Violence against Christian churches and other houses of worship is on the rise around the world. In the United States, these attacks are linked primarily to emotionally disturbed persons or domestic conflict spillover. In other countries, terrorism is the leading cause of violence towards Christians.
The recent attack at a church in Texas (pictured above) featured an emotionally disturbed felon with a history of drug abuse. He was known at the West Freeway Church of Christ. On a number of occasions the church had given him food when he had shown up asking for help. That was evidently not enough, however, and he was angry that the church would never give him any money.
This past Sunday, the felon came to church wearing a disguise. He had on a wig, a beard, and a heavy jacket, his shotgun concealed underneath. A number of church members later said that they knew something was wrong but did not want to say anything. They even remarked that it was obvious the man had on a disguise and appeared to be “a little off.” The church’s safety team was also aware of the suspicious activity.
During the service the gunman stood and said something to a deacon standing nearby while drawing his shotgun. A member of the church’s safety team was seated nearby and also stood, attempting to draw his pistol. The murderer shot the safety team member with his shotgun, killing him. He then turned the weapon on the deacon and shot him fatally, as well.
The volunteer leader of the church’s safety team, Jack Wison, 71, was already standing towards the end of the aisle that the gunmen was on. He quickly drew his pistol and fired one shot stopping and killing the attacker. From start to finish, the shootout lasted less than ten seconds.
Of course, this incident has sparked outrage that churches allow their parishioners to have guns in the church. I’m not going to enter that debate here, other than saying that if this offends you, there are plenty of great gun-free churches in which you can worship. As for me, I like the idea of Godly, trained, men and women who are in place to protect my loved ones.
To my knowledge, this is the first video we have of an active shooter in a church and there is so much that we can learn from this horrible tragedy. Click on the link if you want to watch the incident in its full. It is graphic and disturbing but can teach us so much. Here are a three take-aways and three challenges.
- This church had a safety team and a plan to deal with incidents like this. Two innocent lives were lost, a deacon and a safety team member. Their sacrifice, however, allowed Jack Wilson to make the shot that ended the situation.
- We don’t rise to the occasion, we always fall to the level of our training. Wilson made an incredibly difficult shot with a handgun because he believes that practice makes perfect. Without knowing it, Wilson had prepared his entire life for this moment.
- We can’t always prevent evil but we can decide ahead of time how we are going to respond to it.
- If you are in a leadership role in your church, initiate a discussion about how an incident like this one would be handled. What policies/procedures do you have in place to contain/control/prevent something like this from happening?
- Do you have a formal Safety/Security in your church? If you do, what does their on-going training look like? Are you confident in their ability to deal with a worst case scenario?
- If you don’t have a safety team, why not?
If you would like to talk about establishing a safety ministry for your church send me an email and let’s get started! I had a thirty-year career in law enforcement. I created and oversee the Safety/Security Team at my church. I have also helped a number of churches start their own teams and I can guide you in the right direction. Developing a safety ministry is not as hard as you might think. Email [email protected] if you need some help!
Annie and I are serving the Lord in the US, India, and South America, working with a number of great local churches. Would you consider joining out team? Just click here to get involved. Thanks so much!