Like all of you, my heart is overwhelmed with the evil shootings at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. In a small, Mayberry-like town of 700 people, evil walked into the sanctuary. Even the Washington Post, not the most traditional or conservative voice in America got this statement right – “First Baptist Church, which reported an average estimated attendance of 100 in 2015, is the latest house of worship in the United States in which such carnage has taken place. Some say it’s an act of violence that is becoming too common at places that many saw as both sacred and safe.”
The one thing that the church – the global church – must do is to avoid the politicization of this evil, wicked tragedy. The families of the 26 people that died in the First Baptist Church, dozens more that have been injured, and the folks that will, for the rest of their lives worship with one eye trained on the front door deserve better than making this gutless, evil action a platform to prove their point. Yes, it is evil. You may prefer to address this as mental illness, but at its core, it is evil. So, what do churches like my church do now? Do we start posting armed security at each door? Do we put our head in the sand and assume that it will never happen to us?
As a pastor of a wonderful church in the suburbs of Atlanta, what are we doing? We have aggressively been training childrens and student leaders in how to get into lockdown mode and secure our facilities and guard our families first. We have already been including armed, off-duty police officers to be present in our family ministry areas, and just outside of our Worship Gatherings. We are stepping up our training of our volunteer security team and staff members. Every effort is being made to secure our church from this senseless evil, but the fact is that nobody leaves home for their Sunday morning worship experience thinking it will happen to them.
The church is a soft target if there ever was a soft target. We must think and react differently. We must pray away evil and when it shows it’s ugly head, we must treat it like a whack-a-mole game and pound it away. Every church has someone that is better prepared than it’s pastor is in this area of security. Let them lead. Let their training in law enforcement or military security serve just as passionately as our group leaders, children’s leaders and student leaders.
At the end of the day, we have all been attacked. We are all, in some way First Baptist Church. Let us offer up all we can to serve this violated House of Prayer. Let us love them, pray earnestly for them and let us prepare, with urgency, our own congregations for evil when it’s wickedness shows up to violate our people.
Psalm 121 gives us the plan and the place to find our strength and trust:“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”