Friday, March 2

Protecting Our Churches - "Pray, Watch, Work"

Note: The below article was written by Bob Perkins. Bob served and retired from the Louisville Police Department in Kentucky and then went on to finish a second career as the Police Chief for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Police Department (Louisville, KY). Bob helped to Co-Found the Vigilance Church Security Conference, and has have been an authority on the topic of Church Safety and Security for years.  Bob has done an excellent job bring scripture into this conversation and helping to focus our minds from an academic basis. 

 By: Bob Perkins

In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 4, the strategy of the Jewish faithful of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was to pray, watch and work.

The enemies of Israel planned to strike during the time that the Jews were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  This was after they had returned from captivity by the Babylonians.  Because of these threats “half of the servants carried on the work while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates", (verse 16).

In verse 17 we find that "Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon." 

As I travel and speak with leaders within our churches, denominations and conventions about church safety and security - inevitably the topic of weapons within our churches is debated.  In my thirty-four years experience in law enforcement, I have come to charge the leadership to look at four different options.

1. The best scenario for members to carry weapons within our churches in an effort to provide safety and security is best left to those members trained within law enforcement.  Many of our churches have sworn and experienced law enforcement officers within their walls.  They have been trained and tested when and how to use deadly force.  In this scenario "liability" is transferred, not entirely, but in a large portion to the governing agency in which that officer is sworn.

It is imperative that the leadership of our churches discuss and decide where these officers should be stationed within the sanctuary during the service.

2. The next option is the use of retired law enforcement or current trained military personnel in providing safety and security within our churches.  These persons have been tested and trained in the use of deadly force with weapons and should be able to provide adequate coverage.  In this scenario though, in the case that deadly force is used, the transfer of liability is not available.  Leadership within our churches need to be fully aware that in the event anyone uses deadly force within the boundaries of the church property and that person was authorized by the church to use such force,  a legal battle is probable.

In the event your church allows retired law enforcement or current military personnel to carry weapons or use such weapons, they must be trained by certified instructors on a semi-annual basis.  This is the minimum.  This training would not only include the physical use of such weapons, but also local, state and federal laws must also be incorporated.  Just as important, the mental capacity of this person needs to be evaluated as it pertains to taking the life of an individual.  All such training must be documented and kept for at least seven years for each person.

3. Another option I would not recommend but often I find in churches, allow untrained members to carry weapons on church property without any prior law enforcement, military or professional training.  This often is a very sensitive issue within churches. These persons are highly respected, in leadership positions, or able to persuade their church that they “know what they are doing" in the use of their weapons.  If the church allows these persons to carry and use such deadly weapons, the height of legal liability is magnified.

4. I am asked often if pastors who share God's word from the pulpit should carry deadly weapons concealed on their person while in such pulpits.  I truly feel this is not a good practice.  Pastors should be like our missionaries who share God's word and love within third world countries.  These missionaries and pastors should be filled with the Holy Spirit and know that at any time, they could be attacked and/or persecuted for what they are sharing with others.  If a pastor or missionary is carrying a concealed weapon, there will be times while they are sharing God's wisdom and love that, they will come to feel the presence of such weapon on their person.  It's at this point and for this reason the pastor or missionary is distracted from the totality of what they are sharing to honor God's kingdom.  It is the responsibility of other members within the church to provide such protection for the pastor.

As Nehemiah wrote in chapter 4, before discussing and implementing any use of deadly force with weapons, members are to first pray and ask God for guidance.   As with anything we do within our lives, we should first ask God how we can honor His kingdom with our actions.  The use of deadly force can and will lead to the taking of precious lives and/or inflicting serious physical injury.  It is important to study and know God's word from His bible. 

Other scriptures where you may look:

Psalm 122: 6-7, "May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within our palaces."
Psalm 4: 8, "For you alone O Lord, make me dwell in safety." 
Proverbs 133, "But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil."
James 1: 5, "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him."

Remember Nehemiah's strategy which was to pray, watch and work.

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