In late September, we reported on the violent shooting death of a pastor in Louisiana where a man entered the church and gunned him down in front of the congregation.
The investigation is pending, but law enforcement officers have speculated that the suspect and pastor were former friends and are investigating whether the pastor and man’s wife had an affair.
A rape accusation was filed against the pastor by the suspect’s wife after the suspect found inappropriate images of his wife, intended for the pastor, had been sent to him.
The suspect, emotional, humiliated, and jealous entered the church and dispensed his form of justice upon the pastor by shooting him twice while he was standing and once when he was lying on the floor.
All of this happened in front of the 60 church members, which included the victim’s wife.
The suspect has been arrested, the weapons recovered, and the search for the motive are being done in earnest.
The unfortunate truth revealed by this case is that where humans are involved the potential for violence exists, especially within the walls of the church. Some of the most heated exchanges I have ever witnessed have happened at church.
If we are honest, I think most of us have seen the political side of church or the ugly business of confronting members involved in sin. Many of these exchanges lead to hurt feelings, emotional responses, anger, judgment, thoughts of revenge,sometimes a church split, and once in awhile violence.
Church splits are the ugliest of the ugly because they often reveal deep seated feelings with everyone in the church taking a side and a group of people leaving with the offended party. Others leave because they don’t want to take a side, so the just go somewhere else.
The lesson from these unfortunate incidents is that emotions cause people to do things they wouldn’t normally do if they weren’t so offended. The internal strife and emotional struggle are usually kept within the walls of the church because it is considered family business.
Sometimes it leaks out through gossip so the whole community knows, and other times, it is kept between the leadership and the offending party and nobody in the church knows, including you.
This sets up an interesting scenario for those who volunteer for a church safety or security team. What exactly is your role in the mess of internal strife and struggle?
Will you even know what is happening and the possible threat from one who has been confronted, whether a parishoner or a member of the leadership team?
I would say it depends on the relationship you have built with the church leadership team, the church membership, and the type of team you have at your church, and whether you can be trusted to keep the information discreet and be used as a resource to recommend options to keep the church safe.
It is important that you are able to keep your emotions in check while the confrontation unfolds because some of the people involved may be close to you.
One of the most difficult things to do when an issue arises is to refuse to take sides, but being responsible for the safety of your church and the people inside makes this essential if possible.
One of the most painful things I have ever been involved in was a church split. Although it happened nearly 5 years ago, the ramifications for all involved has been life altering in one way or another for all involved.
Without going into specific details, it involved an immoral act from someone in leadership. Initially, the leadership was open with the congregation, and made recommendations to restore the leader to his position after the sin was dealt with.
Coalitions formed on both sides, issues came up, people vied for power, the news was taken to outside sources (blogs, Facebook, local news) and a short time later the leader left taking a large portion of the people with him.
Due to my small role on the safety team, my family decided to be Switzerland and await guidance from leadership. Because a leader was involved, it made it difficult to know who to follow at the time.
The decision the team made, under Jack’s leadership, was to make sure the peace was kept within the church. Local law enforcement would only be called if the situation became out of control or violence was threatened. We were happy this never happened, although there were certainly a few heated exchanges.
We were always a silent and neutral presence.
Informational meetings were held a few times where emotions were raw and arguments ensued between some leaders and some members of the church. It was all very dramatic and sad. Team members tried to be at each meeting to make sure the peace was maintained in spite of the emotions everyone was feeling at the time.
I think this happened because the team remained calm, didn’t take sides, and stayed out of the larger fight at hand.
A few months later, the leader made an announcement he was leaving. There were both happy people and sad people, but the team remained neutral until the crisis was over when we could decide what to do with our families once a direction had been established.
The final outcome for our team was that some members stayed and other members left with the leader to start another work in another area of town.
Part of the team stayed at the church and another part left to go to the new church, but the great part is we all remained friendly with one another in spite of what happened with the larger body.
One of the key points during the crisis was Jack’s communication with all members of leadership and the trust he had built over several years making good decisions and proving the team’s ability to handle situations. While information was being handled down to the team, communication was also maintained going back up the chain.
The team had been trained well and Jack communicated with us about what was happening and how he expected us to respond. We knew our role was chiefly to be peacemakers and to involve outside resources if a threat of violence was made or the situation devolved into uncontrolled emotion. Intervention would only be made if someone was going to be physically hurt in our presence. Thankfully, that never happened.
There are many things we hope never happen, but we talk through, train and plan for those things. As you build your team or train them, talk through what you believe your team’s role and responsibilities would be if you encountered internal strife with a fellow church member or leadership team member.