American churches begin to focus on security

By Bob Unruh

Sheepdogs in training.

That’s what churches need right now, according to a specialty ministry organization.

And as cute as are the four-footed kind, and as helpful, these “sheepdogs” are none other than security-minded church workers, officials and volunteers who want to stop evil at the door when it comes to church.

The Sheepdog Seminars for Churches organization says 440 people have died a violent death while on church or faith-based property in the United States since 1999.

“In addition, thousands of children have been sexually molested while on church or faith-based property (or at church-related events),” the organization reports.

Some of those events are well known.

Baptist Press recalled the Wedgewood Baptist Church attack in 1999. A shooter came into a youth service and killed seven people and wounded seven more.

Wedgewood hosted a Sheepdog Seminar this spring, providing training for 350 church representatives to prevent and respond to violent attacks, BP reported.

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Speaker Jimmy Meeks said churches need to be prepared for evil to happen.

“I think there’s something that God’s people can do that we’re not doing,” he told BP.

WND reported on the aftermath of a December 2007 gunman’s attack on New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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There, Pastor Brady Boyd said an armed church member prevented a massacre.

“It did deter it,” he said. “One of our voluntary security church members had a firearm and saved at least 50 people. My family had just left the building, and I was still in the building when it occurred.”

Boyd was speaking about Jeanne Assam, a former sworn Minneapolis police officer who was acting as security that day. She wounded the 24-year-old gunman, Matthew J. Murray, before he took his life.

Murray already had killed two people in the parking lot after attacking a Youth With a Mission office in the Denver area. He was fully loaded with ammunition as he headed for the sanctuary, where hundreds of people remained.

Does Boyd believe stricter gun control would have prevented his church shooting and the likes of Sandy Hook?

“With 300 million guns available in American culture, we’re way past the tipping point,” the pastor said. “Unless you’re going to go door to door and confiscate our guns, it’s not going to work. Another set of laws wouldn’t have prevented it.”

Read and hear the real-life story of a man who, when faced with a team of terrorists attacking and killing people in his church, drew his own weapon and fired back, in “Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense.”

He even addressed whether pastors should be armed.

“I’m licensed to carry a gun, but I don’t on Sunday morning,” Boyd said. “It could be dangerous for a pastor to be shooting back in a big crowd of people. My church is safe because we have the right people carrying guns.”

The seminar website explains one of the original callings in the Bible was to defend others, and that’s the goal of the Sheepdog events that are scheduled.

Teachers include Carl Chinn, who was a building engineer for Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs in 1996 when he responded to a standoff with an angry gunman who had taken hostages.

Joining him on the podium is Jimmy Meeks, who has been a police officer since 1980.

He’s served as a hostage negotiator, a police training officer and a detective. He’s also a certified police instructor and is a certified crime prevention specialist.

His own experience with danger predates the current death toll. It was June 22, 1980, when a lone gunman went to First Baptist Church in Daingerfield, Texas, and killed five congregants and wounded 10 more.

He quotes Mark 1: “Jesus lost no time in getting to the meeting place. He spent the day there teaching. … Suddenly, while still in the meeting place, Jesus was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed and yelling out.”

He continued, “If they disturbed the services when Jesus was preaching, they might mess with yours.”

See a video introducing the seminars:

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“Nobody understands you, some folks at your church even think you take this security thing too far,” listeners are told. “That’s all right. You’re a sheepdog.”

Seen the organization’s website for information on seminars.

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