|Church is a Safe Place -- The Great Illusion|
[MornngStar Journal, June 2015]
and Eric KONOHIA
All Scripture references are New King James version.
The Great Illusion:
The Church is a Safe Place
Being the church has always been a dangerous thing, but attending church has not.
In the last fifteen years, there have been close to eight hundred deadly force incidents (DFI)
in American churches, with just under five hundred of these ending in death.
Now compare those statistics to just over one hundred-fifty shooting deaths in American schools during the last 15 years.
It makes one wonder why there has been such little conversation about church violence.
Looking at the example of New Testament Christians
who lived out their walk with God, it is clear to see that
by taking a stand for Christ, they took a hit from both
the religious world and the local government and culture.
Jesus knew very well the dangers of following Him,
and He didn't mind having His followers assume these risks.
After all, taking this new message of
Good News to the uttermost parts of
the earth would involve many risks
physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Leaving one's family behind to
follow Christ was a huge decision
that a new convert was not always
given much time to make.
This tree is covered from
ground to sky with a vine
winding itself around and around.
It deceives the eye - until the
beholder sees the large
foreign growth on the tree
trunk's far side.
Have you ever asked yourself --
'Is there a deception,
a lying, greedy vine
in my life?
In the life of my church?
Lord! show me, convict me,
and deliver me into
the light of your
In Yeshua's Name, amen!
After all, it was Jesus who said, "Let the dead bury the dead...you come and follow Me" (see Matthew 8:22).
Considering there were no local police departments, very poor road systems filled with wild animals, few rest stops, as well as oppressive and corrupt governments, one didn't have to look far for trouble. That doesn't even take into consideration the profuse criminal element of the day that preyed on the lone and weary traveler.
While being a Christian still brings certain risks and dangers in many parts of the world, in America, the nation founded on religious freedom, gathering together in a public place to worship God with your family shouldn't be one of them. It is one thing to go and risk your life preaching the gospel to those who are hungry and lost, but it is quite another thing when the hungry and lost are put at risk just for listening to the message.
I repeat, Jesus understood that following Him was risky business. This is why He said, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves" (see Matthew 10:16). He was basically saying, "I am sending you out with the possibility you might be someone's dinner."
Sheep are docile animals with few defenses. They depend on a shepherd to keep them safe from danger and harm. Those dangers could be anything from wild animals looking for a meal, other shepherds trying to steal them to build their own flocks, and even the sheep's own lack of ability to protect and feed themselves. Wolves, on the other hand, are ruthless and very capable carnivores. They travel in packs looking for the weak and defenseless prey that could be their next meal.
In the beginning of the early church, most meetings were held in homes in which you opened the door to those you knew and those known by those you knew. It was not necessarily a public meeting place where all were welcome. They sometimes had secret signs and symbols to protect themselves from physical harm, such as the icthus, a symbol that looked like a fish. When this symbol was given, it helped determine the safe meeting places, as well as who was friend and who was foe. It was, in essence, the secret handshake; if you didn't know the handshake you didn't enter. This was the setting of most worship meetings - friends and loved ones would open their homes for a time of intimate fellowship and worship of God.
Yes, there was much violence against Christians, but it was more for being a Christian and daring to stand against local religious strongholds and corrupt governments, not for being inside a certain type of building on a certain day of the week.
The truth is, many people who attend church are not Christians. The old adage, "just because you walk into a garage doesn't make you a car," holds true in American culture today.
Now is the time to change the mindsets of Christians, pastors, and Christian leaders to see the potential risks and dangers for the body of Christ and how we can be better prepared for the times. Jesus said we are blessed when we are persecuted for His name's sake (see Matthew 5:10). There is, however, a huge difference between persecution for His name's sake and being victims of crime. Jesus expected persecution. He did not, however, endorse crime. Psalm 11:5 tells us that God hates violence. We need to learn how to recognize the possibility of violence and how to ward it off before it comes to fruition.
The Ten Commandments given by God were laws that Jesus came to fulfill and build upon, not to change. These laws show God's feelings about certain behaviors that were both sins and what we know today as crimes.
Along with giving us these laws, God also determined the punishment of those sins/crimes. Interestingly, much of our legal system today is based on the Ten Commandments as well as other Old Testament laws. This is why the scrolls of the Ten Commandments have been displayed in courthouses and buildings in Washington and throughout the country.
Some of these commandments, do not steal (rob), do not murder, do not bear false witness (lie), teach us that God did not expect anyone, including His children, to be victims or perpetrators of these crimes. To be attacked while preaching the gospel in certain parts of the world is not unusual and might even be expected. To try to eliminate those attacks when possible, especially attacks upon those who have come to be fed, should also be expected and should be part of our responsibility as shepherds and church leaders.
A shepherd is not merely responsible for feeding the sheep but protecting them from wolves and other wild animals. This is not about retribution but about having a change of mindset to look for avoidance, as well as mitigation of the risks and dangers that can occur to believers and the body of Christ, specifically when they are assembled in a house of worship.
Self-defense and survival are two of the most natural things wired into humans and animals. Rabbits have holes, birds have trees, and turtles have shells. Self-protection is somehow wired into every living thing. Some protect themselves by attacking, while others have great sensitivity and the ability to discern danger, knowing how to avoid it.
Some can run fast, others climb high, but no matter what, they all take the best precaution. Their instincts and physical prowess allow them to protect themselves.
Why shouldn't God's people follow suit?
Jesus put it this way,
"Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves"
(see Matthew 10:16).
In essence, we should be wise enough to keep from getting hurt, and in doing so, try not to hurt anyone.
When Satan deceived Adam and Eve, he came in the form of a serpent. It is hard to say whether the serpent was always deceptive by nature or if it became so when commandeered by Satan. In either case, he was cunning in his conversation with Eve, and this is the basis of this statement by Christ.
Jesus stated we should be wise in our speech and behavior, yet not use our strengths or weapons of skill to harm anyone. We are to use any and all strengths and skill sets to avoid problems, while at the same time, trying to avoid all harm.
Whether preparing for a trip out of town or a home remodel, the more prepared we are, the more problems we can avoid and the less chance we have of needing to take extreme measures. Much like the Secret Service model, the idea of church security should be to take every advantage and use every gifting within the body of Christ to prevent problems before they become problems. Simply put, we must move from a re-active mindset to a pro-active mindset. When it comes to church security, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
It is easier to stand your ground than try to get it back. It is easier to stay healthy than to get well. And it is easier to stay off drugs than to get off drugs.
The sad truth is that there are some doors in life that once they are opened are incredibly hard to close. Regarding securing your church: If you make it hard for them to get in, they will most likely go somewhere else. Most criminals are not looking for a challenge; like wolves, they are looking for easy prey.
While there is no such thing as total safety anywhere on this earth, we can become more safety conscious no matter how small or large our church or church budget. With God's help and by His grace and wisdom, you will maintain your church in a more secure position so that both the sheep and shepherd can concentrate on keeping the main thing the main thing.
To contact Andrew Surace and
Eric Konohia for more information
about safety in your church, you
may visit Andrew's website