I have told the story, in person or on the podcast, in the past about an encounter I had while at a church association’s annual conference. I had a man come up to my table to talk with me. He wanted to let me know that he was a former Marine as well as a pastor and that he felt that God would protect the people in his church from violence or evil. That there was no need to do anything else. I told this pastor that he had a very interesting but not original thought on the subject, and, in fact, I could come up with more scriptures to support being prudent in the security of our churches than he could with his stated belief. I do not think this is what he expected, and he just stood there staring at me for what seemed a very long time. I was not sure if he was processing what I said or if he was offended that I challenged his thinking. Then he actually surprised me when he finally spoke and said, “You know what, I believe that you are correct and I will have to give a more serious look at the security of my church.” I went to that conference for a couple of more years and never ran into that pastor again. I would have loved to just see where he was in his thinking.
Obviously, by the title, I am referencing Proverbs 22:3 that says “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” I am absolutely amazed nearly every day at what God has written in his word and how applicable it is to our lives thousands of years later. I could take the rest of this blog and unpack this verse in a variety of different directions on how to apply it to our lives, but I won’t. Nor am I going to put a variety of scriptures in here to support church security, but I could. But I am going to keep it rather simple as this verse relates to the ministry of security in our churches.
Hopefully, we can agree that evil is an anytime, anyplace threat that we must deal with as followers of Christ. Recognizing that evil is bent on doing harm in a variety of ways personally in our lives, in our marriages, and in our families, what are you doing to take precautions? If Satan can take us out of the game in any of those areas, then he knows that we are ineffective in serving in ministry in our churches and thus opening the door for him to have his way. So, from a strictly spiritual sense, Proverbs 22:3 tells us what we can expect if we don’t heed the wisdom. There will be consequences. I don’t imagine that the pastor I encountered would want to take a chance on that based on his “belief”. Yet we have church leaders all over the country that are acting as the simpleton in this verse. I honestly don’t get it. So, let’s change gears a bit.
I went to a ministry legal conference last year (presented by Naussbaum/Speir) that really reinforced what I had learned in the past and have tried to get the message out. I often tell church leaders like the one I started with that if they don’t want to heed the multitude of scriptures, they need to go talk with a lawyer in their state. The simple statement that I give during the seminars is that you are liable if you don’t have a security plan, policies, procedures, and people to serve; and you are liable if you do have those things but don’t follow them or are doing that ministry poorly.
PREMISES LIABILITY ACT: I know that this is what it is called in Colorado and what it says is that a landowner may be liable to an “invitee… for damages caused by the landowner’s unreasonable failure to exercise reasonable care to protect against dangers of which he actually knew or should have known.” This is basically what the judge said after the Aurora theater shooting when the request by the theater’s parent company tried to have it thrown out. The judge had some very good words but basically said that there was precedent and that they should have been more prudent to take precautions.
FORESEEABILITY: It is interesting that even in legal terms we can see a link to the wisdom in Proverbs. Let’s look at what was said in regards to Taco Bell Inc. v. Lannon: “Rather, foreseeability includes whatever is likely enough in the setting of modern life that a reasonably thoughtful person would take account of it in guiding practical conduct…Simply because something has not yet happened does not mean that its happening is not foreseeable. Instead, foreseeability is based on common sense perceptions of the risks created by various conditions and circumstances.”
In the past, calling the police as soon as something happened was enough. Right now, in our country, that answer has never been more unclear. The response time by police is usually several minutes and some of the more severe incidents that could happen at a place of worship are often over before police could ever have arrived.
Security Options: There is nothing in life that is without risks. With every option, there is a potential risk. 1. Hiring off duty police officers is the route that provides the safest option. For many churches, this is too expensive of a choice for them. Similarly, option 2 of hiring private security is a far less expensive choice and provides a very safe option and reduced liability. 3. In-house security is what most churches are opting for. This is developing your own armed or unarmed in-house security team. This option takes a lot of work and continued oversight in order to have an effective ministry and not an in-house police force. Finally, we have the 4th option that, surprisingly, a large majority of churches rely on and those are the “cowboys”. This option is a VERY, VERY, VERY BAD CHOICE. Tactically allowing parishioners to carry concealed handguns to church, hoping they will respond appropriately to the security issues as they arise is the act of simpleton. I call these cowboys certificate holders. They have just enough training to get their certificate but don’t regularly or properly train besides occasionally putting some holes in paper at a range. Recent events will show you an example of a lack of proper training. (Did you catch that this is a bad choice?) This is why we added 3 hours of Firearm Essentials training to our seminars this year. There are so many serving in the church with a firearm and are lacking some of the necessary skills to be able to address a situation without putting themselves, their families, other “sheep”, and the church in harm’s way. I use a statement my friend Lt. Col. Dave Grossman says, “You won’t rise to the occasion, you will sink to the level of your training”.
So, a decision needs to be made. It may not be a popular one. The road might be a bit bumpy because we can’t please everyone. But none the less, a decision needs to be made. From both the Biblical side and the secular side there is a call to make a choice. Are we going to be Prudent People or Simpletons? Know that there are plenty of people, to include myself, that will come alongside you to help the best that we can. Like you have probably heard me say at a seminar, we have read the back of the book. We know we win. We must get as many people from here to there as safely as we can. Satan has not rolled over and quit, so neither can we.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.