This ecclesiastical violent crime trend is for real. For proof, consider that in 2009, Christianity Today reported: "ASIS International, the world's largest security training organization, opened a new church-security division earlier this year. Groups already in the field include the Christian Security Network, the National Organization (of) Church Security and Safety Management, and Strategos International."
And this past weekend, the ninth annual National Organization of Church Security and Safety Management conference convened in Dallas. It is one of the largest annual church security conventions in the country. (You can check out more about it at http://www.nacssm.org.)
Chinn is the first to say there's much more involved in congregational safety and security than merely posting guards and bearing arms. Chinn says on his website: "I have never allowed the message to be wrapped around that axle. I believe in our right to defend ourselves with a gun. When it comes to defending others, I believe in that as well, but strongly believe there should be training for that level of protection. A conceal carry license should not be the only affirmation of one's ability to protect others in a deadly force situation. ... To have folks who are intentionally ready is the best thing any organization can do."
I realize there's a fine balance between faith and defense, but I believe we're called to do both. One verse says in the Scriptures, "But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat."
If a house of worship has no safety plan, I recommend that church leaders come together with local law enforcement -- maybe even officials who are a part of their congregation -- to discuss church safety. At the very least, I'm certain these public servants and trained defenders with licenses for concealed weapons would be more than willing to volunteer by manning a post discreetly at public events.
It's gravely unfortunate that we've reached an age when we have to be concerned about security in church, but such is a sign of the times. Statistically, however, we must not forget that being in a house of worship is still one of the safest places on the planet; you're three times likelier to be struck by lightning than you are to depart this life by sitting in church.
Nevertheless, with everything from harvest festivals to Christmas services in the coming months, it's high time for churches and other faith-based organizations to quit checking their brains at the door of faith and secure the safety of congregations and others inside. You might even pass along this column to church leaders you know.
In God we trust; all others we search.
Next week, I will relay some of the best advice for how some are making their congregations and houses of worship safe and secure. For more information, check out the resources at http://www.carlchinn.com. Also, check out Chinn's book "Evil Invades Sanctuary," Chapter 4 of which provides sound guidance on setting up a faith-based security operation. Another great book is "Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense," which details how one person saved many lives in a congregation gathered in prayer.
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