One day a man dies, who was a devout Christian. Saint Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates and begins to give him a tour of Heaven. As the tour goes on, Saint Paul points out all the different Christians. "There's the Catholics, there's the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Presbyterians", and so forth. As they come to this one group way off to themselves, Saint Paul motions for the man to come closer and whispers. "Now, for this next group, we need to be really quiet. They are the Baptists and they think they're the only ones in Heaven."
Okay before my Baptist brothers and sisters start sending me hate mail or requesting to be removed from the mailing list you must understand I grew up Southern Baptist. I can remember Baptist preachers insinuating this in some of their sermons. So give me some freedom here. We all have our specific beliefs that makes us who we are, if not there would not be all the different denominations. So, I can joke about my roots in the Baptist Church. But what I can’t joke about is when we put together training at a church that is open to everyone and other denominations will not come to that training just because of that reason. Why do we develop safety and security teams? We do it to protect the flock. This should be universal across the board for every safety team, no matter what denomination. You create these ministries to protect the flock. Isn’t this what it is really about?
Several weeks ago I was asked to come and do a security assessment at a local Mosque. This was just after the New Zealand shootings. I jumped at the opportunity to serve. Isn’t their families and children just as important as ours. I had seen the raw uncut video of New Zealand shooting. The slaughter of innocent women, children and elderly people was devastating and should not be experienced in any religion. You will band together to protect the schools whether they are private, public, charter or any other variation. Why should church safety be any different?
We were invited to Venice, FL by the Venice Police Department to do our church safety training. When we first kicked it off, we immediately got over 150 church members signed up and by training day we had over 300 signed up for the training. The amazing thing was that there was every know denomination there. Over 80 churches, we even had a Jewish Synagogue. I asked the question if the participants believed in miracles because having Baptist, Methodist and Catholics agree on anything was a miracle. What frustrated me if we had gone to any church in Venice with any known denomination, we would have only gotten 20 percent of those that we had at this training. Why? Because the police department was hosting the training and not a church. Most have the mindset of, hey if the police department is hosting something it must be the real deal. We must change our mindset, if it is about protecting the flock, it doesn’t matter the denomination, it is the real deal.
All of my years in police work we were always training. We had to have 40 hours of recertification training every four years just to hold our position on the department. We would go to classes to learn of other ways to handle people in crisis or how to do proper traffic stops. Other things would occur across the country and we would look at each other and think to ourselves we are not ready for this if it happened in our jurisdiction. An example, Columbine, 1999. Before Columbine our agency’s response to any active shooter situation was to surround the parameter, wait for the SWAT team to arrive and then let them decide to breach or not. Columbine changed all of that and we started active shooter training and because there were six other cities next to us, we started training with their agencies police departments.
When I started working with Belleair, I understood that we sat in the middle of three jurisdictions, south was Pinellas County, north was Clearwater and east was Largo. I knew nobody in the agencies, so I went to all the county networking meetings. It didn’t matter if it was on burglaries, robberies or sexual assaults, I went to them all. We shared information on what was going on in our cities and it gave me a network of detectives with the same mindset of mine, catching bad guys. Building these relationships anytime we had crimes close to the Belleair boarder I would contact the jurisdiction next to us and see if they were having the same issues and if they had a suspect. We on so many occasions were looking for the same suspect so by sharing information we were able to get these people off the street faster than by working alone.
Brothers and sisters, bad things are still happening against churches. Read the papers, shootings are still occurring, vandalisms appear to be on the rise and if church goers were aware of how many sexual assaults have happened across the country, they might not let their children go back to church. We must understand that we live in a fallen world and attacks on church property is not slowing down. In fact, to us it only seems like it is getting worse.
Please understand I am not a person that thinks every weekend there will be a shooter waiting to come into a church and up the body count from Sutherland Springs. But I would be a fool if I didn’t think that every weekend there is a possibility of an ex-husband who has reached the end of his rope and finds himself in a very dark place. He may be contemplating if this weekend he will wait for his wife at her church to hurt her. What if that wife decided to leave your church for fear of running into her ex-husband? You understand her fear because of his violent past. Are you prepared and will you share that information to the other church safety teams so they can be ready in case the husband shows up on their campus looking for his ex-wife?
In our church sometimes I feel we have seen everything. We have had the prophets, the panhandlers, those that have mental-health issues that ranged from being violent to just needing extra attention. We’ve had sexual predators, impostors and disruptive attendees. Everyone one of these we have listed has either come from another church or have left our church and went to another only to start up where they left off at their previous church. So why is it that church safety teams refuse to get together and share information about what they have seen in their own churches? This is not gossip, this is being proactive and protecting the flock.
Brothers and sisters, if you have a safety team leader in your church that tells you they don’t need outside help, I would tell you that person is not the right person for your safety team. I am considered by many an expert in my field, but I still read articles, go to seminars on church safety and have a whole network of professionals I can reach out to for help on a question I might have. It would be prideful if I thought I was the be all to end all and we know how God feels about pride. Don’t let a prideful safety team leader put your church in danger. We are all working on this together.
There should be no competition in the safety of the flock. I see no competition in my field as a consultant of church safety, I see others in this line of work as my brothers and sisters in protecting the flock. I heard it once said, ““Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” Mark 9:38-40 (NIV).
I know who is against us and he loves that fact that we as Safety Team Leaders are not working together for the Kingdom of God. You see if we were to unite maybe we could stop some incident like Sutherland Springs or The New Zealand shootings. Maybe we could change laws to create better protection for the churches. Please come and join us at our networking meetings and let all of us work toward the protecting of God’s people, His chosen, His sons and daughters. I pray that you will leave behind whatever stops you from coming to a Church Safety Network Group meeting. Go to our website Trinitysecurityallies.com for information on our next networking meeting and join us on our new Facebook Group.
God bless you for what you do and look forward to seeing you soon.
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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.