Verses that support security at the church

Day by day, we try to live the life that God wants us to live. Unfortunately, many Christians believe that this means we should be pacifists. They believe God will take care of us, which he will, but we must also do our part! We must protect God’s children! I believe it is biblical, and today, I want to help you to lay out a case for protecting your flock in your home church.

Many years ago, I had an older Pastor say to me “You know, Jesus told us if someone smacks you on the cheek, we should turn the other cheek, but he didn’t say what to do if they hit that other cheek.” While this is not may not be a biblical defense on judgement day (for defending yourself), there are versus that lead us to believe that self-defense is acceptable to our Lord.

If we look at Exodus 22:2-3, we see:

(2) If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; (3) but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.”.

So does this mean we can only defend ourselves at night? To the contrary, God wants us to protect ourselves and others all the time. If we look at Romans 13:4 we see:

(4)For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

I don’t want this taken out of context, so I should mention that this was not written about our ability to defend ourselves, but rather the government defending us. Essentially, I see this as to the modern day equivalent of law enforcement. However, this brings to mind the question the authorities that we have appointed in the church. Does God look on our security teams? I think that this is answered in Psalms 82:3-4:

(3) Defend the weak and the fatherless;
    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. (4) Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

We are charged with protecting the fatherless, the weak, and those that are poor. We are to deliver them from the wicked. Wouldn’t this be a church security team in our churches? Similarly, if we look at Proverbs 24:11-12 it says:

(11) Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter. (12) If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

We are called to step in when others are being led away to death, and from my understanding of these verses, we will be judged for not doing so. I believe this says that security teams are not only acceptable, but required. If evil invades our sanctuary, and our congregants are being slaughtered, aren’t we called to stop them from being killed? If we look at Proverbs 22:3 , it says:

(3)The prudent see danger and take refuge,
    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

Interesting! So God calls us to take refuge from danger. What if we are taking refuge in our houses of worship? I believe Nehemiah 4: 7-8 describes how we (as a church and a religion) should defend ourselves.

(7) But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. (8) They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

They posted guards? Hello! This is a security team! I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If you also believe this, ask yourself why God would leave this passage and the entire story in scripture. If we read further into Nehemiah 4, we see how they prepared.

(16) From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah (17) who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, (18) and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

(19)Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. (20) Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”

(21) So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. (22) At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” (23) Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

Again, God shows that we sometimes have to protect our people, and they didn’t hire someone else to protect them, they protected themselves. While I could provide a substantial amount of information from the Bible that supports protecting our churches, I fear that this blog post would be entirely too long! We could look at Jude 1:23. or even Jeremiah 22:3,  but I will let you see the versus and the context for yourself.

To close out this week’s blog, if we were not supposed to protect the flock, why would have Jesus said in John 15:

(12) My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (13) Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (14) You are my friends if you do what I command.

Until next week, … Mark

What will it take??????

Over the years of teaching how to prevent and survive active shooters in houses of worship, the one thing I have noticed is that many churches do not want to prepare. They take a haphazard or complacent response to protecting the church. I have heard a myriad of reasons, with almost all of them being what I consider “bad excuses”. This has led me to wonder “What it will take for them to understand the importance of protecting their flock?”

Historically, scholars and public safety has seen if it happens in the rest of the world, it eventually comes to the United States. We have seen terror attacks in various places, especially Middle Eastern countries, and we say, “That’s horrible” or “What a shame”, only for it to happen on U.S. soil a year or two later.

We only need to think about the car and knife attacks that started in Middle Eastern countries, then it moved to France and England, only to eventually come to fruition in the United States a year or so later. If we think about it, we saw the terror attacks in foreign countries in the 1990’s, and then we saw these attacks come to fruition on September 11, 2001. Looking at this from a historical perspective, it doesn’t even need to be the same type of perpetrator. We have seen the same types of attacks come from radical Muslims, eco-terrorists, domestic terrorists (think Timothy McVeigh), and people that have evil in their heart.

ISIL inspired attacks cut the throat of a French Priest, bombings in Egyptian Mosques and Nigerian Mosques soon led to the bombing of a Minnesota Mosque and the church shooting in Texas. The perpetrators of these crimes were not from the same religion, or even have the same beliefs. Their hearts are hard, and they want to cause death and destruction. It sounds like Satan’s plan to me. As a professional in emergency management and homeland security, I often say “As it happens in the rest of the world, so will it happen in our country.”

Whether it is a mental issue, or a heart filled with evil, our places of worship are under attack! In looking at Carl Chinn’s deadly force statistics (in houses of worship), it is easy to see that deadly force incidents are on the rise. In 1999, there were 22 deaths reported in churches from a deadly incident, and in 2000, there were nine, followed by four in 2001. The number of deadly force statistics stayed under 50 deaths in churches per year, until 2008. Since 2008, we have seen a steady incline in deaths in church at the hands of others. The year 2017 was the deadliest ever recorded, at 177 deaths occurring at houses of worship. Since 1999, there have been 477 deaths that have occurred in houses of worship, stemming from 1691 total potentially deadly force incidents.

So, I ask you, what is it going to take to get your church to prepare? We have scriptural mandates to protect our flocks. We have seen a huge increase in deaths in houses of worship. We have seen mass killings in churches. We have seen mass bombings in houses of worship, in other countries (Prediction: coming soon to the U.S. like never seen before). Is it going to take a shooting or bombing at a church in your state? Perhaps it will take a shooting or bombing in your county? Of course, there are some that will wait until it comes to their doorstep! I tend to believe that there are those that won’t even take action then!

Many stand on “God will take care of us”. God does take care of His children, but He also expects us to help Him. If we are to rely solely on God’s protection, then why does Nehemiah 4:15-16 say: “When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work. From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah.”

Similarly, in Acts 20:28-30, we are told “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

Even Jesus provided guidance that we may need to protect ourselves. In Luke 22:36 Jesus spoke to his disciples “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.”

These are but a few verses that support protecting Gods people and the church. Think of all the words of David about how God prepared him to prevail against those that would attack Israel. Think of all the times God the Father helped his people prepare for war. Make no mistake, this is a war. This is Satan’s assault on the church, and he has changed it from a spiritual war to a combination of a spiritual and physical war. Food for thought, … how many people do you think have quit attending church because of the recent violence against churches? This is part of Satan’s plan!

People, I am shouting from the mountain top, as are many of my colleagues who teach church safety! I beg you, start preparing! I also beg you to look at the statistics that Carl provides. They can be very eye opening! Pastors, individuals in public safety, and the general public are begging for church protection. PLEASE, quit being complacent and do something! … Mark

Choosing the church media representative

We all watched in horror when the shooting happened at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church. Much like waiting for a train wreck, many of us were glued to the television.  I found myself desperately hoping a spokesperson for the church would come forward and tell the media that God was still in power, and to not give glory or recognition to the evil person who committed this crime.  Perhaps this was not the perfect train of thought, but they were my thoughts nonetheless.

As I mentioned yesterday, a media relations person can help send the churches message, rather than the media’s message. In the public safety world, we call this person a Public Information Officer, or PIO.  This term and acronym can also be attached to the church. When choosing a PIO, you want to carefully choose the person (or persons) who will best represent the church.  Let me plainly state, you should avoid using the Pastor as the PIO for multiple reasons! One key reason is that in the event of a disaster, whether natural or man-made, they will have their hands full dealing with those that were affected by the incident. They will likely be needed elsewhere, rather than standing in front of microphones, appeasing the general public. They will probably be busy providing compassion, solace, and direction to those in the church. Depending on the circumstances, they may even be accompanying law enforcement to the homes of family members to provide notification of death. As I said, there are numerous reasons the Pastor should not be the PIO, and I have just touched the tip of the iceberg. This is not to say that they cannot give a statement (eventually), but their first priority is taking care of the flock!

When looking for a PIO, some attributes that you may want to look for include:

  • Someone who speaks well
  • Someone who dresses appropriately
  • Someone who can stay calm under pressure
  • Someone who is familiar with the congregants
  • Some who can speak with authority
  • Someone familiar with the Bible

While most of these are common sense, I still want to discuss the reasoning behind each. When you choose someone who speaks well and dresses appropriately, you are making sure that you portray your church in a positive light. If it is going to be a national news story, this is extremely important that we represent God in a positive light! In choosing someone who stays calm under pressure, it will be important that the person representing your church is not hysterical or babbling nonsense. They should in all likelihood be able to remain calm and focused even in the worst of situations. In knowing the congregants, you want someone who can give effectively generalizations (e.g. three people of a family of four, the parents of two children, the only child), but they can also provide specific details without releasing names or violating privacy. You also want someone who speaks with authority because you do not want the message being given to sound wishy-washy or weak; you want the information being given to sound like the person, and the church, stand firm on Gods healing, love, and promises. Finally, you want someone who knows the Bible so they can provide scripture that meets the situation.

Imagine a church PIO on national television that gave a press release that started like this:

“Hello, my name is Joe Davies, and I am the public relations representative for ABC Church. Let me start by quoting scripture: In  Matthew 10:28, Jesus told his disciples “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. ” Today, several bodies were destroyed in this act of violence, but we are sure their souls are in heaven! …” Another fine example is this YouTube video of the Pastor and his wife speaking in Sutherland Springs.

Let me close today’s blog by saying the information I shared with you today is basic information. I will get more in-depth in the coming days. Of course, I will discuss what happens if the PIO is not capable of doing their job, where to learn how to be an effective PIO, and a whole host of other issues, as I said, in the coming days. Until then, please make sure that you keep Gods flock safe, … Mark

Ya’ll shoulda see’d it!

Please forgive my title, but how many times have you seen the news reporter interviewing someone, and thought to yourself “Couldn’t they find anyone better to talk to?”. Think of the person standing in front of the camera that has a (not so nice) saying, or someone that swears when they get excited. Well, that is something that the church needs to consider as well. No matter what the size of the church, an incident can happen at any time, and you need to consider what image you want your church to have prior to an incident ever happening.

A media relations person is a positive for any church, and should not only be considered useful for times of crisis. If they can develop media contacts, they can l help the church to share God’s message and to create a positive message for your house of worship. After developing relationships with individuals in the media, they have an inside source that can help the church for in outreach for a special event. By simply asking, they may be able to advertise for the event, or even get the news agency to possibly cover it. How encouraging would it be when the church is having a revival, for it to be standing room only? How wonderful would it be to have Vacation Bible school so packed that you had to ask for more help? How exciting would it be to have hundreds, or even thousands (depending on the market), of people show up for your next fundraiser or food drive? A media relations person, if they are good, may be able to help your church do this, and it can help provide you with direct contact to people that need the Lord!

Similarly, should there be an active shooting in your church, the media relations person will already have a relationship with the media, and in most instances by simply asking, they may be able to convince the media not to show certain things. Some of those “things”  could be body bags being removed, people being loaded into an ambulance, talking with already stunned parishioners, or showing children. They may also be able to reduce false rumors just by having a working relationship with the media person. The media relations person can do more for your church than you can imagine.

Active shootings are not the only crisis that a church could face. They could face a fire, a flood, sexual misconduct, theft or armed robbery, or other types of violence in the church. Your media relations person will be there to guide the way the church is presented and viewed. This can be very important! There are some (albeit few), media outlets that will spread rumors that are not verified, and in some instances, they may even make up stories. While these instances are rare, they do happen.

Over the next few days, I will provide guidance of on how to choose a media relations person, who should be the media relations person (hint, normally not the Pastor), when there should be an assistant for the media relations person, where to get training (some of it free) and much more. Until then, may God bless you, … Mark

Your role if a shooter or bomber gets in!

Layer four of layered security (or layer one, if you have not taken my advice), is you the parishioner. You may be asking what can I do? There is a lot you can do. Next time you sit down for church service, look around and see what you may have that could be used as an improvised weapon. Think about this, you are someone that is planning evil in the church, you make entry into the sanctuary, only to be hit in the face with thrown hymnals and the Word of God (the Bible). How much damage do you think you are going to do if you are dodging the heavy books that keep hitting you in the face?

While hymnals and Bibles are readily available, there are some other things that may be used as an improvised weapon. They include:

  • Laptops
  • Cell phones
  • Hot Coffee
  • Thermos or thermos cups
  • Coffee cups
  • Light furniture
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Keys
  • Much more

When I teach my seminars on Preventing and Surviving an Active Shooter in Houses of Worship at churches, I allow the attendees to see how effective throwing items can be. I give them a mix of bean bags and the plastic balls (the type used in kids fun centers), then ask for a volunteer to be our gunman. I give the volunteer safety glasses and a semiautomatic rubber band gun that shoots 20 rubber bands as quick as they can pull the trigger.

In most instances, they are too busy trying to get away from the annoying things being thrown at them, than they are trying to shoot me with rubber bands. In fact, in most situations (not all), they only get one or two rubber bands coming my direction. The rest of their shots are way off to the side or they are not even shooting as they try to dodge the bean bags and balls coming at their face.

You should fight the shooter ONLY as a last resort. If you have no other choice but to fight the shooter, fight as if your life depends on it, because it does/! Try to avoid hitting others as you fight the shooter. As the items are flying, one or two other parishioners should be rushing to tackle the individual, and take the gun away. Whenever taking a gun away from a shooter, or when trying to stop a shooter, you should try to avoid just pulling it from their hand. This might allow them to get shots off at people. Whenever possible, force the barrel of the gun towards the ceiling or floor, then pry it from their hand(s).

Once again, this is a last resort. If the other layers of your security is working, then it should, in most instances, never come to this stage. On a side note, whomever is in the pulpit should be the early warning person. They will see the shooter or bomber before most people. They should announce “Gun, gun, gun!” as quick as possible.

In my next post,  will discuss one of the most contentious areas when it comes to church safety. I will touch on guns in the sanctuary. Some churches believe that guns should be in the sanctuary, while others believe they should be gun-free zones. Until then, may God Bless you, … Mark