In my last blog, I wrote about the Christians in Egypt canceling Easter and I am sure most of your said to yourself it wouldn’t happen here, oh really. “Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Cancels His Easter Egg Hunt Due to Manhunt”. What!!! Governor Walker runs the Wisconsin State Police, he can call out the National Guard in a crisis of this proportion, what in blue blazes just happened. If you haven’t been following the news, a lunatic broke into a gun shop, stole a bunch of weapons and sent the President a manifesto talking about attacking the government and maybe some churches. A massive manhunt began and because he had not been arrested the Governor of Wisconsin cancelled their annual Easter Egg hunt. Now let’s think about that for a moment. This madman had threatened the government and churches, the Governor with all his protection cancelled the annual Easter Egg hunt. What do you think some of the Wisconsin churches are thinking? If the Governor can’t protect his own activities what chances does an unprotected church have against these types of lone wolves. We are only talking about one man. Okay let’s not paint me as a raving lunatic. I do understand the need to protect everyone, and in a sense, I don’t blame the Governor for what he did, however do you see the slippery slope that starts? If one crazy can shut down an event like that what do you think it does to church members who start to worry about coming to your churches? I was in DC when the DC sniper started their carnage, I remember how scared people were to go out in public while that was going on. With that said, if a madman was loose in your area what action would your church take? The good end to this story was the lunatic was arrested and everyone in Wisconsin gets to take a deep sigh of relief.
But remember we cannot let our guard down, ever. We are here, our most celebrated Christian event of the year (please Christmas lovers don’t get mad at me because I said Easter), He is Risen!! Let us rejoice of this wonderful time but let us also be diligent in our watch. Listen to what David said in Psalms 144:1-2 NLT “Praise the lord, who is my rock. He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle. He is my loving ally and my fortress, my tower of safety, my rescuer. He is my shield, and I take refuge in Him. He makes the nations submit to me.” I pray this weekend none of us must go into battle but understand there is a war on Christianity, the devil is just hoping for a sign of weakness; where people are afraid to come out and worship. Look what almost happened in Wisconsin.
Be safe and alert and let us all celebrate the end of death and the gift of forgiveness, grace and everlasting life,
He is Risen!!!!!!!
What if you were to open your local newspaper and the headline read “Churches in the Tampa Bay Area will not celebrate Easter after ISIS attacks”? What would your first reaction be? I know mine would be one of disbelief; one of anger because someone had scared churches so much that they wouldn’t open the doors on the second most holy day of Christianity. I know that I would be calling friends together and celebrating Easter no matter what the paper said. I hope there would others that would join as we show the world that no one cancels our worship of Easter. We will celebrate Easter till Christ comes back to take us home. You’re thinking - this couldn’t happen. Really? Are you following world events? I just saw the headlines across the Internet “Churches in southern Egypt will not celebrate Easter after ISIS attacks”. It has happened; churches in southern Egypt are closing on one of the churches most attended day of the year except Christmas. Your response might be - but it can’t happen here. I hope it never does, however it almost did. Ask Andy Willis of Bellevue Baptist Church about Easter 2016 “Man brings handgun, assault rifle into church”. If were not for Andy and the training he has done with his church we would still be talking about the lone wolf that went into their church and did the unthinkable. Other lone wolves would only continue the cause for their 15 minutes of fame that the world would read about over and over again. Charleston is still reeling from their church shooting and that was back in June of 2015. We would be able to move on but the scars are permanent.
Over the recent months in our own church we have had multiple anomalies that have caused us concern; a person with a large backpack that seemed to be surveying the church and when one of our small group leaders went to talk to him, he did a proxemic push on him and refused to have a conversation with him (and for those of you that don’t know what a proxemic push is, invite me to your church for our “Threat Profiling” training). We are going to attach his picture to this email in the event someone knows him. Then over the past several months we have had a female come into our church, get very close to the pastor only to be combative with one of our female church leaders. She has changed her appearance on us and now is waiting till our part-time deputies leave the church property before she comes into the church. She moves to the seat behind the pastor in the worship center. After service starts, she starts to sob, looking for someone to come over to her. Her statements to the volunteers are vague and confusing and this last weekend she didn’t want to leave church until we ushered her out. She was later caught taking pictures of the church. I will attach her picture to this email in the event one of you has had dealing with her and knows her name.
Over the last few months we have been doing some new training that we want to get out to everybody. The training comes from the Marine Corps “Profiling and Tactical Tracking” using “Combat Profiling”. We have successfully done it over the past few months and it is a powerful tool. If you've missed this training, contact us, invite your community churches and we'll bring this training to you.
He paid the price for our sins and now we have been guaranteed a life with Him that we can’t even begin to imagine. Do not miss the opportunity to rejoice and celebrate His wonderful gift but be on alert, cause 14. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” 15. When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to their own work. Nehemiah 4:14-15 We cannot take the risk of letting something like what happened in Egypt happen in our churches so we must be diligent during this Easter Season and on watch at all times.
He has Risen!!!!!!!!!!
Today I received a phone call from a church I work with to advise me that they are letting one of their staff members go. They asked if I had any suggestions. My first question - are you afraid of him? The response - they are concerned about him. This person is a firearms owner and talks about survival and has shown some anger issues in the past. And the list kept going. Okay you are concerned, however is there a threat? If there is a threat have someone there with you when you let him go. Be ready to call local law enforcement and if possible have one of your safety team members standing by for additional support. Make sure this safety member is there because they have a calmer head and not there as a show of force. After the phone call I had a moment to reflect on what just happened. My question to you is - are you prepared when you must let someone go from your church?
While working with the Norfolk Police Department I spent 12 years in support mainly working with computers. I was known around the Tidewater area for my computer expertise. During my last year with Norfolk I was courted by a private software company that developed public safety software. They were putting out a new product that would tie police computers together and police departments around the country would be able to share data. They were looking for a spokesperson for their new software and I fit the bill. They took Wendy and I out - wined and dined us and offered more money than I was making with the police department. I retired from NPD sold my house, bought a new one up in the DC area and took Wendy who was expecting our first daughter and moved. Three months into the new job I realized I had made a mistake.
The CEO of the company was (I am going to be nice here) a salesman who would do anything for the sale. Me, I was still a brother-in-arms to all police officers. When the CEO would ask me to do things that I thought were unethical I would voice my opinion and then be taken to the woodshed by the CEO and explained that this was the real world now and I needed to get with the program.
After 10 months, the CEO called me into the office and let me go. Here I was with a wife and 3-month-old daughter living in an area I really couldn’t afford and I was bitter. I am not going to say what I wanted to do in this post but if we have coffee some time I will let you in on some of my thoughts during those dark days. The thing I want to point out here is that the moment I was let go from that company I was cut off from that company - my logon to my computer was cancelled - my key to the backdoor was taken and I was never to put foot into that office again. My last paycheck was mailed to my home address and if I forgot something I could call them and they would have someone drop it off at my house. If they did see me on property they would have had me arrested for trespassing.
Now let’s talk about today and my phone call. What if the person you are letting go is also embedded in your church? What if the entire family goes to your church? What if their kids love your children’s ministry or the wife volunteers in an important role with the church? What do you do and what does that do to your church family? Don’t get me wrong, once this church told me the circumstances of the person they were letting go - I understood and know any church would have done the same. What if he and his family have been the faithful attendees to your church for the past several years? What do you do now?
You just terminated a staff member. Do you ask them not to come back into your church if they love the church? I remember the first day of being let go - I was in shock, I had not seen it coming. As it slowly sunk in the madder I got. The more time away from the office the worst it got and every time I got turned down for a new job the more I hated the CEO who had let me go. With a new baby and a house, I couldn't afford. I was angry - it was not a pretty picture.
So how do we handle a situation like this where the church doesn’t want to add insult to injury and tell that person that he and his family - that love your church, children’s ministry and that he can’t come back? The family – his wife that volunteers faithfully can still attend – but he can’t. Walk down that road for a minute and think about everything that is involved in that decision.
Now that I have your head spinning let me put it back into perspective. A lot of us don’t want to say this however running a church is like running a business. If you have an issue within a church, you deal with it the same as you do in any business. You cannot let someone or something that is disrupting your church continue; you must remove the problem. If you feel it is okay to allow that person and his family to continue to come to the church to worship, then do so. You need to advise your safety team of the situation and they need to be around that person whenever he is on campus; keeping an eye on his whereabouts. The bad thing about this is that person will probably know who is on your safety team.
If that person decides to come back to church, go over the way he is expected to act while on the church campus. There should be boundaries in place on where he can and cannot go. If at one time this person had the freedom to move anywhere in the buildings, that needs to stop. Certain areas are to be designated off-limits. You should also advise him that if he becomes disruptive while on campus then he will be trespassed and arrested if he violates that warning. It is not a pleasant thought but the safety of the campus is your responsibility and you cannot let the firing of one person put the innocent in harm’s way.
In the situation at the church earlier this week, the person that was let go lives around 25 minutes away and has no real ties to that church other than working for them. I was advised they took care of him so he could have time to look for a job and not have to worry about Christmas. To most of those involved they all knew that this was going to happen so it didn’t come as a surprise. It is still sad but I will say it again, you must run your church like a business at times, as unpleasant as it seems when these things happen.
Now going back and finishing my story. I hope and pray that one day I might run into (not physically) that CEO again. I am going to walk right up to him and tell him that him letting me go was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I want to tell him that God had this wonderful plan for me and that staying in DC was not going to fulfill that mission. It took this CEO firing me to motivate me to move where I am today. I didn’t see it at the time but I really see it now. Get up with me someday and I will tell you how.
You get a phone call from you Pastor, “Jim, we are going to have to suspend our church services due to a terrorist bomb threat”. Crazy you say? UCANews out of Asia reported that the “Philippine bishops vow to put public safety first after foiled plot targeting the US embassy. Masses and other liturgical services in the Philippine capital Manila would be suspended if there is an imminent threat to people’s safety, a Philippine bishops’ conference official said Nov. 29”.
But Jim, that is way over across the water, nothing like that would ever happen here in the United States. Really? It almost did in Memphis last Easter Sunday. In October we saw an extreme Islamic suspect, again in Tennessee, driving around shooting up churches in the Bedford County area. The suspect had shot at least three separate churches in the region only to be caught later by the police in the area of one of the shootings. This suspect stated on his Facebook page “I’m just doing my job as a messenger for my Lord, I owe absolutely everything to Allah because he has set me free from my spiritual cage.”
And if extreme Islamic terrorism is not enough to get your attention, how about the mentally ill, domestic violence or just plain evil. Just this last week a “Florida man was arrested for making Pulse-style massacre threats against church that welcomes ‘sick homosexuals’”. The scary part about this suspect is that he attended the church he threatened to shoot up. This church gave him food and took him to the hospital when he got sick. He even marched with this church in a gay pride parade. Once again, this subject made threats on his Facebook page (noticing a pattern here)? “The Miami Beach Community Church is filled with a bunch of sick homosexuals. Orlando will look small to what is coming to Miami Beach”. He even went on to say that he had found a person that was going to sell him an assault rifle. Now here is the part of the article that I find interesting and I bring it up all the time, when do we say “enough is enough”? This is not the first time they had an issue with this subject. Last year he created a disturbance in the church; as the police were taking him out of the church he threatened the minister, his family and a church staff member. Why was that person allowed back in the church? Understand, I would like to believe everyone we encounter gets saved and is promised the opportunity to go to the Promise Land. I wish I could believe all will go there but even the Bible tells us that is not the case. When are we as a church going to understand this and stop trying to save those that will not listen and those that do not see? We are in changing times brother and sisters and it only takes one incident to bring your church to its knees.
And if this isn’t enough to bring your church leaders together and talk about the safety of your church, I will say this one more time, we are under attack. Churches across the United States are seeing more and more vandalisms against their buildings. Whatever your stance is on same sex marriages, abortion and even your political views, you are a target. One church in Evansville, IN found it members being intimidated by graffiti and threats made to those that attend. This church feeds the needy which requires a multitude of volunteers. What happens if your church members and volunteers don’t feel safe anymore? Will you get that phone call from your church leader saying “we won’t be having church services this weekend because the volunteers and staff are afraid to come to church”?
This last month I was contacted by one of my favorite minister from another church. He told me that recently at a Sunday service they had a situation where a domestic issued happened during their church service. A young woman who had a child with her ex-boyfriend was now afraid of him and didn’t want to be around him. This young man showed up at church and started a scene and was escorted off the property. This minister called me and asked me what they should do and I advised of how they should handle the situation. They were afraid; they were afraid that he might come back with a gun. They have talked to me on several occasions about church safety. At times, I feel like some of the church leaders just don’t get it. My friend does. I could tell he was physically upset over this incident because he no protection during this scary time. What does it take a boyfriend that waits for his ex-girlfriend in the parking lot and then he hurts or even worse kills her? What does it take to get serious about protecting the flock? Are your leader of your church listening, or will I turn on the TV one day and see your church on Fox News? It is not a matter of if it is going to happen it is only a matter of when.
When I visit a church for the first time I always ask to be shown the children’s ministry. As I walk through where their children meet every time they are on the property I have this mental checklist I go down. I ask myself is the children’s ministry away from church traffic or is it located in a common area that people without children can walk through while trying to get to the worship center. Is there an exit door nearby, especially one that is in a hidden area where one could come in and go out without being detected? How do they check in and check out children when they come to church? One of the big things I check is whether the classroom doors are lockable? I cannot tell you how many times I go into a church that the children’s ministry doors will not lock, yet the musical equipment is behind a locked door that Fort Knox would be proud of. When I see this I always ask the church what is wrong with this picture; we have locks on doors of things that can be replaced but our most precious treasures meet every weekend behind doors that give no protection in case there needs to be a lockdown.
Over the last year I have come to realize that most of the monsters to our children’s ministry are not from the outside of the church but rather right here in our own congregations. These are the monsters that we really need to worry about. Demented people that feel these precious few are easy prey because they are attending a church and everyone is friendly and even relatives are trusted. It appears to volunteers and church staff who have fallen, there may not be the checks and balances on what they do with your children and they start to take advantage of the freedom and relaxed atmosphere they have with our young ones. The next thing you know you are reading stories like these “4-year-old sexually assaulted during church service”, “Church youth pastor arrested on rape, kidnapping charges” and “Pennsylvania youth pastor charged with sexual assault after allegedly getting 15-year-old girl pregnant”. Then today I got an email from Larry Booth from Bethel Baptist Church that ripped a hole in my soul. Larry had sent me a blog post from Carl Chinn that stated “Think About it….”. The blog told the story of a church in East Texas where a 10-year-old girl had disappeared after a Tuesday night Bible study. When the parents got ready to leave they could not find their daughter anywhere on the premises. An extensive police search of the area was done and an Amber alert went out, yet still no sign of their daughter. The people of the town cancelled its annual parade and over 1,000 volunteers with FBI guidance showed up and searched for the missing child. Around 6:00 that evening the search came to a halt with the discovery of the little girl’s body in a well.
Where did these churches go wrong? The suspect that sexually assaulted the 4-year-old had been going to the church for years. Statements like the suspect seemed very genuine, very sincere. The article went on to say that the suspect had been homeless before joining the church several years ago and had played an important part in helping in church events, he even drove the bus which picked up children for the church. The 35-year-old suspect that kidnapped and raped the victim who was under 12 was trusted by the parents of the victim. The suspect had stopped by to pick up the victim to take her to a youth group gathering but instead he took her to a residence where he drugged and raped the child. Then he threatened her stating if she told anyone that “the result would not be good for her”. In the case with the youth pastor sexually assaulting the 15-year-old, this was a 35-year-old father of 5, a man that members from the church said he “was once the pastor that everyone thought they could turn to for guidance and support” and that he had known the victim since she was 8-years-old. Not sure what happened here except Satan got a hold of this 35-year-old father of 5 and twisted his mind to the point he went home and told his wife he had found someone else who turned out to be this 15-year-old child. In these cases, were there warning signs that were just ignored or did people point out some issues and concerns and nobody listened till it was too late.
Then the case in Texas hits too close to home. The victim was a 10-year-old, the same age as my youngest. The suspect was listed as being married to one of the victim’s cousins. He had been seen leaving the church with the victim and another little girl after the service was over. It appears as you read the story that the suspect did not get permission or tell the parents that he had taken the little girls. It is not stated whether he was at the Bible study or not. The only thing we can gather from these articles is that we must always be aware of where our children are at all times, even when they are at church.
Church leaders, safety team members, parents and volunteers must always be on alert for things that just don’t look right (DLR) in the children’s ministry. As we gather our children to go home, what is the relationship with the children and the ones that work in the children’s ministry. If there a person that is a little too friendly with one of the children, do you see adults alone with a child that makes you feel uncomfortable. Parents of older children need to be aware of the way church staff interacts with their child. Have they been asked to go somewhere with a staff member of the opposite sex alone? Are they getting an unusual amount of attention from an older staff member or volunteer that doesn’t look right or makes you feel uncomfortable? Talk to your children about these concerns; they may open right up to you and tell you they are uncomfortable but didn’t know how to bring it to your attention. And as I always say look at your children’s Facebook page and phone. Look at text messages, emails and other websites to see who are they following or who is following them. Sorry this is not an invasion of privacy but protecting our loved ones.
We must thoroughly check out our volunteers that want to work in our children’s ministry and I am not just saying a criminal history check. All staff and volunteers in our children’s ministry must be vetted. I know this rule is practiced in many churches of not letting those that are living together out of wedlock to become members of their church but do you allow volunteers in this same category watch your children? Have you looked at the Facebook page of some of your volunteers lately? If every picture you see of them is in a bar or consist of them holding alcohol in their hand is that the type of image you want your children to see? If you find out that one of your staff members or volunteers is having domestic issues maybe they should take a break for a little while until things are reconciled so it does not bleed over into the children’s ministry. You should talk to someone from the church about your fears just to comfort yourself if nothing else. Everyone in the children’s ministry must have a pure heart, a servant’s heart and be willing to give it all for our children. We should hold those that work with our children at the same high standard of staff members of the church. The ones that work in the children’s ministry must be beyond approach, they must live a godly life. If they are not, what are these volunteers teaching our children about God or about a fallen world?
We cannot EVER allow a situation that seems to be an epidemic across the country like these happen at our church. We must turn out attention to the children’s ministry first - the rest of the church second. If you have this backwards you are looking at church safety in the wrong light. Our most precious possession is not the pastor or the congregation of the church but rather our children. They are our future and they are the weakest in our protection and we must do everything in our power to protect them first and then all others second. “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4.
Please do not read anything into this, I am not saying that all lives are not important but think about what happens if parents do not feel their children are safe at your church; they won’t come back. That is just the beginning; I remember how I felt after our family tragedy. I was mad at God for years. It took me a long time before I could understand that man was the problem, not God. Regarding this family in Texas - I know how I would feel if something like this happened to my one of my girls. They will feel the pain of the loss for the rest of their lives. We all feel the pain for them right now. They will turn to God for answers and I know they may or may not get the answer they are looking for however they will remember that He is still in charge. The loss and the sorrow at times will feel unbearable for this family, however we must always understand that He is there for them and is the only true answer. One day they will see their daughter again. He promises us that; but until that time, it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to protect the children or our church – EVERYTHING.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.