Note From Editor: In 2017, we began the year by creating editorial around the issues churches are facing in keeping their facilities secure and their congregations and staff, safe. This article is worth another look, and is a reflection of our continued diligence in helping churches navigate their way through an often overwhelming process. We have worked with experts and thought leaders who live and breathe church security, and will continue to bring you content on this journey we are all on in these challenging times.
As Christians, ranging from the casual Sunday-only church-goer, all the way to a mega-church pastor, we are all familiar with the Great Commission: Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28: 18 20.
Certainly Christians are very unlikely to take issue with the words of Jesus Himself: that we are to witness to others, with the ultimate goal of leading them to accept Christ and have the assurance of eternal salvation. In doing so, we are protecting their eternal life even as we are working to protect them from a life on earth without knowing the love of God and the near unthinkable reality of an eternity apart from God.
If we are called to protect others by spreading the gospel, by sharing the truth and promises of God's Word, do we not have the same obligation to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and family, to include our brothers and sisters in Christ if there is a threat here on earth?
Don't we need to learn to fight in the here and now in just the same way as we learn to fight on a spiritual level? Without question the answer is yes!
This can include learning street self-defense, training with firearms and becoming educated on proper security concepts and tactics for home, work and church.
I often see people calling for Prayer Warriors to fight the supernatural, yet there seems to be a stigma to learning to defend your loved ones in the natural world. First, to briefly consider spiritual warfare: Of particular note is, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." 1 Peter 5:8-9
This passage reads like an instruction manual before battle, because it is! This is a call to action, and there are many active words in this passage: sober, vigilant, resist, steadfast, sufferings. Peter wrote this way for a reason, to prepare people through the ages to be ready for action.
In addition, there is a sense of an active, cunning and very dangerous adversary in the Devil, as it is written that he "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." An enemy that is walking and seeking is an active enemy indeed. One only has to spend moments online to see the horrors that Christians are facing today and that the enemy is active in the here and now. Further, consider how often Christians are portrayed as out of touch, bigoted, ignorant and hateful on popular sitcoms. There is a clear and purposeful intent in presenting Christians as easy targets in popular culture. This calculated lack of respect for our beliefs is a spiritual attack that is releasing physical attacks on us daily.
Psalm 144 declares, "Blessed be the LORD my rock, who prepares my hands for war and my fingers for battle." Consider Proverbs 21:15, "When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to the evildoers." Or Psalm 106:3, "Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right."
Our God is a God of justice. He has prepared us through Scripture, through feelings, and through circumstances to know that we live in a fallen world and that evil and violence are often one in the same. If someone called for prayer (a spiritual defense) and fellow believers said, "No, that's not my place, you just need to have more faith in God," clearly they would be in the wrong and yet some people believe it is wrong to learn self-defense when there is a threat of violence.
Despite the stark reality of Christians being slaughtered world-wide, the dramatic rise in mass shootings, the secular media's outright hostility towards Christians alongside the increasing physical threats against Christians, often times, in this author's experience, whether discussing implementing church security procedures, learning street self-defense or purchasing and learning to use firearms, there are still people who say, "God will provide, He will protect us, so I'm not worried."
That is contrary to Scripture and frankly an insult to the memories of the many saints who have been, continue to be and will be martyred for their love of Christ! It is akin to saying that the Christians who are being slaughtered for their beliefs did not have enough faith, so God did not protect them.
Further, that is like saying one does not have to cook, work, pay bills or do anything because God will provide. Worse yet is when someone says he or she doesn't have to worry about violence because God already knows the outcome. Imagine if a college student said, "God already knows my grade, so I don't need to study for the final tomorrow." Clearly, such sentiments are nonsense.
Every day we do things that we don't want to do, but we do it because we must but none of these things negate our faith in God.
No one would honestly say, "Why did you do the dishes? Don't you have faith that God wants you to have clean dishes? He will handle it." We don't expect God to dispatch angels to dress us in the morning then carry us to work, so why would we think that in a fallen, violent world it is somehow wrong to take up arms, to learn to fight, all in the name of being prepared should we need to defend ourselves from violence, in lieu of just saying, "God will handle this."
According to noted church security expert and author of Evil Invades Sanctuary Carl Chinn; there have been 1018 Deadly Force Incidents at Faith-Based Organizations in the United States since January 1, 1999. This includes abductions (and attempted abductions), attacks, suspicious deaths, suicides and deadly force. intervention/protection. http://www.carlchinn.com/Church_Security_Concepts.html
Christian Freedom International released statistics suggesting a Christian is martyred for their faith every five minutes. Christian Freedom International has also found that more than 200 million followers are facing persecution in 105 countries, which makes Christianity the most persecuted religion in the world. The report has found that more Christians have been martyred in the 20th and 21st centuries than during the previous 19 combined.
Consider these numbers, truly think about the horrors that our brothers and sisters are facing worldwide and accept the stark reality that we have entered into a new age of terror and violence. We are not called to simply roll over and die if we are faced with an active shooter, a terrorist, or even a knife wielding drug addict, or any other true predator. In his book Meditations on Violence, Rory Miller describes the process predator as one who sees the victim as a resource. The attack is a planned, efficient and safe way for the attacker to get what he wants from that resource. In other words, if you cross paths with this sort of predator, he is looking at you as simply a means to an end. You are not even human in this monster's eyes. In any of these situations, the use of violence will almost certainly be needed. If you were with your family and faced any of these situations, would you hesitate to use violence if it could save their lives? Scripture says, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:13
Even before the recent rise in terror attacks on American soil, going back to before the beginnings of ISIS, all the way back to the day after 9/11, when people spoke of the next big terrorist attack in America, the term not a matter of if, but when had already begun to enter the common vernacular. We are now living under threats that were nearly unimaginable on September 10th, 2001. The average person now hesitates to attend public events for fear of mass shootings, bombings and the fear of attacks ranging from the so-called lone wolf, to a coordinated attack. It would be very easy to live in total fear and panic.
However, that is against Scripture: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7
What of the people who say that by learning self-defense, learning to shoot and implementing security measures at home, work and at church is nothing but allowing fear to control us?
The simple answer to that is fear is a fact of life; it is how you react to fear that matters. Gavin De Becker, one of the leading experts on violence, wrote in his groundbreaking book The Gift of Fear, "Intuition is always right in at least two important ways; it is always in response to something and it always has your best interest at heart" and, "The solution to violence in America is the acceptance of reality."
Fear can be managed, and as De Becker first reported, it can be seen as a gift. For this to happen you must learn how to control and manage your fear to help you stay safe. When you learn to take measures to protect yourself, your family and friends, this is a positive reaction to fear. This proves that you are not living in fear, rather an understanding that it is how you react to that fear that matters. At American Street Edge, students are taught that courage comes before and after the fight. You will likely be scared during the fight, but you gain courage by preparing and training before the violent situation and afterwards, you gain courage by reflecting on what went right, what went wrong and taking ownership of the fact that you survived and you went home that night.
This does not mean to get all twitchy and nervous and think about nothing but attacks, fighting, tactical shooting and so on. It is about balance. Every time you cross the street, you look both ways. If you stop to let a car go by, you saved your own life. Do you get all scared and upset thinking that you could get hit by a car every time you cross the street? No, of course not. When you put on a seatbelt, do you stop and worry and think about crashes? No. What of putting on sunscreen? Do you stop and think about skin cancer and worry for the rest of the day? No. We do so many things that that keeps us happy, healthy and safe with barely a thought.
With proper training, the right instructors and purposeful prayer for the Holy Spirit's guidance, will allow the concepts and personal safety measures of self-defense to become part of your everyday routine. Soon, such skills and tactics will be as natural to you as looking both ways before crossing the street. It is about balance. It is about accepting the reality of a fallen, violent world and that the attacks on Christians, on Americans, on our brothers and sisters in Christ will only get worse. This is not a mark of fear, as Dr. Jim Burkett, president of Apologetics on Fire says, "I've read the book and I know how it ends." We have victory in Christ but that does not mean that we are to be passive, easy targets.
Our God is a God of justice. The world is violent and getting worse. You are responsible for your family, your friends, and your own personal safety just as you are, as a sinner redeemed by Christ, responsible for protecting them in the supernatural. Yes, you might be criticized by others for taking active measures to learn self-defense, implementing church security measures and taking up firearm training. In this, remember Proverbs 28, "The righteous are as bold as a lion." Be bold, embrace these facts, learn self-protection, and lead your life for Him.