The very word means a place of refuge or safety. It is somewhere someone can go to escape the insanity and chaos of the world outside. After all, a “sanctuary” is a holy place consecrated for worship and prayer, God’s house. Inside, peace and reconciliation abide.
At least that’s how it should be. As of late, though, the world’s wickedness has invaded our sacred spaces, wreaking havoc on those inside its very walls. In the past five years alone, more than a dozen fatal shootings have occurred at places of worship across the nation. At First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas, a gunman targeted its members last year, leaving 26 dead in one of the deadliest rampages in a house of worship.
News headlines have caused increasing alarm, and in spite of it being a raw, wintery, Saturday morning and slushy driving conditions, church leaders came by the hundreds to Frankfort to hear how to make their sanctuaries more secure.
“Every church must think about church security in today’s world,” advises Steve Rice, leader of the KBC’s church consulting and revitalization team, which organized the training event. “Having a church that is warm and accessible doesn’t have to mean being vulnerable to people who want to do harm,” he said. “There is strength in being prepared. Churches have long preached about spiritual attacks, but now, more than ever, churches need to be prepared for an outside, physical attack.”
The challenge, of course, is maintaining an inviting and welcoming sanctuary in which to share the Gospel of Jesus with all the world while ensuring that the worshippers inside are safe and secure from acts of violence. Conference presenters, such as Steve Ayers, pastor of Bowling Green’s Hillvue Heights Baptist Church, where a stabbing occurred during a Sunday service, encouraged churches to consider forming security teams, emergency response planning, lockdown procedures, and responses to an active shooter.
In today’s world, it is indeed prudent for church leaders to be prepared for the unthinkable, to take precautionary measures, preventative steps, to ensure the safety of members and guests, to be “wise as serpents” but “harmless as doves” when it comes to avoiding calamity. We’ve devoted this issue to providing helpful articles on church security and personal safety.
Yet, as believers, we also know the Good News is we don’t have to be afraid anymore—not of evil, not of disasters, not even of death itself. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” Jesus told his disciples (John 16:33)
In an Easter commentary, Charles Frazier, president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and pastor of Zion’s Cause Baptist Church in Benton, where a mass shooting occurred in January at a local high school, writes, “As Christians, we know the full story of the resurrection. We read the gospel accounts of the resurrection. He bled. He died. He was buried. He is risen. No other religion has a god with that history. We have good news to share to the world.”
We rejoice in knowing our Lord Jesus Christ was victorious over death and the grave, he declares. “As Christians, we have a powerful celebration in the resurrection. Our Savior is alive!” Frazier exclaims. “Also we need to see the need that there are many all around us that need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Let us share what the resurrection means to the world.”
It is in Jesus alone, we will find ultimate security and peace in an unsafe world.