A few weeks ago, a 25-year-old named Emanuel Samson waited in a metro Nashville church parking lot for the service to be over. When young Melanie Smith, a 39-year-old mother of two, walked out at the conclusion of the worship service, Samson shot and killed her, then walked right into the church and opened fire on other members.
With one death and six injuries, including the pastor and his wife, Samson was just getting started. He had more guns and ammunition, but a shy, brave 22-year-old named Caleb Engle put himself between Samson and his church family, subduing Samson while being pistol whipped in the process. Only God knows how many lives Caleb Engle saved that day.
In 2015 Dylan Roof entered a Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He waited until the end, then shot and killed the nine church members in attendance—including the pastor. Several years ago an Illinois pastor was shot and killed as he preached. The congregation initially thought the confrontation was a skit.
As of this writing, Janet and I are about to leave the U.S. for a couple of weeks to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Security checkpoints will be annoying, yet comforting to me today. Your church members need to be comforted by a simple security plan that everyone is aware of. If your church does not have a plan to protect its people, you need to make sure that base is covered soon.
There are many other resources available for churches, but none better than your local law enforcement. In my last church, we organized a security team with the help of our local police and sheriff departments. Consider how a security team can protect your children’s area, respond to an active shooter or bomb threat, watch your parking lot, or intervene in a domestic dispute (the root of many church shootings).
Caleb Engle reminds me of a young King David who ran towards the battle line in 1 Samuel 17. Running towards danger was not an absence of fear or lack of common sense, as much as was a man whose heart burned for the glory of God and a love for His people. Caleb and David stand in stark contrast to the rest of Israel’s army “who retreated from (Goliath) terrified” (v.24).
Sometimes shepherds need to step up and protect their sheep. David protected his sheep with a rod and sling before he protected his people with a sword as a soldier or with an army as king. Pastors are also protective shepherds, which is why we need to make sure our churches are not soft targets for predators of any kind.