Arkansas Baptist News
HOT SPRINGS – Since 1999, there have been more than 500 deadly force deaths at church and faith-based organizations in the United States, according to church safety expert Carl Chinn’s church security website. These deadly force deaths include homicides, suicides, deaths of aggressors killed in action and other suspicious, unsolved deaths.
Chinn speaks around the country at Sheepdog Seminars for Churches, events focused on helping churches and faith-based organizations be prepared against violence that could take place on their properties.
Crossgate Church, Hot Springs, hosted one of the seminars Feb. 7 with about 250 people from Arkansas and multiple other states attending.
Along with Chinn, speakers included retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, an author, soldier and speaker who is an expert in the field of human aggression and the roots of violence and violent crime; Jimmy Meeks, a Texas police officer and minister, and David Flory, Hot Springs police chief.
Grossman, who is director of Sheepdog Seminars Group International, addressed a number of topics, including the psychological effects of being in a shoot-out or other adrenalin-producing situation, ways to prevent a violent situation from occurring and ways to handle aggressors in violent situations. He also addressed the importance of loving others enough to make sacrifices for their good, and he encouraged attendees to be “sheepdogs” – those who live to protect others.
Chinn related his own experience as part of the church security team during a shooting at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. He noted precautions the church had taken, as well as ways the church could have been better prepared.
Flory, whose home church is Crossgate, gave practical advice on how to help the wounded survive following a deadly force encounter.
Meeks, who was born and raised in El Dorado, and is a self-proclaimed “die-hard Razorback,” shared statistics on deaths in the last three years and addressed the issue of the escalation of sex crimes on church properties, noting that on faith-based properties, the number of sex crimes far outweighs the number of shootings.
Conference attendee Tommy Ishmael recounted on stage his experience as part of his church’s security team in Illinois when a man shot and killed his pastor.
The evening prior to the conference, the film “Faith Under Fire” was shown at Crossgate.
“We can’t deny the fact that we live in a world full of evil and there are people who want to do harm to innocent people, but also there is a lot of animosity, hostility, toward Christianity and even the things of God,” said Shawn Barnard, lead pastor of Crossgate Church.
He said that while their “ultimate goal” is to proclaim Christ, His name and His Word, they want people to feel safe as they do so.
“We realize that we’re doing a good thing for the cause of Christ, and we don’t want anything to come in that would keep us from doing what we need to do,” he said. “And ultimately, we want to show the love of Christ and the hope of the gospel, but we also realize there’s evil in the world and we want to do everything we can to be prepared. That’s the biggest thing is we don’t want to be reactive; we want to be proactive.”
In interviews with the Arkansas Baptist News, Meeks noted that not all “violent deaths” involve guns. A woman and her children were killed by an out-of-control car that veered off the road as they were selling fruit at a church.
Meeks stressed that church staffs need to be prepared to protect their church members – and the first step toward doing this is to recognize the danger.
“It never does any good to discuss what needs to be done until you’re convinced, ‘We’ve got to do something.’ … Everything you do every day, you do after you wake up,” he said.
The next step is to develop a plan and get trained, he said.
He said in the Sheepdog seminar they “try to get people to see … that you’re not going to know what to do in dealing with violence in a house of worship – or in your life – unless you’ve been trained.”
“And you need to have a group of men and women who have a plan,” he added.
Meeks noted that “you don’t rise to the occasion; you sink to the level of your training.”
Protection doesn’t have to involve guns. Meeks noted the importance of fasting.
“We want people to be good with whatever weapons they’re using – whether it’s fasting or a firearm or the words of your mouth,” Meeks said. “The vast majority of disturbances in church do not call for the use of deadly force. You’ve got to calm people down.”
He noted the prevalence of funeral shoot-outs and the number of drug dealers who meet on church parking lots.
In addition, Meeks said he has confirmed that terrorist groups are monitoring American church websites, specifically mission trip information including departure and arrival dates in foreign countries.
“We don’t live in a different day; we just live in a day where there’s more people. People are not more evil than they’ve ever been; there’s just more evil people,” Meeks said. “You’re not going to find any sin committed today that wasn’t committed in the Book of Genesis. I mean, there were only four people on the earth and Cain killed Abel. There’s just more people doing it.”
Meeks said Christians in persecuted countries live under threats every day.
He emphasized, “We don’t want to scare people. We just want to encourage people to love their congregation enough to have some type of plan in place in order to protect the congregation.”
Contact Jessica Vanderpool at firstname.lastname@example.org.