Recently in my area there have been a series of vandalisms of churches. For the most part the incidences seem to just be graffitti, but I am sure things could get worse. Also, over the years, there have been a number of shootings, child abduction and molestation cases, church burnings, and various assortment of other violent and non-violent crimes on church properties. Since 9/11, physical security has become a focus for most Americans, and churches are no exception.
Like the majority of our government buildings, churches have their doors wide-open. The difference is of course that churches typically do not have the onsite security to handle the types of tragedies that occur when sinful people decide to do Godless things. For the most part, churches are prepared for Sunday and Wednesdays, but lack the resources to safeguard the properties and persons in the church when the building is wide-open through the week and overnight.
With this recognition also comes a reality that much of our Christian heritage developed in a much safer period in history, wherein stealing and a sundry of petty crimes were primarily committed against the church by undiscerning boys looking for something other than boredom. One must also consider that our faith has developed a culture and attitude towards outsiders and those who may harm us that is best summarized in these three scriptures (NKJV):
Vs. 27 But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.
Vs. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”
Vs. 5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
So it was with a bit of shock and disappointment recently that I received the following all-staff email request from our HR Director:
… Also, as a reminder, we encourage all visitors to come through the main front-doors of the church, as the back doors are only unlocked certain times during the week. We are working on signs for the door but please instruct anyone trying to enter in the back when the doors are locked to please go around and enter through the front doors. While it may seem like an inconvenience it may help to prevent someone from entering the church who did not have the right motives.
Now, I don’t know about you, but some Sundays I could be made to enter through the front door for lack of “right motives”. This whole deal concerns me because in it we seem to have lost some confidence that God in his sovereignty and his favor will protect us from our enemies, or Glorify himself if he chooses to remove that protection. I don’t mean to sound uncaring, but the reality is that God moves and works in us through difficulty and pain. If He were to allow (note I have not said “cause”) this church to be attacked by gunmen with assault rifles, would He be any less God? Are we lacking faith by deploying our own security measures to prevent such a thing from happening? I am not proposing that we are… but I am saying that like many things in life, it is the condition of our heart that God cares about.
In this case, is the collective heart of our church leadership depending on God for his protection and mercy while putting reasonable security measures in place to prevent the inevitable? Yes, inevitable. I suggest that if we are making a difference, we will be attacked… there will be attempts to sift us. Each attempt will makes us more determined, more faithful, and more dependent. Some would say my position is extreme and lacks wisdom, and it may. I am just saying, I would take an open door church over a “protected facility” any day. Let God sort it out, because there is not a single thing we can do to thwart His will, whether it be active or passive. If he desires to remove his protection so as to accomplish a purpose of His, not a single device of our own can prevent the tragedy.
The HR Director continued:
All visitors, excluding individuals for counseling, will now be signing in at the front-desk and issued a name badge to identify them when in the building. This was implemented to assist us in knowing who is in the building during normal office hours, as security and protection for children, volunteers, and staff is of utmost importance.
I think the next step will be metal detectors and x-ray machines, as we already have a security camera literally around every corner. I don’t think anyone monitors it though, mainly just for recording whatever ends up going wrong.