Are weapons checks coming for America’s churches?
Will metal detectors appear at the sanctuary doors?
How about pat-downs en route to the pew?
Maybe worship teams will face the command: “Put the guitar case down and slowly back away.”
Even in a house of God, you are no longer safe, according to pastor, former law-enforcement official and author Carl Gallups.
He was mourning the recent church shooting in Selma, Alabama, as “yet another example of the degeneration of our culture.”
And if Christians are to survive in a period of a societal breakdown, Gallups believes there needs to be a “paradigm shift among America’s churches.”
James Junior Minter is alleged to have opened fire in the Oasis Tabernacle Church, injuring his girlfriend, his 1-year-old son and a pastor. In response, District Attorney Michael Jackson predicted churches will need cameras and weapons checks because of the way “society is going.”
Gallups, the author of “Be Thou Prepared: Equipping the Church for Persecution and Times of Trouble,” reluctantly agreed churches are being targeted.
“Sadly, many of us have a feeling we will see ever-increasing scenarios like this one in the years to come,” he said. “Many of our churches are simply ‘too convenient’ of a target for most people who intend to do harm to an individual, or even a large group of people, who are attending a certain church.”
Gallups alleges attacks in churches and other religious institutions are becoming increasingly common.
In his book, he quotes Carl Chinn, a church-security expert, who has recorded more than 1,000 attacks in places of worship since 1999.
Chinn recently reported on Fox News that so far this year, there have been more than 150 attacks on churches.
The recent attack on the pastor and parishioners of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was the worst church attack in American history, according to Chinn.
Immediately after news of the latest shooting broke Sunday, speculation was rampant the crime was racially motivated, especially as the church was located in the historically important city of Selma, Alabama. However, additional reports suggested the shooting was prompted by a recent breakup and a dispute over visitation rights for the injured child.
Gallups argues Christians need to guard against politically or racially motivated attacks, but they must also protect themselves against attacks spawned by domestic disputes and personal problems.
“Especially given the general atmosphere of social chaos, there is a necessity for general church security even if there is not a specific threat,” said Gallups. “As I discuss in the book, the vast majority of America’s churches have little if any direct security measures in place.”
Gallups has a “security ministry” at his church.
“While having a security ministry apparatus in operation does not guarantee that nothing tragic will ever happen in your church, it does guarantee that you might at least have a fighting chance – that you won’t merely be a defenseless collection of ‘sitting ducks,'” he said.
Gallups noted how the shooter in the recent church massacre in South Carolina was able to repeatedly reload his weapon while victims sat helpless. State law prohibited weapons from being brought into a church without permission, but as Gallups grimly observed, the legislation did nothing to prevent the shooting.
He said church security can’t simply be pawned off on a few members of the congregation. Informed by his experiences both as a law enforcement professional and a pastor, Gallups believes the entire church has to be involved, “at least indirectly.”
“Church members must periodically be trained to observe the potential for danger and who to alert and what to do when they sense a potentially dangerous scenario,” he said. “Additionally, the typical church family is made up of a plethora of those who would be relatively unable to defend themselves in the event of a direct attack. There are babies, children, elderly people, handicapped people, and those who simply are not trained (or have any experience whatsoever) in techniques of large-group self-defense. This is why the church family, as a whole, must be trained from time to time. They must learn to develop ‘an eye’ for potential danger in and around the church grounds and buildings.”
Congregants at Oasis Tabernacle Church prevented the shooting in Selma from being worse by rushing the gunman after he began to fire. Both police officers and the district attorney credited the swift action of the parishioners with saving many lives.
Gallups said those who are responsible for the lives of others can never assume people will react so quickly. And he contends preparation and training are the best way for pastors and church members to ensure the safety of those they care about it.
“I know it is an uncomfortable thing for many pastors and church members to think about,” Gallups admitted. “Few want to believe that we might have to have security teams, armed guards, or trained security professionals as a part of what we do as a church family. But, the fact of the matter is that we live in a different world than we did just a few decades ago.
“The church, even in America, is become a bigger and bigger target – especially those denominations, pastors and church members who dare to speak to the evils of our day and the biblical failings of our culture and society’s ever-shifting norms of morality.”
Gallups finds support for his approach in Scripture. He cites two passages in particular.
Proverbs 27:12 reads, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple going and pay the penalty.”
And the first part of Nehemiah 4:18, describing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, reads,”“And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.”
Gallups believes a new age of persecution is about to begin for Christian churches. He warns American Christians may experience the kind of violence Christians in the Third World have increasingly been encountering in the last few years.
“There are radical agendas afoot; several of them have publicly announced that they are ‘targeting’ Christians and churches,” said Gallups. “Some have even announced their intentions of violence. It would behoove the wise among us to alert the others – ‘Be Thou Prepared.’ We are now learning and experiencing what many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world have had to endure for many generations.”
The real-life result of a terror attack on a church in South Africa – and what happened when one member of the congregation fired back – has been documented in “Shooting Back,” the name of both a book and movie.
According to testimony from the terrorists, their intent was to kill as many as possible. But at that service, on July 25, 1993, was Charl Van Wyk, who pulled his personal weapon and fired back when terrorists starting shooting up the congregation. They immediately fled, and authorities credit Van Wyk with saving many lives.