Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook from a retired police officer, security expert, and security consultant: “The best thing a church CAN do is to LOCK THEIR DOORS right before the services begin.” I know this gentleman. He was not coming from a theological perspective. He was coming from a cultural perspective. His views were reinforced by his year of police and security training.
Still, there is something inherently wrong with a Christian taking this stance, and believe me, many people hailed his post with resounding cries of “Amen!” The image of a church with their doors locked is one of the greatest examples of the apostate church that I can think of. We can never allow fear to run our lives or have a prominent place in our houses of worship. The question then becomes “What can we do to prevent another Sutherland Springs tragedy?”
I have seen a number of posts talking about church security and security teams. As sad as the reality is that we would need something like that, I believe this is the right direction for us to look. However, we cannot rush into this process. The same gentleman who gave the quote about “locking doors” also said, “this is why a church should develop a security program before putting a security plan in place.”
My little church in West Virginia is pretty secure. With former Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force, as well as both retired and active police officers, I pity the tormented soul who comes to Berkeley Baptist Church looking to cause harm. Yet the truth is that is not enough.
The first step we are taking is to attend a seminar on church safety. I attended one last year that I didn’t find all that impressive. However, I was able to gather some information that would prove useful in a Sutherland Springs situation. I plan on hosting both a seminar and an active shooter scenario in order to facilitate training should the worse possible situation ever occur.
The next step would be for the church leadership to begin accessing the strengths and weaknesses of your building layout. I had one our church members who is a police officer here yesterday giving me suggestions. We are looking at the layout of our Children’s wing, the accountability of those who work on that wing and how we can restrict access to the general public during our worship services. We are looking at access points to our main sanctuary. We are looking at overall building access and security, especially during the worship hour when 99% of your people are located in one area.
The third step would be to designate trustworthy people in the church to be a part of a security team. First thing I want to stress here. Consider this a ministry. Anyone willing to sign up to be a part of this does so knowing they would be the first line of defense against any person looking to commit great evil. As I discussed with my mother on the phone last night, God has called me to be the shepherd of this people, under the direction of the Great Shepherd. A shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Anyone who is a part of this security ministry is joining me in the call to protect the sheep. As someone has already commented on a previous post, this security team will be discreet. Full disclosure, I’m not asking anyone to sign up for it. Instead, I will be approaching people I want to be on this team. The church, while knowing that there is a presence, will not know who is a part of this team or when any particular team member is serving on a given Sunday.
These people will be trained. Our Men’s Ministry already offered a concealed weapons class for members of our church. We will make sure that not only are members of this team legally capable of carrying firearms but that they are proficient in the use of firearms. We will also offer advance First Aid and CPR training. This will be beneficial on multiple fronts. I also plan on having someone come in to train these team members on identifying potential threats. My biggest concern in all of this is that people may come off overbearing and visitors would feel uncomfortable attending our church. I want these team members to be forward in their welcoming of visitors but simultaneously looking for characteristics of someone who might cause harm.
The reality of this day and age is that we live in unprecedented times. We also live in times that mirror things that have happened in the past. Persecution and violence against worshippers of Christ is nothing new. People have given their lives for their faith in Jesus in every century since Christ Himself walked this earth. Yet we live in an age where the weapons the Adversary uses are more advanced than any before. From vehicles driven into crowds to bombs and automatic weapons, the ability for man to kill man is easier now than ever before and often occurs in greater numbers. Yet we serve a Lord that assures us that no matter what the Devil throws our way, Satan can’t rob us of the glories of heaven we find in Christ our Savior.
“Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.” Matthew 24:9-13