained. “There was no difference between me and them in terms of the seeds that lay in the heart. … It still touches me deeply to think about it.”

His experiences also have helped his preaching.

“It gave me a lot of sermon illustrations,” he quipped.

In the future, the former police officer wants to teach, preach and write.

“I think at the heart of the pastoral ministry is a teaching ministry,” Haygood said. “I want to see a biblical worldview formed. I want people to not just know lots of stuff about their Bibles but how to put their Bibles together so that they get what God has said.”

In the meantime, Haygood will keep applying the lessons he has learned to his pastoral ministry while he learns even more lessons at Southern.

“I’m glad to be here, and I hope to be a part of the seminary community and what’s going on in Louisville in terms of proclamation of the gospel for years to come,” he said.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CHANGING CAREERS and SPENCER HAYGOOD.

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  • Bryan Cribb