A mass shooting is always tragic and, regardless of how or where it takes place, we grieve the loss of life. But when it happens, we grieve for and with our Christian family, perhaps in a deeper way. Twenty-six lives swept into eternity at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas should not be something any of us should soon forget. Let us remember them in prayer and continue to serve in faith – being wise as serpents and harmless as doves. In the next few paragraphs, I would like to share five thoughts from this recent tragic event that will help you and your chapter: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). In the wake of tragedy which fresh on our minds from Texas, it will do us all well to remember the words of the Saviour to the disciples in Matthew 10. Our calling is to be out among the wolves…and wolves devour sheep. He likens us to sheep. Sheep are known as being not very intelligent, however He still tells us to be out among the wolves! But the sentence does not stop there. Yes, being in the ministry is high risk. Yes, being in the ministry brings us into vulnerabilities. However, as he continues to speak of being wise as serpents, and harmless as doves, Jesus emphasizes ways to minister in a way that does not bring down unnecessary persecution. Be wise as serpents. Serpents are quick to get out of the way. He then goes on and tells us to be harmless as doves. Doves are innocent. Don’t give “wolves” legitimate reason to attack you, accuse you of injustice or any immorality. Keep your reputation as clean as you can. The RU recovery ministry is a young ministry indeed; we are currently in our 22nd year of existence. How grateful and thankful I am for the protection that God has given, not only to us in Rockford, but also to the many other churches that use the RU curriculum and run a program for the addicted in their community. I want to give you a few recommendations that I have so that we can all be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
1. Continue to minister in faith, not in fear. The enemy has the main goal in everything he does and that is to create fear to paralyze his prey. I am thankful for churches that will grow through this experience and bring peace and calm to sheep in our troubled world.
2. Use the name tag policy as a security protocol. Every chapter should have an Information/Welcome Table and banner that every student and visitor approaches when entering the class. It is at this table that all visitors receive a nametag. This will encourage leadership to use and remember their names. All regular attendees should have their awards on! Director, please encourage your leadership to wear their awards each Friday. Visitors need to learn your names as well. Director, take the opportunity to get this enacted in your chapter, then alert your leadership to quickly identify and direct people wondering in the facilities to the Information/Welcome Table.
3. Leadership needs to know the policy on how to deal with someone who could cause a threat to the other’s safety. We have had a few occasions over the last 22 years that we have had workers notify the director or assistant director of someone who appeared to be or threatening to be in possession of a weapon. On each occasion, that person was pulled into a private area and discussion was started to help that person and to rectify any potential problems. Every church facility is different in terms of the needs for security. But I would strongly encourage every Director, with the help of your Pastor, to put a solid plan in place that will provide protection. When your growth is above 100, or if you use multiple buildings on Friday, it may be wise to schedule some men and ladies to help with security protocols. This does not in any way mean you need an officer dressed up on the property or even anything that gives the impression that someone is watching out for security measures. These people would simply walk the property and note what is going on and watching for anything outside of the normal. You may even call your local police and ask them to meet you at the facility and give you any instructions that could protect the children, teens, and adults who attend RU.
4. Pray for safety as you minister with boldness in your community.
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). 5. Thank God for His protection. The truth is, none of us know “what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). I like the old story of John R. Rice when a robber stuck a gun to the back of his head and demanded his wallet, Dr. Rice said, “You can’t scare me with Heaven!” Praise God that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord. Whether it is the “madman” in South Korea who wants to launch a nuclear warhead or a mentally challenged veteran who threatens lives in church, let’s march onward in the battle a preach to every creature the greatest news in all the world – the Gospel!