My worst nightmare happened at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas this past weekend.
I won’t go into details of the situation because you can read about those in the many news articles circulating the web this morning, but I wanted to share my thoughts and hopefully some encouragement with our community. Because it was our community that was affected. It may have happened in a small Texas town, but through our shared faith in Jesus Christ, we are deeply connected to this tragedy, even if we were not directly touched by its events.
As a children’s pastor, one of my reoccurring nightmares included an active shooter walking into the high school where we met and how my team and I would handle the situation. These nightmares always occurred on Saturday night and left me on edge throughout the entire service the next morning, looking more closely at unknown visitors and double-checking locks on the doors.
Hearing about First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs woke in my heart and mind the same chilling fear those dreams always left me with, except this time, it was reality. I know there will be many emotions and reactions surrounding this event, and it may even spur practical change in the way we do ministry. But my hope and prayer is that we do not use this tragedy as a point in our political arguments for or against gun control. That it does not become a debate about policies and laws, dividing our community of faith on opinions.
Let’s take a cue from the neighboring Pastor Paul Buford when he shared his church’s reaction to the news and the community’s stand on the situation now (if you only have a minute, jump ahead to about the 3:00-minute mark):
“We know the power of God. We’re going to cry, we’re going to have grief, and we’re going to minister to one another, but we’re still going to stand firm in our faith.”
Let this pastor’s words be a reminder that we live in a darkly broken world but that we serve a God of light who specializes in redemption and hope. Honor the lives lost and the loved ones left behind by praying for this Texas community and for our world.
I don’t have tips for how to talk about this tragedy in your ministries or an uplifting Bible verse to use when you talk about it when you do. All I know is this:
- I’m still processing my own emotions about this tragedy, and I won’t hide those feelings from the families or children in my ministry as they process this too.
- I will encourage our families to talk about this event with their children this week.
- I will mention it next Sunday with our children, and we will spend time in prayer for the people in the Sutherland Springs community and in our world. It may only last a minute or two, but I want our children to understand the power of praying for the church body in times of despair.
Things we’ll pray for:
- The families who lost a loved one
- First Baptist Church staff and leaders (especially the pastor, who was out of town and not present this weekend – pray against guilt that I know Satan will implant in his mind)
- The family of the shooter
- The community of faith in Sutherland Springs, TX and the world
- Thanking God for His power even when don’t understand