Church safety, kingdom citizenship, and hopeful defiance

Nov 09, 2017

As Christians who understand that our citizenship is in God's kingdom, there is tension in the awareness that our heavenly kingdom has not yet been fully realized (Rom 8:18). There are few instances where this is made as painfully and abundantly clear as in times of national tragedy. The recent mass shootings in our nation have served as a vivid reminder that all is not right in our world. And when a shooting takes place in a church - not all that different from ours - it hits especially close to home. The scenes coming out of Sutherland Springs, TX this week have been heartbreaking and uniquely personal. Beyond our shared national citizenship as Americans, our common Kingdom citizenship makes these murdered men, women and children our brothers and sisters. 

While statistically speaking, the chances of a tragedy such as this taking place at our church are very low, at times like these it is helpful and good to examine the ways we are seeking to be diligent in ensuring the safety of those who call our church home. Here are some of the ways we prioritize safety at Outward:

  1. You may have noticed our green-jacketed Campus Safety team members on Sundays. This team covers three main aspects of Sunday morning safety - parking, Outward Kids, and general security. These dedicated volunteers devote their Sunday service experience to serving the body of Christ. Some of our Safety team members have a background in law enforcement. 
  2. We have established policies for a handful of scenarios. Our Campus Safety team is regularly briefed and trained on how to respond to various situations that may arise. Most of the handful of security "incidents" that have taken place in our church's history are more humorous than serious, but "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
  3. We are reaching out to Salem PD, as well as some other local churches with established security teams, to pursue additional tactical training for our Campus Safety team on a variety of emergency protocols.
  4. We are researching options for retrofitting parts of our building in ways that would make it easier to lock down in the event of an emergency.
  5. If you have a background in military or law enforcement, we would love for you to consider serving as a part of our Campus Safety team. Just as we use skilled musicians for worship and trained accountants to assist with our bookkeeping, we hope to develop a discrete yet robust team of professional-level servants in the area of security.

While we take the security of those who worship with us on Sundays very seriously, we also acknowledge the great truth that a Christian's confidence and ultimate hope is never dependent upon physical safety. As Russell Moore stated earlier this week, "The Christian gospel does not cower before death." In fact, our very hope lies in the One who willingly gave up His life.

Because our citizenship is in heaven - as those who have been delivered from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col 1:13) - followers of Jesus will always be singing saints, joyful heralds, hopeful missionaries. Even in the face of great tragedy, we will never be a people marked by defeat or shaken by fear. Yes, we mourn. But ultimately, we defy those who would seek to inject terror or doubt into our families and gatherings by steadfastly walking in repentance and faith in the God who will "restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish" us (1 Pet 5:10). No matter what, He alone is our greatest joy, our precious hope, and our glorious prize!

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.
Hebrews 12:28

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