34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
Since the mass shooting in a Texas church a week ago, I have had many within my church ask me about church security. Their questions are appropriate; my answers are, perhaps, inadequate.
As a pastor, I have given thought to the security of our church when it gathers; although I am quite sure that I have not given it enough thought. We need to be vigilant regarding the physical safety of the people whom God has entrusted to us as they gather. This is why I am meeting with several people from my church with a background in security and law enforcement.
That said, two recent events in my life have taken my thoughts about security in other directions. The first occurred a few weeks ago. My twenty-year-old daughter told our family that she was going to serve as a missionary for six months in The Republic of Cameroon, Africa. Of course, I am excited for her. Her love for Jesus and people is strong so I am not surprised to see her seizing this opportunity. Yet there are others around me who show concern and shock that I, her father, would allow her to embark on such an “unsafe” journey. I have specifically not raised my daughter, or any of my children, to be safe. I have raised my children to be adults. A twenty-year-old woman is an adult.
When my kids lived with me I had rules for their safety. I did not want them driving home at two o’clock in the morning; there were safer times to be on the road. I taught them to lock their car doors after getting in and to always keep the house doors locked. They knew not to talk to strangers. I taught them “street smarts”. This was all to help keep them safe.
I taught my kids how to be safe, however, anyone who follows Jesus is called to abandon their own lives for the sake of Jesus and His good news (Mark 8:34-35). Some places are dangerous to visit, but if you go to tell someone about Jesus, He tells us it is worth the risk. Yes, as a father I am nervous and concerned for my daughter. As a Christ follower, I am amazed by the beauty of my daughter and her decision to use her feet to deliver the good news (Romans 10:15).
The second event that influenced my thoughts on security occurred in a hospital across the street from my church. I was called to pray with a family who was about to pull life support from a family member, this is never an easy visit. The family informed me that the woman about to pass was a Christian. I opened my Bible and read:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
There is safety! Anyone who is in Christ is safe. It doesn’t matter where we are, what time it is or who we are with. We are safe. Peter refers to Jesus as the guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). Our bodies are in his hands as well, but there is no guarantee for the safety and health of our bodies. We can seek to live as safely as possible, avoiding all risk, and the end result will be the same; physical death.
My daughter puts her physical safety at risk by going to Cameroon. She does it for the sake of Jesus and His good news. Her soul could not be any safer.
The woman in the hospital (who died twenty minutes after my visit) is also safe because she believed in Jesus.
As the pastor of a small church, I will seek to make our gathering place safe, however, I am far more concerned with the safety of the souls in our community.
How is the security of your soul?