“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
That quote by Frederick Buechner helps me imagine Jesus introducing us to life in this awkward period in which we live, before he is finished healing all that’s broken and making all things new.
With yet another shooting to grieve and rattle us all, there is a kind of crisis-fatigue that sets in. Do we have to go through all this again? How do I brace myself – and my children – for what may come next?
In times when it feels like we are living from fear to fear, my hope is in Jesus. I wanted to share these words by Grace Kelley which I really appreciated, titled “Come, Lord Jesus: My Prayer of Hope When My Heart is Heavy.”
With the Texas shooting taking place in a church, it seems a good time to talk about church security.
Church security was not something anyone talked much about years ago. It was assumed that a “sanctuary” would automatically be just that – a haven of worship where we’d be “safe and secure from all alarms,” to quote the old hymn.
But today, the sobering reality is that every church needs a strategy that will DETER bad things from happening, a process to PROTECT whoever gathers, and a protocol to RESPOND should something happen.
This week a local paper called asking for a statement about church security. You may have seen it. We said something like this:
Mountain has always taken the safety of our gatherings very seriously. For us that means in part a well-staffed and trained security team (we call it our Safety Response Team) with specific roles and functions, to implement our protocol based on best practices for security and safety in the case of a dangerous event. They are made up in large part of law enforcement officers, some of whom are armed. Our training has come from the best practices of security available. Though they are not all highly visible, their presence is obvious and creates an important deterrent. As with any ministry at Mountain their ultimate purpose is to help us accomplish our mission. There is something uniquely powerful and very meaningful gained from the experience of our gatherings at Mountain and we are grateful for the security team which allows us to come together with confidence and a sense of joy, peace and purpose.
For a while I resisted the presence of security. I thought it might make people feel more unsafe. If that was true of anyone a few years ago, today the opposite is the case. Their presence is largely invisible to everyone, except perhaps anyone with ill intent, in which case they are a huge deterrent. And for all who notice their unobtrusive presence it conveys reassurance and safety. That way we can focus on opening our doors confidently to all, inviting them to join us in the rich encounters with God and special connections with others that are typical of the Mountain gatherings.
We always have these security personnel present on any given weekend at all services and campuses, in addition to more than a dozen who are attending and not officially serving as part of the security team at the time. Those with blue lanyards are law enforcement, black lanyards are security, and red are medical. We are constantly updating our training and procedures, with an attitude of being diligent and watchful, but not obtrusive or aggressive.
It’s not something I love talking about, but I am grateful for their ministry.
Jesus didn’t arm himself and come out with guns a-blazing when enemies began to attack him. When Peter drew the sword, Jesus told him to put it away. That was not going to be Jesus’ way. Our greatest strength will never be in attempting to match the world’s show of force or might on its terms. We know that.
I like what one pastor says: “We are not fearful, but we are wise. We are not downcast, but we are watchful.” I would add, we are not aggressive, but we are protective. To do less would be unconscionable.
So we will gather in the name of Jesus to lift high the name of Christ, without fear and without hesitation! For some, the threat of rain or a home game is enough to keep them away. For us, we will not be so easily deterred.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching.” — Hebrews 10:25
If the time comes when we cannot gather without putting ourselves in danger, we will meet anyway. That’s the kind of faith that changes the world. That’s who Jesus has called us to be.
In the meantime, we will take great measures to do all we can to ensure we can do so safely.
There is such strength in the name of Jesus and so much importance in our fellowship, that we will do all we can to create a safe sanctuary to the Most High God. While gathered we will pray and work for the peace of the world. We will pray prayers for, and depart to show love toward our enemies and those who would do us harm or speak evil against us.
The world is a beautiful and brutal place. Those who are broken and confused, bruised and hurting, along with the self-righteous, the doubters, the aimless, and the faithful – we ALL need a SAFE place to come clean before a holy God. We need a SAFE community of people who will risk the messiness of welcoming one another in all of our messiness.
The irony is, it’s dangerous to risk loving people. It’s scary to make yourself known to others as true fellowship requires. That’s why so many avoid it.
It’s dangerous to get real with God. Exposing your sin, confessing your need – that’s risky.
It’s dangerous to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking, convicting of sin, encouraging growth, inducing change and love and gratitude in our crusty, world-shaped hearts.
It’s dangerous to say YES to following Jesus because it will wreck your comfortable life, reorient your precious priorities, challenge your self-centeredness, upset your plans for what you do with your money, and reallocate your time.
If you want safe, build a bunker and stay home.
But if you want an adventure…if you want real joy and lasting peace…sign up for following Jesus. Step out into the daylight and join with others at Mountain who are daring to go where Jesus leads, Unleashing Love here, there, and everywhere.
The scariest part of being a Christian has nothing to do with bullets. It’s the risk of Jesus upsetting my comfortable life.
The good news is, he replaces it with a much more exciting, real life – what he calls abundant life, or life to the full. (John 10:10)
I’m super thankful for Mountain’s security and Safety Response Team. They make our gatherings as safe as we know how to do.
But I’m more thankful for Jesus and for Mountain, where all of us, broken and beautiful, sinners and self-righteous alike can take the risk of faith. It’s safe because here we have found our Hope, our Healer, our Protector. The only True Security is in the everlasting arms of Jesus.
This weekend we talk about LIVING STONES!!