Former cop becomes minister, starts church in Victoria (w/ video)

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Feb. 21, 2014 at midnight
Updated Feb. 20, 2014 at 8:21 p.m.

The Rev. Jeff Rendon, center, prays for a church member during a Wednesday evening service at The Master's House in Victoria. Rendon retired from the Victoria Police Department five years ago to become a pastor.

The Rev. Jeff Rendon, center, prays for a church member during a Wednesday evening service at The Master's House in Victoria. Rendon retired from the Victoria Police Department five years ago to become a pastor.

He laid hands on the woman the way any pastor might when a church member approaches an altar call prayer circle.

The Rev. Jeff Rendon's wife and co-minister, Amy, paused the worship choir moments earlier to invite those in need of prayer to the front of the church.

Together, they joined hands with the woman - an orchestral refrain humming in the background - and gently laid hands on her shoulders and forehead.

From a distance, onlookers could see the husband and wife pastors praying over the music, inaudibly moving their lips.

And with a quiet "amen," they concluded the circle and all returned to their seats to resume praise and worship.

Jeff Rendon has been leading his nondenominational church, The Master's House, since July 2013. He launched the group in his living room with nine people, and moved the Wednesday service to First Christian Church a few months ago, as membership grew.

It's an exciting step for a couple who only five years ago were unchurched and considering divorce.

And even more surprising is that Rendon believed the only way he could serve his community before entering the ministry was working as a police officer, laying handcuffs on lawbreakers as he escorted them to the back of a police car.

"I loved being a police officer, but the work was draining me - mentally, physically and spiritually," said Rendon, 38, of Victoria, who concluded his decades of law enforcement at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission five years ago. "I was in bars, out working every weekend, sometimes until 4 or 5 a.m., and my wife was basically raising our children on her own."

Rendon said his career in law enforcement fractured his ability to be a husband and father. The cloud of late hours, foul language and seeing the worst in humanity day after day, started to wear him down. He was lost, he said.

The couple realized after years of marriage and giving birth to twin boys, they didn't like each other and the love they once knew - was gone.

"He told me that once, years ago from across the table, that he wasn't in love with me anymore," Amy Rendon said. "It was tough to hear."

It took a temporary separation, and divine intervention for the pair to reunite and start anew.

"I realized one night that I had a wife and kids, and I was sleeping across town away from them, and I thought, 'What kind of person am I?' It was a real wake-up call. I didn't want to be that guy," he said.

He returned to Amy and confessed he wanted to love her the way she deserved and suggested they start attending church together.

"I started to feel this pull that I needed church, that I needed to pray even though I didn't really know what that meant. I didn't know how to go to God, so I wanted to go to church to figure it out," he said.

Within days, the Rendons started attending Covenant Life Center.

"It happened very quick for Jeff," said Amy, discussing her husband's decision to give his life to Christ. "I saw his whole attitude change, his whole life changed. And I was frustrated at first because I didn't feel what he did."

Several months later, Amy said she, too, recommitted her faith, and after a year of serving weekly at the church, the Rendons became youth leaders.

"Even then, I had no aspirations of being a pastor," he said. "I just wanted to be at the church and serve."

As Rendon's faith grew stronger, he said God began chipping away at some of the walls he had built up during his years of being a cop.

"When I was working in law enforcement, I was drinking pretty heavily, which a lot of us do to cope with the things we have to see. It was getting difficult for me to see people in their mess," he said, mentioning that he still remembered his Victoria senior patrol police badge No. 1434. "I had a heart, and I wanted to help them, but you're sworn to uphold the law. So coming out of that life was a burden. It was a big inner struggle for me, especially because I loved being a policeman. I loved the brotherhood."

But Rendon knew his calling was higher and that God was renewing his heart, so he could lead his own congregation one day.

"The Master's House is a work in progress, but God is in the center of what we're doing every day. I'd love nothing more than to see this house full of cops on Sundays. Firemen, too. We'll let them come in," he said, laughing.

Rendon also said he would enjoy seeing the men and women he once arrested to start attending his church.

"I just feel like I can help people much better as a pastor than I ever could as a cop," he said. "I want to see all the people I arrested. I want to see their lives changed and I want them to know that God can prosper them despite their past."

Amy and Jeff Rendon said their marriage, since renewing their faith in Christ, has been restored and their relationship grows stronger every day.

"It reminds me every day that God is a restorer," she said. "We'd be divorced, I'd be a single parent and our children would have suffered if we hadn't made the decision to seek God five years ago."

In March, The Master's House will launch its Sunday service with two services each week on Wednesdays and Sundays at First Christian Church.

Carmen Zavala, one of the church's members who has been attending for four months, said her faith has strengthened since attending The Master's House.

She recognizes there are many other start-up churches in the Crossroads, but she believes the Rendon's church has a place among them.

"There's always a need for another church and this one is very strong. The word of God is very strong here," she said. "If you need encouragement, come here."

Rendon said when he left Covenant Life Center, he did so with the blessing of his former members.

He's on a new mission now with his wife to create a church body hungry for personal and spiritual change.

"I'm ready to do this thing. I'm listening to God every day, and I'll go anywhere he leads me," Rendon said. "If he wants me to go back to being a policeman, I'll do that ... but right now, God is providing and opening doors for this church to happen and make a difference in Victoria."



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