As I write these words, it’s only been three days since the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. And no doubt like many church leaders across this nation, my thoughts are torn in many different directions. I am grieving for that church, and at the same time I am concerned about my own. I know that we have no real security in this world, and that our only true security is in Jesus Christ. And I know that our church should always be welcoming and open to a world that needs Jesus.
But at the same time, I know our church must take steps to protect ourselves from dangers. We can’t eliminate every risk or anticipate every threat, but we can get better at recognizing the risks and being prepared to address them. These risks include not only the threat of violence, but also more common scenarios such as an injury, medical condition, natural disaster, fire, or other emergencies.
For some time, we’ve made incremental changes to become more secure and prepared for emergencies on Sunday mornings. If you’ve been running a bit late to worship, you may have encountered some locked entry doors, especially those near our children’s wing. You might have noticed our volunteer security team roaming the halls just after Sunday School, or seen them sitting at the welcome center during the worship service. You might have also recently noticed an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) mounted near the church office.
We’re going to keep looking for ways we can improve our readiness. We recently trained some of our staff in giving CPR and using an AED, and we plan to train more staff and volunteers in the same skills. We plan to modify our worship center exit doors so that they can be locked at appropriate times while still allowing people to exit. We also plan to further train our Sunday morning security team, greeter team, and ushers to better work together in the event of an emergency. And in the wake of the Sutherland Springs tragedy, we are now evaluating additional security measures for Sunday mornings. Please pray for wisdom for your pastors and other church leaders as they consider and implement these plans.
Pray also for our church’s witness, that we would shine bright with hope in Jesus Christ even in a dim and darkening world. We need not lose hope when tragedy strikes, violence attacks, or fear threatens to overwhelm us. Jesus alone gives us eternal life, and that joy can never be taken away.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 CSB)