On our Sunday June 28th Facebook Live I talked about supporting our law enforcement. In all our church safety training we recommend that you always invite local law enforcement and get them involved. There are several reasons for this. First you don’t want to get yourself into a bid if you do something that is against the law. Make sure everything in your policies and procedures of handling situations is legal. Get them to help you.
The second reason, local law enforcement needs to know that you have a safety team, especially if some of your team members are armed. In case of an active shooter at your church they know that there might be friendlies in the building and hopefully they don’t come in with guns blazing and kill some of your team members. Of course once the law enforcement arrives on the campus, the best thing for you to do is put your weapon away unless you are in the middle of a gun fight and then you need to listen to everything that law enforcement officer tells you to do.
The last reason, to me is really the most important. Are we as a church not supposed to be witnessing to everyone that comes on our property? We will let a complete stranger come through our doors and we will start with a list of questions; first time here, what church did you come from and are you a believer? So why wouldn’t we at least ask three questions to all law enforcement officers that come to our church; do you go to a church, are you a believer and can I pray for you?
So, if you haven’t noticed law enforcement agencies all over the country are under attack. The liberal media wants you to believe that all law enforcement officers just can’t wait to kill someone. They will tell you this is the reason why so many of them join the force, to be able to beat up people and if necessary, kill them. If you believe this in any way, we have another problem. You know what police officers want to do every day they go to work, make it back home safe. Don’t believe me, I will prove my point later.
Now here is the next thing if you have not noticed. In almost every webinar, training or Facebook Live we have done since the outbreak of this virus we have been pushing the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) April 8th letter on churches returning to their brick and mortar buildings. The Faith-Based Community of DHS sent out a letter stating, “When you begin efforts to reconstitute services and welcome congregants back into your houses of worship, please also review your security plans and ensure procedures are in place to protect your facilities and visitors. Although there are no imminent or credible threats at this time, there has been an increase in online hate speech intended to encourage violence or use the ongoing situation as an excuse to spread hatred.
Additionally, stressors caused by the pandemic may contribute to an individual’s decision to commit an attack or influence their target of choice. Again, we have no information to suggest such attacks are imminent or even likely, instead we are looking to provide you with useful information for planning for restoration of normal operations, whenever that may be.”
If the COVID-19 virus, stay at home, losing a job, suicide calls on the rise, drug overdoses increased, the George Floyd tragic death and riots across the nations wanting to tear down the government stressors weren’t enough we had someone issue a statement to destroy all images of a white Jesus. Black Life Matter’s activist Shaun King wrote in a Twitter post: “Yes, I think the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down. They are a form of white supremacy. Always have been.” He went on to say, “All murals and stained-glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends should also come down.” I am sure the cross is next on their list of things to destroy.
So, it seems to me we have a common denominator here. Our law enforcement and our churches are under attack by the liberal left or another way of saying, “12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12. My brothers and sisters if you don’t think Satan is a live and moving against our country please give me a call and let’s talk about this. We are at war “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.
Those that protect us are under a viscous attack that unless we, the church, don’t stand up, show them our support and defend them we run the risk of losing them. Cities are already talking about defunding the police department or even tearing it down and starting over with social workers going on calls of domestic issues. A little bit of a side note here, when you send an unarmed social worker to a full-blown domestic fight, they return as another victim. I know I have been there.
Are there bad police officers? Yes, as humans we sin. Show me any profession where there aren’t any bad apples. Nobody is perfect and really until Christ comes back for us, we will never see perfect people. So, we must strive to be the example of what Christ would want us to do and believe it or not, He wants us to do good and respect those in authority. Paul writes it so eloquently in Romans 13:1-7.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
During my run the other morning I came upon a Pasco County Sergeant. I stopped to have a quick conversation with the Sergeant. Not even thinking about it I thanked him for what he does and right before I went back to running, I asked him if there was something I could pray for him. His response was just to go home safe after his shift.
I got home and realized that I didn’t get the Sergeant’s name, so I texted one of my friends who is a Pasco County Corporal and tell him of the incident. I didn’t tell him I had asked what could I pray for the Sergeant, just asked for his name. Before we finished texting, I asked my friend if there was something I could pray for him today, “Just to come home safe each day brother, it’s a crazy world”. Both deputies with the same thought “that I go home safe”. Do you pray that every day you go to work? Pray that you make it home that night to see your family or is it a given in your mind? It is not in theirs and we need to be there for them in this chaotic time. They are there for you, even if they have never met you before. You call; they come.
Brothers and Sister, we as the church must support our men and women in law enforcement. So here is my call to action. I want each church to contact their pastor and have a sit down with the leaders of your area law enforcement and pray for them. Now more than ever they need to know that we are supporting them. Wendy and I will be working on something in our area where we show our support. We must take a stand for those that stand between us and the chaos that is happening in this country right now. We cannot sit on the sidelines anymore. We must take a stance. Support the Badge!
With everything that has been going in the world and our country I was praying last night about what to write in my June blog. I was told my Sunday May 31st, 2020, Facebook Live Post was right on, but I was also told I was a little “preachy”. Not sure what exactly “preachy” means, but I will roll with it. Let me preach a little bit more. We are at war. Not war between the races or sexes but a war with Satan. He is alive and well my brothers and sisters and right now he feels he has the American people on the ropes.
Let’s think about it for a second, Covid-19 hit us hard. In March of 2020, the country came to a standstill. No more than 10 people could get together at a time and in most states non-essential business were to close down. Churches fell into that category. I am sure that Satan thought to himself that if you shut down the churches you will kill Christianity. God had a different plan. It is funny how a lot of us think that Satan uses technology to destroy our families and yet we took that same technology and went to work on expanding the Kingdom of God.
You see, a lot of Christians took this as an awakening. Maybe we have made too much of a fuss over our big buildings and our grandiose services because the spread of Christianity started in small homes, caves and anywhere two or more could get together and worship. Satan hoped we would die but we didn’t, we flourished. I have been on webinar after webinar where churches talk about how their viewing audiences are growing. Facebook, YouTube and Zoom became the places where people come to worship. Satan didn’t take us down, God united us in this crisis. We as Christians saw this as an opportunity to shine, we were the lighthouse in this storm we called COVID-19.
Some of our government felt the need to make sure our churches did not open too soon and, in some areas, where churches challenged the call, issues arouse. Law enforcement stepped in and arrested some pastors for holding church or intimidated members by writing down their license tags at drive in services and even shut down churches that were giving away Easter baskets to members while still using CDC guidelines. Did that stop us? No. Smart politicians came together and pointed out that churches were essential, with the increase of suicide calls and domestic violence on the rise, we needed to get people back to God and some saw it as almost as important as the hospitals for the sick. Churches are in the business of helping those that are hurting. Yes, we are essential and Satan you lost again.
But he wasn’t finished. We had two incidents that Satan knew would pit the races, brothers and sisters against each other. On May 5, 2020, a video went viral of the February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery incident where an unarmed 25-year-old African American man was fatally shot near Brunswick, Georgia. All of us can agree this was a tragedy. So many people’s lives have been drastically changed because of this incident and it saddens me to think about the families of all involved.
As facts of the case started to come to light I feel a lot of people who were so against an unarmed black male being shot and killed by an armed white male started to wonder if this was the war they wanted to get involved in. I was incredibly surprised that after law enforcement arrested those involved in the death of Arbery, the case seemed to have been placed on the back burner. I will not get into the case here but I will say this, no person deserves to die in what possibly could have been a property crime violation. No one. Once again, I feel that Satan was right on scene pulling the strings, working on splitting the country apart, but it didn’t happen. I am not sure why, but I would like to think that it was because all of us around the country prayed for peace, comfort and strength to all of those involved in this terrible incident.
Then on May 25, 2020, George Floyd, an African-American man, died from injuries produced by a white officer who had placed his knee on Floyd’s neck. Floyd was arrested for passing counterfeit money. After being handcuffed and placed face down on the street Floyd pleaded with the officer that he couldn’t breathe, begging the officer to take his knee off of him. Witnesses who filmed this atrocity were also pleading with the officer to get off of Floyd. Six minutes into this eight-minute video Floyd went silent but the officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for two more minutes. Floyd, being unresponsive when placed into the paramedics vehicle, was pronounced dead at the hospital. Satan scored big on this one. This was race against race, police against civilians and even today riots continue to threaten cities across the United States.
I forced myself to watch his horrific incident because I knew the calls would start coming. It didn’t take long. Friends soon called to ask me what I thought. I think the officer that did this should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I think the officers around him that didn’t do anything should also be terminated. I have heard that this officer had a history of unnecessary force complaints. If this is true, then supervisors should lose their job and if the chief of police knew of this officer’s history, he should resign. This is what I think.
But because of this thug’s (sorry can’t tarnish the name of all the good officers in this country) actions we have become a country of great divide. We all can agree that Floyd’s death and the death of Adbery are tragedies. Right, left, black, white, male and female can all agree on these points. We can all agree that we have the right for peaceful protest and some changes need to be made, but it appears we can’t all agree that these riots to destroy our cities and the lives and business of those that live in them are not peaceful protesting but extremist acts against the very fiber of this country.
So, let’s do a recap of what we have been through since March of 2020. CDC says as of June 2, 2020 there have been 105,157 Covid-19 deaths in the United States. We were shut down and stuck at home for over a month and we are now in the slow process of opening up again. Churches are still working on getting back into their buildings because of all the CDC recommendations. They want to make sure they do it right and not cause another outbreak of the virus. And if that wasn’t enough, American cities are being torn apart from riots over the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
So back to the beginning on what to write for my June blog. After saying my prayers, I started reading my book “Trumpocalypse” and two paragraphs in this book made me sit up and write down notes on the topic of my blog this month. In Paul McGuire and Troy Anderson’s book “"Trumpocalypse: The End-Times President, a Battle Against the Globalist Elite, and the Countdown to Armageddon (Babylon Code)" they stated:
"While a simply conservative revolution can never succeed, a revolution inspired by Christianity certainly can, because it draws its energies from the existence of the biblical God, the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his second coming, the truth of the Word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s these factors, and these alone, that ignited the American Revolution. A true “Christian Revolution” can never happen unless the church, individual Christians, and Christian leaders really believe what they are teaching and then act upon it. Only a holy fire can ignite the hearts of men and women. Mere intellectual acknowledgment of the truth of the gospel will never release the explosive energies of heaven. The human heart, mind, and will must be absolutely gripped with the truthfulness of God’s existence and his purpose for their lives and the destiny of mankind. When and only when this happens will the Christian Revolution occur and radically change our world."
We need a revolution. You read that right, we need a revolution. Now before you cancel your membership and call the police and tell them I am spreading hate, read on. We need a revolution. We need a revolution inspired by Christianity. If you didn’t catch what Paul McGuire and Troy Anderson said, read it again. We need a Christian Revolution. This Christian Revolution is not against the races, not against the sexes, the first responders, the American citizens, the conservatives or the liberal, it is against a much more powerful foe. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12. Brothers and Sisters I don’t know how to be any clearer than what I am saying. Our war is not against each other, our war is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms that are tearing us apart. We need to wake up and take up our full armor of God and get in the streets and take our country back.
Man has been trying to run this country without God for almost a century and what has it gotten us? We have cities in poverty, brothers fighting brothers, a criminal system that needs to be revamped and we have taken God out of everything. Satan has thrown down the gauntlet to the church and my question to all of you is this: what are we going to do about it? Sit back and let him tear this country apart or are we going to stand up for what is right and talk about Christ teachings, Christ love for our enemies and Christ’s thinking on how to treat one another? Well what are you going to do?
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of the talk of Christians being weak, we are not. I am tired of Satan attacking this country and taunting us like Goliath did against Israel. We need to suit up. “13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” Ephesian 6:13-18.
We just need to get organized. I know some net-workers so I am going to reach out to them to find out how we can get this started. I am tired of Christians talking about things that are going wrong and not doing something about it. We need a Christian Revolution. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” (thank you Greg Heckroth). I am tired of the whining, it is now time to put together a Christian solution, who is with me?
Thursday, April 30th, 2020 we finished our second webinar, “Putting Together a Safety Plan”. This is going to be a follow-up to that webinar, adding a couple of my thoughts that we didn’t get to cover. If you didn’t get to participate in that webinar you can find it out on our YouTube Channel under Trinity Security Allies.
On Sunday, April 19th, 2020 I did my Sunday Facebook Live on reopening the churches. I really believe states will soon be lifting some of the restrictions and it is imperative that churches without safety teams begin to think about putting together a safety plan and forming a safety team. With everything else going on with the reopening, I know that these churches do not want to place another thing on their plates, but church safety is going to take a 180 degree turn and if we don’t get ahead of it now. There are going to be more violent incidents at churches. I am not talking about active shooter per say, but I do feel we are due one here real soon and to use the virus as an excuse would not surprise me. Not singling out any one religion, but the Department of Homeland Security has put out two warnings out on violence to houses of worship and one specifically listed the Jewish community. If your synagogue or church doesn’t have some sort of plan for emergencies situations, this is the time to have that serious conversation.
In the church safety/security procedures I have found that we must always be flexible and learn how to adapt. A marine mantra that I use is "Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome". With this type of mindset, they can overcome any physical, mental or spiritual adversity. Sounds a little bit like church safety, we must be able to change, to improvise with the changing of the times. We must learn how to adapt to give the best protection to our congregation without interfering with the mission statement of the church. We have to overcome any obstacle that might cause issues and let the church do what they do best, bring people to Christ. Let me give you a couple of examples of incidents that caused us to "Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome".
Several years ago a Texas church experienced the tragedy of a child left behind in a vehicle. The parents, running late, expected the other to grab the little one, but they both forgot her sleeping in her car seat. When they found her later she had died from the heat. After this story came out I immediately pulled the team together and told them that while roving the parking lot if they saw a child’s seat in the vehicle, check and make sure it is empty. You wouldn’t think I would have to point this out, but team members gave me puzzled looks like that could never happen here or they just couldn’t believe I had thought of that. It can happen anywhere and even writing about it now breaks my heart over the loss of that child.
When Pastor Remington was shot six times outside the Altar Church in broad daylight on March 6, 2016 we had to "Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome" again. Before this incident we would just walk our pastor out to his vehicle after the church services. Because the shooter was waiting for Pastor Remington when he left, we started to send a team member out to make sure the area was clear before we walked out with the pastor. Our pastor at the time didn’t like the new procedure because it made it look like we were the Secret Service but his wife came to our aid and told him to keep quiet and let us do our jobs. I am sure she heard of the Altar Church shooting.
So in my Facebook live on reopening the churches I made the statement about people wearing masks and caught some flak. Look, in the old days if I saw a guy with a mask going into a bank, that was what we called a clue, and it probably meant that he wasn’t going into the bank to just deposit money. But today the new normal may be wearing a mask to church. If it is the new normal get used to it and learn how to "Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome". I guess I get a little confused about the concern over wearing a mask. If your safety team cannot identify 90 percent of your congregation from behind or with a mask on, then we need to do some major training on observation.
I run in very early in the morning. On my longer runs even earlier. We have this trail that is basically in the country with fields, trees, water, cattle and deer. The other week we met a five foot alligator hanging out near a fence. That will make you move faster. Anyway, almost every time we take this trail, we see a walker who has this unusual stride. I have not been able to see his face because of it being dark and in the cold, he has had a hoodie on or a hat. So before the stay at home happened I noticed a person walking toward the church doors that I didn’t recognize yet I did recognize his stride. As he came into the church I walked over to him and asked him if he walked the trail in the morning and he responded yes. He didn’t recognize me, but I told him I was one of the runners that passes by him all the time. I recognized him by his walk. Are we tracking yet? You should know your members, mask or no mask.
If you have someone comes into your church wearing a mask and you do not recognize them, someone needs to step up and talk to that person. When discussing this with another safety team leader, he told me “it's hard to get some of these guys into a greeter mentality”. They either need to get the proper training on how to go and talk to someone or they need to find a new place to serve in the church. I am going to brag about my safety team right now because most of them are not afraid to walk up to someone they don’t know and start a conversation. With the proper training you can tell if a person is in need or could be a possible problem.
We have to "Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome" on this folks. With the reopening of churches we are going to have issues that we have never faced before and this is going to require some new training and some new procedures in the church. Safety team leaders need to sit down with church leaders and staff and draw out the way they are going to reopen while still following CDC guidelines. This is not going to be an easy task, but if we don’t do it the right way then we will reap either the spread of the virus or the wrath of the non-believers, in some cases both.
We as the safety team of the church need to rethink our way of protecting the church. We need to be proactive instead of reactive. Active shooter training is reactive, the shooter has already started killing people in your building. We are too late at that point. I am really happy to see there are more and more true church safety professionals out here teaching the need to be “left of bang” instead of right in the middle of it. Situational awareness, threat profiling and verbal de-escalation should be the first things taught to your safety team. Active shooter training is a must, don’t get me wrong, but if we have a shooter get into our church and there were red flags all over the place like the West Freeway COC shooter, we have failed at preventing it. I can see the hate mail coming my way after that statement.
In every shooting we do an “after action critique” and in almost all shootings, with the exception of an ambush, there are certain warning signs that if the officer had picked up on, the outcome might have been different. I know what you are thinking, and no I am not a Monday morning quarterback. I am saying we learn from our actions and mistakes. I cannot tell you how many times I saw video or reviewed a shooting that helped me later on the street by using that information to move out of harms’ way.
Face masks are probably going to be a thing of the future, so we had better get used to them. I foresee that in the future, masks are going to be a fashion statement like women’s hats in the 50s and 60s. So how are we going to handle it? I have a novel idea, how about training on what to look for when you meet someone that you do not recognize? I can teach you how to look at the other 99 percent of their body and tell you whether we have a problem or not. Don’t think so? Give us a call and I will show you.
I was online last night with the Church Safety Guys, James McGarvey and Paul Buckner and somewhere in the conversation the Vulcan hand sign for “Live long and prosper” came up and I thought maybe Star Trek had it right in several different things. Let’s look at the handshake. The History Channel says the handshake has been around in some form or fashion for over a thousand years “The handshake has existed in some form or another for thousands of years, but its origins are somewhat murky. One popular theory is that the gesture began as a way of conveying peaceful intentions. By extending their empty right hands, strangers could show that they were not holding weapons and bore no ill will toward one another. Some even suggest that the up-and-down motion of the handshake was supposed to dislodge any knives or daggers that might be hidden up a sleeve. Yet another explanation is that the handshake was a symbol of good faith when making an oath or promise. When they clasped hands, people showed that their word was a sacred bond.”
So maybe the Vulcans had it right. They didn’t do handshakes, they just held their hand up with a big V in the middle of the hand, two fingers together on both sides of the V and gave an encouraging statement “Live long and prosper”. So maybe we should take something from a science fiction show and make it our new way of greeting each other. I like “Live long and prosper” or we could use the way the Episcopal Church does it, “Peace be with you” followed with a return from the person receiving the peace with “And also with you”. I heard Trump the other day say we could use the way the Japanese greet by just nodding their heads toward each other. I am not one for nodding toward each other, of course, I was not a huge fan of handshaking either. So many reasons, like alpha males wanting to show off their strength by squeezing your hand too hard, or the lip wrist handshake. It’s like they are only doing it because of proper protocol but really don’t want to shake your hand; it is just a formality. Then there is the how long do you hold someone’s hand. After a few uncomfortable seconds and I take back my hand from that person's grip, I don’t want to shake their hand ever again. Not to mention how we as police officers don’t like to shake hands because we are too close to that suspicious person. So, from now on, let’s just do away with handshakes and we can take a poll later on what we should do now, Vulcan, nod or “peace be with you”.
Since we are on the subject of Star Trek let me bring up one of my other favorite sayings. Kirk one time when asked about how he handled the Kobayashi Maru test stated, “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario”. I don’t either and neither should any Christian. When I was with the police department, I had this attitude there were no no-win scenarios. Call it arrogance, ego or just hard-headedness and at the time I was not a Christ follower. I believed we controlled our own destiny. When I came back to Christ, I understood how wrong that was; God is in control and I fought with myself over my arrogance. Then I realized that with God there are no no-win scenarios. Even in this time of chaos, God is in control and really, He doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios either. If He did, He wouldn’t have given us these powerful scriptures. Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Luke 1:37 “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me”. So, to me, God is the champion of the no no-win scenarios and we as Christians need to wake up and get a move on finding out what God has planned for us during this pandemic. He has never stated He wanted us to sit on the sideline and just watch the world go by. In John 17:18-19 it is quite clear Christ sends us into the world, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified”. He wants us in the trenches, just not down in the mud, so as Christian let us make sure we are available if He calls us. Find something to do and start practicing that no no-win scenario mindset. I don’t think you understand if Armageddon is tomorrow, We Win. We get to go home to a place a million times better than this place. So, get up and do something. Just remember the recommended social distancing and washing your hands. It doesn’t have to be something out of your house, call or Zoom with your safety teams or members of the church that have been hit the hardest. Be that Light of the Lord.
Okay, one last Star Trek reference. In Star Trek II, Kirk has destroyed Khan and Khan kicks off the Genesis and Spock crawls into the reactor compartment and is bombarded with antimatter radiation, Kirk comes into the engine room and Kirk and Spock have one last conversation.
Spock: “The ship…out of danger?”
Spock: “Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh…..”
Kirk: “The needs of the few.”
Spock: “Or the one.”
And Trekkies around the world cried even though I knew there would be another Star Trek and Spock would be back, sorry back to my blog.
For Christians Spock’s logic is flawed. Christians care for all and will do anything for even the one. Christ set the example in Luke 15:3-6 in His parable of the one lost sheep. We will go to great length for that one, the one that God has laid on our hearts, the one that He is constantly whispering to us to look after, the one that for the rest of our lives we will be praying for. We are built of a multiple of ones so we, as the church, must always be looking out for “the one”.
What does this mean? When the President and the Governor came out and asked us not to hold meetings with 100 or more people, they did it not only for the masses but for the one. Our elderly and our friends with pre-existing conditions. Yes, when you add up all of those ones you get the masses, but it starts with one. So, when churches go ahead and have their services who are they doing it for? Sorry, I don’t see it for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. I see it as foolishness and arrogance. Proverbs 3:35 “The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame.” Yes, we trust God and we know He is in control, but He will never tell you to go out and play in traffic or swim with the alligators at dawn (this is something Florida residents will understand).
So when I read about a pastor in Tampa being arrested for violating social distancing guidelines given to us by the President, Governor of Florida, the CDC and local authorities I have to ask myself his motives. I know that some of you will claim it is our right to assemble; yes it is, but I have a problem when it endangers lives. Isn’t our responsibility as the watchmen/watchwoman on the wall to warn the churches about dangers that can harm those that come to worship? If your church decided to have a Sunday service with these warnings still in place with over 10 people, isn’t that being just a little arrogant and not prudent? Shouldn’t you as the Safety Team Leader be advising your pastoral staff this might not be a great idea? Tell them they may end up reading headlines like this “Special Report: Five days of worship that set a virus time bomb in France”. All because you didn’t heed the warnings of a real, not fake, not made up but a real threat.
On February 18th, 2020 Christian Open Door church had people from France, Germany and Switzerland come to worship at an annual event. Since the event, they have traced over 2,500 coronavirus cases back to this incident. The church claims they didn’t know the seriousness of the virus during this time. One member stated they knew nothing about the virus or the epidemic. A lot of us didn’t understand the magnitude of this disease when it first came out. People who attended the services have been accused of being the cause of spread, members of the congregation have been verbally attacked by strangers for the spreading of the COVID-19. Germany partially closed its borders with France, halting an open border agreement that had been around for 25 years.
So if this church in Tampa is listed as the epicenter in the coming weeks of an outbreak of the coronavirus in the area, do you think God or those that have followed the warnings of doctors and scientists who understand the seriousness of COVID-19 would be happy with this pastor’s decision? I think not. Proverbs 10:23 “A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.” Proverbs 18:2 “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” Get my point? We will get through this if we listen to the experts and work together and not against each other.
So, at the beginning of last week, being the optimistic person that I am, I told a friend of mine that by Easter this pandemic would be behind most of us. Those areas not hard hit by the virus would be able to return to a somewhat normal life. I just knew we would be in our churches by Easter. Then over the weekend the President and all his advisers came out and gave us the bad news of maybe not releasing the restrictions until the end of April. I had a moment of anxiety. Mr. President, don’t you know that April the 12th is Easter? The most cherished celebration of any Christian, our Lord and Savor defeating death and giving us everlasting life. What are we going to do? And in that moment, I heard His voice, …“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10. Thinking about it for a moment I felt the peace I was looking for Him and His voice telling me every day is Easter, and when the restrictions are lifted there will be a great celebration at churches around the world.
Brothers and sisters, celebrate. God wants us to celebrate when we defeat this virus. Moses said it best in Exodus 10:9 Moses answered, “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our flocks and herds, because we are to celebrate a festival to the LORD.” There will be a festival of our Lord when this is over, the nations will hear our songs and our praise when this has come to past. Until that time, let us join in very small groups, use the technology we have been blessed with for our on-line sermons, our small groups and pray out loud for what we have. We are blessed in this nation and let us remember that God is in control, He loves us dearly and even in the end, there are no no-win scenarios because we all know where we are going, and WE WIN.
We just finished our 1st quarter Church Safety Networking Group (CSNG) meetings. These meetings are to network churches and share information of issues and concerns they are having at their houses of worship. This quarter’s training included an after-action critique of the West Freeway Church of Christ shooting. The common narrative has been that the shooting was a “mass shooting” incident. In my professional opinion the West Freeway COC shooting was an armed robbery gone bad. Call me if you want to discuss my opinion. I explained to the CSNG’s members that we are going to start a different style of training on Active Shooter preparedness. We will analyze shootings that have happened across the United States, review studies related to how these shootings occurred and work on proactive prevention strategies instead of reacting to the incident without proper preparation. We will train for Before the incident preparation, During the incident response procedures and what should happen After an active shooter incident occurs.
I don’t think people who have never been involved in a shooting incident understand the real emotional devastation that happens after an active shooting. As someone who has lived through a similar incident, I truly felt and witnessed the effects on my family and friends after my dad walked out of the church and killed a beloved deacon of the church. The victim’s family and my family and friends were all devastated and crushed by this disturbing act of hate and violence. It took me a long time to recover. Still today, because of the past relationship with my father and my mother, I have moments of insecurity that only God, my wife and family, my Christian brothers and sisters have been able to help me to overcome.
I received a call from my sister who still lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area about the West Freeway COC shooting incident. She explained that Tony Wallace, the deacon who was shot during the shooting was a nurse who worked with her. She went on to tell me that he was a great guy and a beacon of light when he was at work. They were all shocked and devastated when they heard the news about Tony. The tragedy of these shootings goes far beyond the boundaries of the church alone. These incidents affect the entire community and reach beyond our communities to us all. For all of these reasons, we must start evaluating how we handle the incidents that face today’s churches and develop strategies to effectively prepare for surviving them.
Recently I was driving my daughter, Jessica, back to school. We started talking about the topic of our next Facebook live broadcast and I told her about our new training on Active Shooter Preparedness. I explained that I believed we should a different approach to the training. Our training during the CSNG meetings will be more focused on preparedness Before, proper response During and healing After a shooting event. She asked me this question; “do these churches do Risk Management or Risk Analysis”. At first I scoffed. Here she is, this college student, and she is hitting me with big words like Risk Management and Risk Analysis. Then she dazzled me with the 5 Phase Emergency Management (EM) model and I thought she was talking about some new rock group she was listening to on Spotify. Yet, the more she talked about Prevention, Preparedness, Response, Recovery and Mitigation, the more I realized if you take away the complicated language she had a good topic for not only our Facebook live but also this month’s blog.
This is the way Jessica explained the Emergency Management Model. In the state of Florida from June to the end of November we would focus on hurricanes more than we would tornadoes. We need to plan for both, but every hurricane season statistics show we have a better chance of getting hit by a hurricane than a tornado. In the Midwest they would just reverse the order because they will probably never see a hurricane unless they plan a trip to Florida during that time of year. So, if we take that approach to the church safety team training, what should we be looking as our primary focus? After we identify our most likely risk exposure, we make our way down the list of potential threats in order of their probability of occurrence. Do we too often focus on things that probably will never happen at our church instead of focusing on the inevitable?
When I go to a church for the first time to do an assessment, the first place I ask the church to take me to is the children’s ministry. I walk through and look for locks on the classroom doors. I cannot tell you how many churches don’t have proper locks on the doors of the areas where, their most precious possessions, our children are located. However, when I ask them to take me to where their audio/video equipment is held the doors are so secure that it would make Fort Knox proud. When this occurs, I look at the person giving me the tour and tell them, they can replace all the a/v equipment with insurance monies, but we cannot replace the precious little ones that God has trusted to our protection. We should consider our Children’s Ministry as our primary risk potential as we develop our Emergency Management Plan.
Many church leaders who contact us in the beginning stages of starting a Safety Team will tell me right off the bat that they are more likely to be struck by lightning than have an active shooter in their church. They often follow up with, “don’t come into their church and talk about arming everyone with a sidearm and teach them how to clear rooms”. I agree with them and tell them we need to sit down and talk about what they see as possible threats and how to prevent those incidents from happening to their church. We conduct a risk analysis, or as I say, strength and weaknesses analysis to identify potential risks for incidents that happen most frequently at churches, rather than those that might not ever happen, like an active shooter. So finally, if you ask me what steps I would take first to manage risks at your church, it would be conduct a risk analysis and implement a risk management plan. But with any plan it needs to be adaptable. Talking to Simon Osamoh and James McGarvey with Church Safety and Security, we discussed the necessity for flexibility with our planning because when different incidents occur, our training priorities and focus could change.
If we consider what seems to be one of the most significant issues with churches today it would be vandalism. In our daily Google Alerts, we have at least one or two churches that have been affected by vandals and it seems to be increasing in frequency. I had one safety team leader say that you can’t stop vandalism. Yes, maybe that is true, we can’t stop them, but we can do our due diligence to make it harder for those who do these terrible deeds. Have your local law enforcement come out and do a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) assessment. If they don’t know what that is, you can look it up on the internet. I found one done by Virginia Beach, VA which is 34 pages long. That isn’t a lot of reading and it will help you understand that by taking the four CPTED elements you can do a lot to reduce vandalisms against your church. This measure is a critical part of Prevention strategy. Let’s try to get ahead of it before it becomes a larger issue.
In my personal and professional opinion, I would also be looking at the human interaction of your safety team. Huh, you ask? I hear examples over and over again in our training sessions. Inappropriately handled human interaction between an untrained safety team member and another person can be one of the greatest risks a church faces today. We know that there are three types of people that come into our church. Those who come to worship and we recognize them as they walk through the door. We have those that come into our church that are hurting and one step away from doing something they will regret for the rest of their lives. They are looking for an answer and our praying they may find answers in our churches. The third, of course, is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Our Threat Profiling training teaches you how to recognize the last two, but now that you recognize the difference between those that are hurting and the wolves what are you doing? What human interaction skills are you developing to deal with those two types?
In our training I show a video of a young male interrupting a church service. Before the video I ask the students if this church has a safety team. As the video starts two males are outside the church talking about making history. One of the males enters into the church while the other films the disturbance on his phone. You will have to come to one of my training sessions and find out what happens next. In the video, even though it does not look like the church has a safety team, every able male and one tough female stop the intruder before he can get to the front of the church and then they herded him out. In my opinion, except for letting the intruder get too far into the church before he is stopped, they did everything right. When I show this video I ask the trainees what would they have done different, I often get responses like “I would have piled driven that clown into the floor” or “I would have placed a choke hold on him”. No, sorry, not a part of the solution. Think about it, the accomplice was video-recording the whole encounter. The video made its way to YouTube. Think about what would have happened if the press got a hold a video of one of your safety team members pile driving a kid whose only crime was disrupting your church service which is a misdemeanor here in the State of Florida.
I was trained using the Behavioral Change Stairway Model in Crisis Negotiation. I use this technique in our Verbal De-escalation Training Program. The second step after Active Listening is Empathy. We may not see or understand the person’s conflict, but to them it is very real. In any crisis negotiation we have to understand that to get a person from crisis mode to where we can help them, we must treat their crisis as a valid issue. While doing this training I used the example of a person that just lost a loved one. They didn’t know how they would be able to continue on with life and were thinking of suicide. On multiple occasions I have had safety team members tell me that we need to explain to these people that if their loved one is a Christian they will see them again, as if that should solve the problem. No, sorry once again, not part of the solution in these situations. I can see the Facebook or Google Review of your church now. “I went to the church looking for comfort because my mother just passed away some person there told me to get over it because I would one day see them in Heaven.” One star and no “I would not recommend this church”.
Okay, before we go any further we need to address another very real concern as well. There may come a time when you have to put your hands on someone to remove them from the church. There may even be a time when you have to take someone’s life because they threaten those in your congregation. That is not your fault. People sometimes place us in situations that require forceful solutions. If your heart is in the right place for this ministry and you are good with God, He will not put you into a situation that He has not trained you for. When that time comes you will know it. Consider the example of Julie Workman, a survivor of the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church shooting. After evil came into their church and killed 26 people and injured 20 others, two of them her sons, Julie, a registered nurse, jumped up after the madman left the church and started doing triage, saving several people who would have died before first responders could get there. She told me while all this was going on, she kept hearing a voice telling her this was what she had been trained for all her life. God directed her there that day and God put her to work.
So, if I were to identify the most significant risk to our churches, I would say lack of specific training relevant to what those serving the church are going to confront someday, whether it is on the safety team or other positions in the church.
Our main focus should be on the expansion of the Kingdom of God. If that is not the foundation your safety team is built upon you should reconsider your direction. Safety Team Leaders and church leadership need to do a risk analysis on your safety team, making sure everyone is on the same page as it relates to how to deal with the people that are visiting your church. When someone walks into our church hurting, upset, dealing with domestic issues or just having a bad day, our job is to be there for those that are in need of some good old Christian fellowship, prayer or maybe even a hug (all you macho safety team men just hang with me)? After making sure we have developed a well-trained team let’s not forget other possible risks that will come into our church, i.e., domestic issues, lost children, medical emergencies, self-proclaimed profits, disruptive attendees and of course active shooter and develop a 5 Phase EM. Thank you Jessica.
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.