Q: Dear Pastor,
Should my church prepare for an active shooter? An aside: I’m wondering why God doesn’t protect his own!
A: Yes, we are seeing violence coming to our churches now, as evidenced by another berserk shooter in the Dallas-Fort Worth area last month. Churches, schools, grocery stores - Christians in everyday life are facing the truth that the only safe place is in Christ. As cliché as that unfortunately is, it’s the truth. “The Lord is a strong fortress. The godly run to him and are safe,” (Proverbs 18:10, TLB). Let us not forget it wasn’t that long ago in the history of this country when African American churches were regularly plagued by violence and destruction based on racism. There is nothing new about active shooters coming against church congregations. Only the guns have changed, and maybe the reasons for the attacks.
One would hope God would secure his houses of worship in the face of such darkness. Yet we have no way of knowing the extent of the violence, death and horrific scenarios God prevented from happening. These unfortunate tragedies we see may only be a smattering of what the devil planned. I’m sure we would be astonished to know what hasn’t occurred in our neighborhoods, churches, grocery stores and playgrounds. God is always working to protect us.
Why doesn’t God stop all of it?
We must realize, of course, that we live in the world. Our planet is not heaven; therefore we are foolish to expect a heavenly experience in an environment marinating in sin, selfishness and self-will. It wasn’t God’s fault, after all, that the earth is now ruled by darkness (2 Corinthians 4:4). Our species descends from two people who made a choice to willfully walk away from the best deal going: the Garden of Eden, a paradise-eternal, violence-free zone. Our ancestors were instructed very carefully and specifically by a loving, compassionate God regarding his plan to keep evil out of their environment. God gave humans free will (because he wanted daughters and sons, not robots) and he hoped they would use it to both obey him and live in harmony with him. Unfortunately, they blew it.
So now we watch the unfolding of thousands of years of accumulated evil blanketing the earth. As hopeless as that sounds, we still have a promise: “The Light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out,” (John 1:4, Phillips). No, the darkness will never be so dark that Christ can’t shine through it, destroy it and work mighty things in spite of it. We will indeed have trouble on the earth, since trials are now a regular part of the human experience. But nothing will ever change the love of God, his all-powerful goodness and his unfailing promise of our return to that garden one day; through Christ our savior and Lord.
I’m sure if you attended the funeral of a person killed by an active church-shooter, you’re wondering why God didn’t prevent it. No doubt you’re questioning a lot of things if you were the one hiding under a pew, or hosting a funeral for a murdered relative. That said, wisdom tells us that, as wonderful as our insolated church culture may be, we must be good stewards of our congregations, campuses and buildings. We must acknowledge the need for a safety plan; possibly even active-shooter training among our lay-leaders, deacons and elders. These are the times we live in, like it or not. I recommend a quick call to your local sheriff, who will direct you to the folks who conduct these unique church- safety classes. I’m enrolling my folks, presently.
Even so, with God, we have nothing to fear. “So we take comfort and are encouraged, and confidently and boldly say, ‘The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm, I will not fear or dread or be terrified. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6, AMPC) Fight on, Christian soldier! There are more with us than with them.
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Ask Pastor Adrienne: Should my church prepare for a shooting?
Q: Dear Pastor,