About a year ago I was talking to a church elder about the training we provide at Trinity Security Allies. Before we met he informed me on the phone that ‘he wasn’t buying anything”. While sitting at a local coffee shop he started the conversation with “you have a better chance of being hit by lighting or winning the power-ball lottery than being involved in an active shooter incident”. Fast forward to last Saturday. I was listening to the Pittsburg Director of Public Safety say to reporters “These incidents usually occur in other cities, today the nightmares hit home in the City of Pittsburg.” Every time I replay that conversation with the church elder and now listening to the Director of Public Safety, I think about how naïve these people are. Have they not heard of the twenty-six killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas? Have we already forgotten about the nine worshipers that were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina? I wish they had heard Ron Holland’s riveting testimony of the 1999 church shooting at Wedgewood Baptist Church and about his denial when the shooting started. Shootings at churches are happening more frequently than you think.
Of course then the talking heads come out spewing their rhetoric. So many telling us that this wouldn’t have happened if the church had someone armed inside. Then there are those telling us that the police are just minutes away and guns don’t belong in church. I hear them talk about how guns are the problem and others it is all about mental illness and we need to do better on handling those with mental issues. What they showed me is that they don’t have a clue of what is going on in Houses of Worship, Christian, Jewish or even Muslin surviving in this fallen world. What do they really know about an active shooter situation in a House of Worship? Unless they have ever been involved in one they need to shut-up and just report the news.
Here is what we know about Tree of Life shooting; evil walked into a peaceful setting and killed eleven innocent people. It is just that plain and simple. Good people don’t walk into Houses of Worship and just start shooting peaceful people, that is not our nature. These innocent people felt they were in a safe place; a House of God and He would not let this happen to them. They probably felt that it will never happen here; it only happens to churches in the south like Texas or South Carolina but never here. Remember what the Pittsburg Director of Public Safety said to reporters “These incidents usually occur in other cities….” Why do we still feel that it only happens to other churches and not ours?
Brothers and sisters the police are minutes away, minutes. The time it takes you to read this blog nine innocent people were shot and killed in South Carolina during an active shooter incident. Nine. You know me and law enforcement, you cut me I bleed blue, but we have to learn to protect ourselves while the cavalry is on the way. We must circle the wagons and protect those we love and cherish. We have to do things to slow down what is happening. To start this you must have a plan.
Just recently at two different training seminars I said that the best outcome of an active shooter situation is that nobody gets shot and that includes the shooter. I had people in the audience falling all over themselves. Once they got their jaws off the floor I finished my statement. You must start with a plan and that plan is to save lives. If your plan is to arm all the members in the church and some bad guy comes into your church with a gun, he probably won’t kill many people but if everyone starts to shoot, then you are going to kill some innocent people. You have to have a better plan than this.
The first part of any plan is we must save lives. We need to find a way of getting people out of harm’s way when evil walks in the door. Pasco County has been working on a simple plan for schools to encounter an active shooter, it is so simple it is brilliant, the ABCs of School Safety. Alert, Barricade and Counter. I commend them on this because it is what we have been saying for years. As long as we keep it this simple there is no reason why safety teams across the country could not implement this plan.
Let’s break it down. Alert. At the start of anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, Alert local law enforcement. We have been preaching this since we first started. You must contact local law enforcement if something does not feel right. We would rather respond, and it ends up being nothing than getting there and we have a situation like Pittsburg.
Second, Barricade. Finally someone is talking about getting behind a barrier and slowing down the process until the cavalry arrives. Remember the wagons, it was a better way to protect themselves because it was putting a barrier between the them and the bad elements. Let me remind you again, studies have been done and NO locked, barricaded door has been breached. Don’t want to listen to me, read where the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission and The National Association of State Fire Marshals reported that “there has never been an event in which an active shooter was able to breach a locked classroom door (Best Practices for Securing Classroom Doors).” And while we are on this subject, get rid of those flimsy doors with no locks and get a solid door with a good lock. I am going to let you in on a little secret, some of these off the shelf classroom barricade devices are dangerous and could be against Federal Law. You are going to have enough issues if you have an active shooter, you don’t want to have possible law suits also hanging over your head from using something illegal. Use a good solid door with a lock on the inside so the person in the room only has to lock the door by pushing a button or flipping a latch. Try getting a key into a key hole when evil is in the house, it is not easy.
One last thing on locked doors. I am sure most of you by now has heard about the Jeffersontown, Kentucky shooting at a Kroger where two people were killed. Here again we have nothing but evil killing people because of the color of their skin. Reports have come in that the shooter, before going to Kroger, had gone to an all-black church. Surveillance video showed the shooter yanking on a church door, but they were locked. There were ten members of the church still inside when the shooter tried the door. The report also states that there were 70 church members there an hour earlier. Lives were saved all because of a locked door. Are you starting to see a pattern yet? Have a plan, lock doors, saves lives.
The next thing on Pasco County’s ABCs is Counter. In their flyer they state “Throw objects at the intruder as a distraction. Shout, Scream, Defend yourself! Look for other ways to escape and Run Away from the danger!” Once again, we have been saying this since the beginning if it comes to a time when you have to defend yourselves, develop a survival mindset and do whatever it takes to make it through the attack. Here is a simple plan to build on, that wasn’t that hard. The hard part for most churches is implementing the plan and getting people to the church to train from the plan.
Would any of this helped those at the Tree of Life synagogue? I am not sure, I don’t know if they had a plan and if they did, did they share it with the whole congregation? In our advertisements for training at the churches we have been recommending, safety team members, church staff, volunteers and anyone interested in church safety. It has come to the time where everyone needs to come to the training, all members, staff and volunteers. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of everyone in the church to be safety conscious.
Just as the wagon trains in the old west protected themselves when they got ready for the night or were under attack. Everyone knew of the plan, everyone had something to do during these attacks. It was only a few that got to hide, most were doing something to save themselves. They had a plan. What is your plan? If you don’t have one, call us today and let us start helping you put a plan together.
Last week I had the privilege of traveling with the National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL) and speak at two of their seminars. I heard several pastors surprised that I stressed the Safety Team as a ministry. Talking to them they told me they wanted a Safety Team but when several members of their church stepped up to take that role, they went rogue; became a life of its own and concerned them because of their seemingly new position of power over the church. While working on this blog I got a call from a local pastor that said his STM made everyone feel on edge like they were watching the volunteers and staff all the time, waiting for someone to do something wrong. Not sure where this trend is coming from but we at Trinity Security Allies never teach it this way. I want to stress that our work as Safety Team Members (STM) is first a ministry that serves Christ and the church not the other way around. I say it all the time that unless you, as a STM understands your mission in life is to expand the kingdom of God, then you are in the wrong business. This is not a position of power, it is a position of service. If you feel this position is a position of power, you have not been chosen for this ministry. We do not volunteer, God guides us to this position. Our safety team procedures should not dictate the direction of the church, our service to God and the church should dictate the direction of the team. If we have not turned our Safety Teams over to the Lord, then do so now because a Safety Team that has not surrendered to Christ will fail and when that happens it puts the church in harm’s way. Forget about the evil that is wanting to attack the churches from the outside, your evil is within.
When we talk about the virtues of a STM we look to Paul when writing to Titus “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” Titus 1:7-9. Just replace overseer with STM because our duties as a STM is to manage God’s household in protection and sound doctrine. The church and all its ministries have been around a long time and working quite well. We as STM cannot come in and dictate what sound doctrine has been doing for years. We must be watching for those things that are a threat to the church and if we see something that might cause a safety concern to the members or the church we need to bring it to the attention of the church leaders through proper procedures and with love. Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” Merriam-Webster defines haughty as “blatantly and disdainfully proud: having or showing an attitude of superiority and contempt for people or things perceived to be inferior”. When we look at these things the Lord hates, immediately He hits us with blatantly and disdainfully proud. Am I making my point here? We as STM must understand that our role in the church is one of being a servant. Galatians 5:22-23 explains to us “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Now half of you at this point are going, “what am I doing here”? Jim has just taken all authority out of the Safety Team; heck I have more power in the Children’s Ministry bossing little kids around. Before you turn in your radio and ear piece, hear me out. If you are truly a servant of God and He has directed your heart to the ministry of protecting the church understand you are under a lot of scrutiny right now, not from man but from the Father Himself. Ezekiel 3:17-19 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself. Brothers and Sisters we have been selected as the Watchmen/Watch-women on the wall. Plain and simple. He has given you a gift and that gift is to warn the wicked of this world of their evil ways. If we do not warn them and others about their evil ways their blood is on our hands.
So God has entrusted you in warning the wicked of their evil ways. That my Brothers and Sisters is a huge responsibility: are you ready for that calling? But remember Galatians 5:22-23 explains to us “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Are you confused yet? Good cause here comes the closer. Romans 13:1-5 “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. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 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. 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. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” The authorities that has been established is your Church. You are a servant of God for good: we as God’s servants when called are agents of wrath to bring punishment of the wrongdoer.
Deep; I think so. A STM is not a position that should be taken lightly; but rather a position to do whatever may be called from us by the Lord. He is going to judge us by our fruits and not lightly, this is a position of great power, Luke 12:48 “But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” So, in essence “where there is great power there is great responsibility” (Winston Churchill, not Ben Parker). If it is to be fruits of the Spirit, or the Watchman/Watch-woman on the wall, then be the best, but understand in our protection of the church we are servants of God and His authority gives us the freedom to protect those in our church. We, only if life is threatened, become His agents of wrath and take whatever steps require to protect the church. The 60’s police motto was “To protect and serve”. We should take up that banner as a Safety Team Member and wave it proudly.
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.