SAFE-GUARDING THE CHURCH

SAFE-GUARDING THE CHURCH

The basement fellowship hall of one of the largest churches in the county was packed with the most ecumenical gathering of local church leaders I’ve ever seen. The recent spate of mass-shootings obviously had everybody thinking about safety and local law-enforcement agencies along with the Commonwealth’s Attorney were hosting a church safety seminar. The presenters were excellent and reminded me of some lessons learned the hard way that are worth sharing.

Twenty-five years ago, I operated a fleet garage in Atlanta, Georgia. The garage was part of a large, downtown ministry that had an electronic security system monitored by an on-site, twenty-four-hour security staff. One zone of the system had been malfunctioning and, when it alarmed one night, the security staff by-passed it and ignored it. Thieves made off with thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and a dump-truck.

Lesson: A security system that isn’t in place and operating all the time isn’t a security system. It is a false sense of security.

Forty years ago, our automotive tech class was taking a break outside the shop, standing around, shooting the breeze when up walks another student with a pine branch about the size of a baseball bat in his hand. He starts yelling at a guy not five feet from me about a girl they were both pursuing. Quick as a flash he swung that branch and I saw my friend’s head changed shape under the blow. Just as fast my friend was down, and the attacker was gone.

Lesson: From our point of view, violence is random and incredibly fast. We never know when it is coming our way. People assume that Jesus’ only response to violence was passivity. That is inaccurate as well as inadequate. Jesus resisted hypocritical teaching of religious leaders, as well as their usurious exploitation of worshipers in the temple, with aggressive action (John 2:15). When soldiers asked how to practice righteousness he did not tell them to lay down their arms and resign their commissions (Luke 3:14). Before his departure he recognized the need for armed defense against violent evil by urging his men to provide themselves with swords (Luke 22:36). Violent evil will be with us till Christ returns so we must be prepared.

Three months ago, we hosted a family discipleship seminar. Our presenter, Dr. Kevin Jones, traveled four hours to be with us. A couple dozen people gathered to hear his talk and not half-way through we had to evacuate the building for a tornado warning.

Last week, to the complete shock of the congregation, one of our young praise band members fainted—in the middle of a song—on stage, requiring immediate first-aid. A husband & wife team of nurses immediately took charge and took care of him, but it took a while for the rest of us to regain our equilibrium.

Lesson: We need a plan and a designated team to handle such emergencies.

Thankfully, a group of dedicated church-members have volunteered to serve as our church’s Safety Team. They have been developing plans and policies for various situations to keep all of us as safe as possible during worship services and other events.

When the team is ready, they will lead us through a few emergency preparedness drills. Should an emergency occur our job as church members will be to stay out of their way as they move toward the crisis and follow any directions they may have for us.

Does your church have a safety team?

FACING THE EVIL AMONG US The Las Vegas Massacre

My gut double-clutched as I heard the newsman’s report on Monday morning radio: “Over fifty killed, over five hundred wounded.” As John Stonestreet said on Breakpoint yesterday, we weep for the suffering and we call evil by name.[1]

That’s what I want to do today, help us face the evil.

Law enforcement will sift out a motive, and the debate will rage again about gun control, but in the end, these will not speak to our deepest fears. Remember that in 1995 Timothy McVeigh used a Ryder rental truck, fertilizer, racing fuel, and diesel fuel to kill 168 people, injure 680 others and destroy 25 buildings. On 9-11 Islamic terrorists killed almost 3000 with box cutters and airliners. No amount of investigation or new security will bring these people back.

Whatever the outcome of the investigation and the debates, the question will remain: Knowing something like this could happen again, how are we to deal with it on a personal, day-to-day basis?

The Reality of Evil

Historian David McCollough made this comment after 9-11, “We have for a long time now chosen to see everything in shades of gray. We have eschewed the idea of a clear line between right and wrong, good and evil. I think this event changes that.”

Paul called it the ‘mystery of iniquity’. Evil, how it works and why it torments us, is a mystery. But it is not a myth. It is as real as the thunder of a falling tower and as terrible as the rattle of an automatic weapon, and it resides in our hearts too.[2] Each generation must come to grips with the reality of evil.

The Mandalay Bay shooter was not always evil. He was a baby at his mother’s breast. He was a little boy playing sandlot baseball. But something happened and he turned. He was a free moral agent and made a choice to nurture the evil inside and let it grow.

The Bible teaches us that we have a choice.[3] The question is, what will we do with the evil within?

Salt to a Rotting Culture

Were all of us more truthful with ourselves we would admit violence in our entertainment is just as poisonous as pornography. The more we consume it the less we abhor it and the more it becomes a viable option for calming our inner demons.

No one knows what evil drew the Las Vegas shooter to that hotel high ground, but nothing is more certain than that he saw violence as his only response.

Evil comes from within, but it is nurtured by corrupt culture. Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth, we are the light of the world. Surely that means that we have a role in reshaping our cultural taste for violence.

Find True Security

Stories are already emerging of people who made narrow escapes, or left the venue like John Rich of Big & Rich, before the shooting began. But ultimately, safety has nothing to do with where you are or what you are doing. Safety is found in God alone.

I’m not suggesting we ignore security precautions. I’m just saying that five minutes or five seconds one way or the other is often the difference between life and death. And none of us knows which side of that count we will be on when we walk out the door.[4]

If you do not yet have a relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ, God doesn’t want to know your plans for tomorrow. He wants to know your plans for today. Will you trust him with all that you are for all of eternity?

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”[5]

Let your grasp of who he is be so firm, and your understanding and respect for his power be so immense, that no evil on earth can intimidate you.

[1] http://www.breakpoint.org/2017/10/breakpoint-mourning-wake-las-vegas/

[2] Matthew 5:19

[3] Ephesians 4:26-27; James 1:14-15

[4] Psalm 103:15-16

[5] Matthew 10:28-31