“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Luke 9: 49-50 NIV
The other day I read an article from a church paper that was about “Church Security and Safety”. I am not going to list the article or the names of the church security companies that were listed in the article because I don’t want anyone to think that I am trashing these companies or their training techniques. Just like Christ says in Luke 9:50 “Do not stop him,” … “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Educating churches on the dangers of a fallen world is the importance of any article like this and it started off with the basic education of why churches need a security/safety team. The article interviewed someone from a security company that goes around training church volunteers on how to handle situations facing churches today. They went on to say that “If state law allows licensed gun owners to carry firearms on church property then the church should look into having an armed, trained security team. “In addition to armed personnel the church should have a team trained in hand-to hand combat, de-escalation techniques, the use of pepper spray and expandable batons.”
I am going to give you a second to re-read that last statement. Now let’s take the last part of that sentence apart. First, hand-to-hand combat. In our training we don’t recommend hand-to-hand combat training. Here is the reason. Unless a person frequently practices their hand-to-hand combat moves and in the mist of combat you have to think whether it is “wax on or wax off” you’ve already been “waxed”. I am not against martial arts, we have several members on our safety team that study martial arts and are very good at it. Almost all of them tell me it has to be second nature before hand-to-hand combat moves become instinctive and instantaneous. I watched an instructor give a 2-hour course to safety team members of a church on how to take a knife away from a person. Most of the team members were out of shape and over aged and all that did was give those safety team members a false sense of security that will only get them hurt unless they practice the moves. When I asked a friend who is a martial art expert what he would do if he was confronted with a person with a knife; his response was to shoot them. I believe if you can’t do what my friend said, you use whatever you have at your disposal; a chair, a Bible or anything you can get your hands on to get some distance away from that person until help arrives, not go hands on.
To me de-escalation techniques are the most important tool you can learn and use in a church environment. If you don’t believe me go out and read this article. One Sunday afternoon Pastor John Johnson III, with Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Bullard, TX, was confronted with a man wearing camouflage pants, a tactical vest, helmet with a pistol. The assailant stated that he was a “man of Islam” and instructed to “slay the infidels”, anyone that did not abide by the teachings of Islam. Pastor Johnson, who had worked in corrections, feared that a lot of people were going to get hurt unless he took matter into his own hands. Pastor Johnson asked the suspect to sit down and let him pray for him and get him a cool drink. Keeping calm, he was able to alert the others to get out of the church and call the police. Pastor Johnson was also able to get away from the suspect and later after the suspect was arrested the church found a note written by the suspect that stated, “This house is blessed by God”.
We are “church safety” and in a situation of a disruptive attending, taking someone to the mat is the last thing we want to do. People are broken and unless they are possessed, a calm head goes a long way. In fact, to use words from a popular 80’s movie, “All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the “house of worship” (used my own words here) unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice”. Let me add one more thing to number three, who are you working for? You are working for the Lord Jesus Christ and not only should you be nice, you also have to be humble. Anger has no place here and when you get angry and lose your temper, you lose the fight.
The part of the statement I have the most problem with is, “the use of pepper spray and expandable batons”. I know the company in this article meant well but my question is, have they ever been in a room where pepper spray has been deployed? Most pepper sprays are an aerosol. Once deployed it spreads and do you know what pepper spray will do to an elderly person with respiratory issues? You’ve just released an irritant in the air that “causes non-lethal inflammation of all mucus membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs. Pepper spray causes eyes to slam shut from intense burning and temporary blindness. The effects will last from 30 minutes to 2 hours (1). The extendable baton is nothing more than (as Wikipedia puts it) a club carried for self-defense and when used properly is a great tool, as pepper spray is, for police officers and those trained in the use of said tools.
But if you want to quickly get on your local news, CNN or Fox News for the wrong reason use pepper spray or an extendable baton on a disruptive attendee that is refusing to leave your worship center. Most likely you will get the disruptive attendee to leave but if you use pepper spray, you will also have your elderly in your worship center calling out for medics because they can’t breathe or see. You will also clear out your church service. Nobody wants to see their elderly being rolled out on gurneys to the paramedic truck because of the deployment of the pepper spray. Nobody wants to see video that someone took with their phone of your safety team member using an extendable baton and then it shows up on YouTube. This is not going to be a good image for your church or your safety team and this all happened because you decided to use something other than verbal judo or the necessary force needed to remove the disruptive attendee. When it’s all over, you then have to worry about civil suits against your church because of the actions you took. Not to mention, striking someone with an extendable baton will get you arrested unless of course you live in Mississippi.
Think about it brothers and sisters, “be nice” and if that doesn’t work, it might require 10 members from your church to remove the disruptive attendee but no one gets hurt but maybe the disruptive attendee. Your church leaders will thank you for the way you handled the situation.
In the final paragraph of this article another church security consultant stated “for churches with an active shooter in their building is to go wild on this person… There has to be a group of men sitting strategically that are just going to go berserk and rise up against this person and go after him.” Going wild or berserk is not the way to go after an active shooter. In our church, safety team members with carry concealed permits, have other jobs on the team unless I have seen them shoot. Just like hand-to-hand combat, unless you go out and shoot and train at least twice a month or more you should never pull your weapon in a crowded church. And when we talk about training I am talking moving and shooting, not standing in a lane and shooting at paper targets. Doing training with a qualified firearms instructor that teaches you how to respond in stressful situations. It takes police officers years of practice to perfect shooting under stress and pressure. A little unknown statistic, 30% of shots fired by police officers actually hit their target. That is a mighty low percentage. What that means is if you get involved in a church shooting and your under high stress, the attacker is shooting back at you and you fire three rounds at the suspect. There is a high probability that at least two of those rounds are not going to hit the bad guy. In a full church where do those rounds go? Another church member gets hit or God forbid a child and you have to live with that the rest of your life. I see church after church only requiring their members to have a conceal weapons permit to carry. If you are the team leader on your safety team, it is your responsibility to make sure they can shoot before you recommend them carrying in your church.
Calm heads and hours of training are needed to learn how to assess and neutralize the threat in the most effective way and with the least collateral damage as possible. If the threat ends up becoming a gun battle you want calm, trained and godly men standing up for your congregation. Not someone that is happy to be on the safety team because he gets to carry a gun for the Lord going berserk on the active shooter. Having someone on the safety team pull a weapon that is untrained to neutralize a threat could get innocent people killed and destroy your church. We are called to protect the flock, connect people to Christ and if necessary give our lives for our calling. Besides to use another phrase in that popular 80’s movie “nobody ever wins in a fight”.
Below is the link to an article that talks about how churches across the country are seeing suspicious activities It reminds us just how far ahead of the curve we are and that we must continue to always be on guard.
St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside, California had a long standing tradition of mothers and infant children walking outside the church during services so the infants would not disturb the divine liturgy. That has been halted due to several unidentified men driving by their church yelling “Allah Akbar!” at the mothers and their infants. The pastor at Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, California, which is one of the biggest churches in that area advised his congregation that they had received a threat written in Arabic. This article also talks about incidents that we brought to your attention, the Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Bullard, Texas where an Islamic man in camouflage and assault gear walked into a church threating to shoot Christians and “other infidels” and the Dearborn Heights, Michigan where the subject was getting ready to shoot up a major church because he wanted to be famous and doing his own jihad at a church would get him on the news.
This article continues with Ryan Mauro, a professor of Homeland Security at Liberty University and a national security analysis for the Clarion Project stating “If you are an Islamist terrorist seeking self-glory, executing a priest will bring you more attention that executing an average civilian.” Multiply that with what almost happened in Bellevue. What frightens me is that no one and I mean no one is talking about the incident that happened at Bellevue Baptist Church on Easter Sunday. You may get tired of me harping on this case but here we have an actual situation that if a safety team had not been in place and through their training an observant greeter had not done their job we would have had a mass shooting at a large church in the United States. And to make it even worse it would have been perpetrated on the most holiest day of the Christian religion. Think about it, if that had played through it would have been the church’s 9-11.
An incident like this, would have shook the core of church’s congregations around the country. Members and visitors have a reasonable expectation of being safe when they come to your church. If that were all the sudden challenged with an unthinkable event like the one that almost happened at Bellevue Baptist Church, would our churches rise to the occasion as churches in the Apostolic Age or would they close their doors? Would the churches have the knee jerk reaction to hire security guards with black tactical vest on and have its congregation go through metal detectors or receive the “Holy Ghost pat down” before they were able to enter the building? Think about what it would do to our freedom to come and go in peace at our churches. Religion is sometimes such a fragile belief, thinking that God would allow something like that happen. People would assume churches are not and cause so many to walk away and doubt our loving Father.
As I read this article I see that you, this group, is way ahead of the curve on keeping our churches safe just because you are either talking about it, looking into it or have one in place. I think one of things that keeps surprising me is that we are aware of what is happing in this fallen world and we are only stronger because of us sharing information. The suspicious incident that happened at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in July where five black males showed up at offering time would have not been shared if it had not been for what we are doing with the networking group. If it has not been for the incredible work of Monica Lamar and her Safety Team, We would not have known about this. This is why we must continue to meet and share information. We are watchmen/watchwomen of our churches and understand the need for safety teams, We are the front lines in protecting our churches and make sure We understand that God has placed you in that position. We did not choose this, He saw the talent in all of you and has put it into play for the safety and protection of His flock, His Bride the church and the expansion of His kingdom. We need to continue to put up the good fight, providing the security (yes I said security) for our churches so they can continue to allow all members and visitors come and go with the freedom that this great country has provided for us all.
Who can believe it; the first week of August. The summer is just about over. School will be starting soon and the population of your church is going to start growing. All the vacationers, snowbirds (I say that with a smile because we moved here to get away from the Virginia cold winters) and new families looking for some escape from the brutal winters will be coming our way. Is your church ready for the increase in numbers at your worship center? With every new possible member there is also the possibility that a new danger could be darkening your doors. Are you prepared?
In July our world seemed to travel deeper to the dark side. On July 07, a peaceful protest in Dallas turned into one of the deadliest days in law enforcement history since 9-11 that left five officers dead and nine others injured. Later in the month we saw it again in Baton Rouge where three more officers were ambushed. July 14 we watch in horror as images started coming across the ocean of the tragedy happening in Nice, France. While writing this email I saw the death count has risen to 85. Between July 18 and July 24, Germany had four violent terrorist attacks that left ten people dead and over a dozen injured. When we didn’t think it could get any worse we heard the news how on the 26th of July, two Islamist terrorist killed an 85-year-old priest by slitting his throat in front of the congregation. Let us remember that God commands us to love everyone, including our enemies and that all lives matter. God doesn’t see black, white, brown or any color at all. He sees the followers, us, as children of God, heirs to God’s glory. While this world is falling apart we need to be praying more and watching for those that want to destroy what we believe in, the love of Jesus Christ.
Here is the States for the month of July churches were not immune to incidents that will shake their foundations. We saw a church that witnessed two men shot right outside their building during a Sunday morning service, a two-year-old boy died after being left in a vehicle outside a church in Dallas, and churches across the country continue to be vandalized and broken into. While two men were arguing in a church’s parking lot, one of the men pulled a gun to shoot the other person and shot and injured the pastor of the church, several churches are experiencing sin destroying the fabric of their community from church staff being involved in sexual abuse on juveniles and another church is facing how to handle a rape that happened in one of their bathrooms. Domestic violence issues are on the rise and churches have been grappling on how to handle the delicate situation within the laws of the state and the boundaries of the church. Outside of a Chicago church, a couple that had been members of the church for more than 20 years and had recently separated, witnessed an unimaginably incident where the estranged husband waited for his ex-wife to come out of the church where he killed her then killed himself.
Are you doing all you can to help prevent these types of incidents from happening at your church? What is your procedure for injunctions against family members? If a member of your church admits to having been battered by her husband what is your responsibility? If someone confesses a crime against another person what do you think your responsibility is? How you handle these types of incidents? How do you change your place of worship from being a soft target to that of a church that has watchmen and watchwomen on the walls working hard to give the members the feeling they can come to their church and worship without fear?
On August 13, 2016 we will be meeting at Calvary Chapel in St Petersburg to talk about the “Why and How” to implement a church safety team. We need to get the word out; we need to invite every single church in the area to this event. Brothers and sisters, Satin knows no boundaries, he moves from house of worship to house of worship looking for a way to destroy the sanctuary of the church and we need to meet together, prepare for war against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, because it is coming. I promise you, if you are not ready, getting ready or have it together but want to share best practices this event is for you and your church.
How can Trinity Security Allies help you? Join us Saturday August 13 to learn more for our Church Safety Team Outreach Event.
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.