The Day the Pastor Went Berserk

“Son, don’t go to sleep while I’m talking. Hey! Hey! … Don’t you lay your head back. I’m important. I’m somebody.” With those words on Sunday, May 19, Pastor Jim Standridge of Immanuel Baptist Church in Oklahoma became an unwitting internet star.

And he wasn’t finished.

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On a roll, Standbridge blasted the male half of a couple whom the pastor said wanted him to marry them, then chastised others’ supposed personal sins — including a church video staff member. “He’s a grown man,” Standridge exclaimed, back at the pulpit. “That video room ain’t going to be a youth hangout.”

Several challenges:

  1. This made news. Why do we not hear more often of manipulative rants — because they aren’t frequent or because this chanced to find fame?
  2. Currently the church’s blogs discuss Jesus Christ and His identity, very different than the sermon detour. How do such deviations arise?
  3. Some Christians are defending Standridge (as one acquaintance did on my Facebook page.) Do they truly see nothing wrong with publicly saying “you’re not worth fifteen cents!”? Is this okay as long as a pastor is not committing the far worse sins of “doctrinal compromise,” “feminized faith,” or “worldly Christianity”?

About E. Stephen Burnett

E. Stephen Burnett is a journalist, aspiring novelist, and editor and webslinger at Speculative Faith. His mission: to explore and enjoy epic stories that reflect the truths and beauties of the first and greatest Epic Story, God’s Word. He also writes for a dynamic news franchise in Austin, Texas and delves into Christ-and-culture doctrine at Christ and Pop Culture. He also enjoys nonfiction, soundtrack music, and spending life with his wife, Lacy, in their Texas headquarters.

  • Tim George

    Interestingly enough, a wayward church member used my comment on your FB post to subtly hint one of our elders was guilty of something similar. The elder’s offense, he spoke privately to this member’s son about inappropriate actions while leading worship. Nothing said in public. Multiple private instructions. 31 yr old allowed his mother to plead his cause rather than appealing to the other elders. Ministers like Standbridge make it even more difficult to carry out loving church discipline.

  • Greg Hoadley

    Clearly, this pastor was in the wrong. I’ll make no bones about that. Having said that, I wonder what led to his outburst. I can say that these days, it is harder to be a pastor. People decide what they want to obey out of God’s Word and what they don’t. At times, it can be a very stressful life; moreso than in previous generations. Looks to me like he had a nervous breakdown. Again, no excuses for such brazenly poor behavior, but I would not be surprised if such is happening far more than this particular instance.

  • Ian

    Alzheimer’s or some condition with manic episodes? No, seriously. This man may not be well: this kind of grandiose thinking and behaviour is well known as an indicator of certain conditions. His church leadership need to gently suggest he sees a doctor. If this continues, they need to take firm but kind action to keep him from the pulpit. I knew of a situation in which a minister became very extreme (he was in fact ill) and was necessarily removed from his charge. He wouldn’t leave the church house, insisted he was still the minister and would do things like turning up during the service with a policeman. Then again, Standbridge may be in good health, and that’s REALLY scary.

  • Stuart Blessman

    He’s demonstrated he is unfit to pastor a church. He needs to be put under church discipline and corrected by an older and hopefully wiser mentor.

  • Dave

    He is an angry and abusive man. I feel sorry for anyone who sits under his leadership. I wouldn’t stay five minutes after witnessing this rant. Disguising as “spiritual authority” doesn’t make it any better. Inexcusable.

  • DenisePam

    I also wondered what the lead up was. I think there are some clues. Some of the people he addresses in a way that shows the issue between them is something that’s been going on for a time (the fiance who hasn’t been to church the last 3 weeks) and repeatedly crops up (“building” a “kingdom” in the video booth during church services, the pastor knowing to tell Mr. Cox’s mom to stay out of it). I wonder if what led to this inappropriate outburst were many past failures to appropriately respond to issues. If a soon-to-be married couple aren’t coming to church regularly and there is some kind of agreement/expectation that they will/should be, then that should be handled with them personally, when it occurs, each and every time it occurs. How often do pastors (and the rest of us) let things slide because we know it won’t change? Or how often is something addressed rightly the first time it crops up, but when the issue becomes obviously chronic we disengage and hold in our resentment until we explode most terribly?

    I feel sorry for this pastor. He seems desperate to do something that will make him feel vindicated and valuable: “I am somebody. I am important.” “I feel good now.” “Let’s just get it ALL out.” “We’ll leave [if the congregation really doesn't want him anymore].” How long has he felt like an unimportant nobody, felt badly about himself and his job performance, and like his problems will be left simmering and whispering under the surface until the day he is finally rejected totally and asked to leave? To be sure, as a grown man, and moreso as a church leader, he bears much responsibility and who’s to say he doesn’t bear most of it. But he is engaged in a tragic dialogue with other grown men and women who are responsible for their own choices as well. For example, no one should have to tell an adult or even teens that the video booth shouldn’t be used as a hangout place during service. That’s something they should already know.

    I have never been witness to this kind of situation in which things get so specifically personal. However, I grew up in the 80s and 90s attending a Southern Baptist church which was also a destination for other SB congregations who would attend our many tent revivals, camps, and prayer conferences. These would either be long 3-day weekends or a 5-day week. We held about 6 every year. I got to hear many pastors besides my own speak at these gatherings, as well as many evangelists and a few missionaries. Many of the same people came for every gathering, year after year. I have seen many of those men speak in this same way, about the same kinds of things. The only differences were that they never came into the pews and they would say “you know who you are, you’re sitting right here in the pews” instead of calling out names. This was a regular feature among a large group of people who would be considered right in the mainstream part of Southern Baptist denomination back then, we weren’t on the fringes of the denomination.