A July USA Today article titled "Churches boost security as violent incidents grow" reported that "the number of deadly episodes at sanctuaries has soared over the last decade, and mass shootings at schools, malls and movie theaters have left Americans feeling like it could happen anywhere."
As I noted last week, there were roughly only 10 incidents of church violence across the U.S a decade ago. In 2007, there were 41 incidents. In 2009, there were 108. In 2012, there were more than 135. And by mid-July 2013, there were already 58.
Why the increases? There are likely many reasons. Several of them are related to the reasons there are increased shootings in schools and government facilities across the country. Yet there are undoubtedly a few unique reasons, too.
USA Today further explained, "Security experts also point to a growing hostility toward differing beliefs as one of the reasons for the trend of violence aimed at houses of worship."
I ended last week's column by saying there's a balance between faith and defense, but I believe we're called to have both. One verse in the Scriptures reads, "But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat."
Gary Cass, chairman of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, told veteran WorldNetDaily reporter Bob Unruh: "Self-defense is not just a right but a Christian duty. Jesus told his followers, 'If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.' Christians are not to be a soft target for the hateful and deranged. Church leaders have a duty not to allow a crazed gunman to come and shoot up their congregation."
Shreveport, La., pastor Ed Gonzalez told KSLA-TV that someone once entered his office with violent intent. Gonzalez explained, "He walked in my office and told me God told him to take me out." Gonzalez was fortunately able to talk him down.
The event helped Gonzalez to see what easy targets churches can be and to warn other clergy of the same. He now has security measures in place to ensure that he and his congregation are not caught off guard or undefended if they ever are assaulted again.
Gonzalez warned: "Pastors need to awake and realize that we live in a world of turmoil, hatred and bitterness, so they have to do something to protect those sheep. As long as there is sin on this earth, we're going to have violence."
With the holiday season approaching fast, it's a shame that houses of worship have to consider their safety among their festival preparations, but such is a sign of our times.
If a church has no safety and security plan, I recommend the following: