Seminar helps churches prepare against violence


Jessica Vanderpool
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




Winter weather takes Arkansas Baptists by storm in February and March

Holly Springs Baptist Church in Sparkman.WINTER WEATHER took Arkansas by storm multiple times in February and March, impacting numerous Arkansas Baptist entities both large and small.

What had been a fairly mild winter took a turn for the cold Feb. 15-17, resulting in up to 4 and 5 inches of sleet and snow in some areas of the state, according to the National Weather Service. The state was also hit by winter weather Feb. 20-23, Feb. 25 and Feb. 27-28, as well as another winter blast the first of March.

Facebook posts by Arkansas Baptist churches revealed that a number of activities, events and church services were canceled due to the weather.

In addition to churches, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) building was closed Feb. 16-18, Feb. 23-25 and March 5-6 due to inclement weather. Also, Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge and Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia each closed their campuses for a period of time.

Brett Cooper, vice president for institutional advancement at Williams, said that Williams missed numerous days in February and March.

“Our problem was that nearly all of the precipitation fell as sleet,” said Cooper. “We had 2 inches of sleet, which freezes into a solid, almost impenetrable sheet of ice that melts very slowly. It brought northeast Arkansas to a virtual standstill for an entire week.”

Cooper added, “We certainly didn't desire to keep our students out of the classroom for so long, but the heavy layer of sleet actually made the decision pretty easy each day. Even after the main highways were cleared, our campus streets, parking lots and sidewalks remained coated with ice, and it couldn't be cleared away. Driving and even walking were hazardous, so we remained closed until we had sufficient melting to safely resume college operations.”

Trennis Henderson, Ouachita vice president for communications, said Ouachita opened with a 3-hour delay Feb. 24, with classes being canceled and offices being closed until 11 a.m. He said all Ouachita classes were canceled and offices were closed Feb. 25 and March 5.

Despite the inconvenience of the weather, Randy Garrett, ABSC disaster relief director, said only one disaster relief unit had to be deployed.

A disaster relief unit from Balboa Baptist Church in Hot Springs Village was sent to Arkadelphia to help with a tree that was broken in such a way that a large portion of the tree was in danger of falling.

As they related to disaster relief, Garrett said the recent winter storms were a “nonevent.”


Long-time Arkansas pastor, R.D. Harrington, age 98, dies

R.D. Harrington, age 98, died Feb. 25. He served as senior pastor of five churches in Arkansas during his ministry of seventy-two years including Philadelphia Baptist Church in Jonesboro and East End Baptist Church in Hensley, among others.

Following his official retirement he served for fifteen years as interim pastor of North Point Baptist Church in Roland and as Chaplain at Parkway Health Center in Little Rock.

He is survived by his wife of 74 years, Willie Mae ‘Honey’ Harrington, three daughters and a son. His son, Russell (Russ) Harrington Jr., retired July 1 as Baptist Health’s president and CEO.

Other survivors include eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren, a sister, age 100, and a brother, age 102.

 A memorial service was held Feb. 28 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock.


Arkansas Baptist Communications Conference May 8 in Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK – The second Arkansas Baptist News (ABN) and Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC)-sponsored communications and media conference will be held May 8 at the Baptist building in Little Rock.

The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will offer an overview and individual breakout sessions on  a variety of church communications and media topics.

Topics will include church technology, public relations, graphic design and more.

The conference is free, but limited to 75 preregistered participants. Lunch will be provided.

Conference leaders are Tim Yarbrough, ABN editor; Jessica Vanderpool, ABN senior assistant editor; Caleb Yarbrough, ABN assistant editor; Stella Prather, director of communications for the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries, and Matt Ramsey, ABSC director of communications.

“The conference is designed for pastors, other church staff and volunteers who want to improve their communication skills and tactics as they seek to further the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Tim Yarbrough.


Nadine Baker Bjorkman, former secretary to the ABSC executive director, dies

BjorkmanGrace Nadine Baker Bjorkman, 93, who served many years as secretary to the executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) before retiring in 1983, died Feb. 19 at Birch Bay Retirement Village in Bar Harbor, Maine.  

Her son, Tom Bjorkman of Blue Hill, Maine, said his mother died peacefully with him and her daughter-in-law, Roxanne Donahey, at her side.

“She was known among her friends, family and coworkers as a woman of persistent good humor who never lacked for a quip to bring a smile,” said Tom Bjorkman. “She might describe her life, as she often did her day, as ‘fine as frog hair.’”

Her son added, “She had a passion for staying in touch with family and friends, early on by mail and telephone and later in life by email. Her life centered on family, faith, and church. She lived her faith, loving others as God loves them regardless of circumstance, color, political leanings or religious affiliation.”

Nadine Bjorkman was born on July 19, 1921, in Charleston (Ark.), the daughter of Thomas Victor “Vick” Baker and Ruth Bryan Bittle Baker.  She attended public schools in Branch and Fort Smith. She married Bernie Bjorkman from Stillwater, Minn., in April 1943, whose National Guard unit was called up and stationed at nearby Camp Chaffee during World War II.  The couple resided in Fort Smith until 1958, and then in North Little Rock after Bernie Bjorkman was transferred to his company’s headquarters office in Little Rock. In 2006, Nadine Bjorkman moved to the Parker Ridge Retirement Community in Blue Hill Maine to be near her son. She was a past member of the First Baptist Church, Fort Smith; Central Baptist Church, North Little Rock, and First Baptist Church, Blue Hill, Maine.

Bjorkman’s granddaughter, Anne Bjorkman, and her husband, Hannes Dempewolf, reside in Oberwinter, Germany. Nadine’s husband, Bernie, died in 1998. She was predeceased by her brother, T.J. Bjorkman, of Houston Texas. She is survived by many family and friends across the United States and Germany.

Nadine was an accomplished organizer and communicator and thrived in a working environment.  Her first job was recording transactions at a cotton gin in Waldron (Ark.). Her last job was as the Arkansas state representative for the Southern Baptist Convention Annuity Board (now GuideStone Financial Resources), and was the first woman to serve in that capacity, according to Tom Bjorkman. She also worked at the Retail Credit Bureau, Berry Dry Goods, the Belle Point School in Fort Smith and as the secretary to the pastor of the First Baptist Church, Fort Smith. After moving to North Little Rock in 1958, Nadine worked for many years as secretary to the ABSC executive director. Following her retirement in 1983, she was a volunteer at Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock, as well as in the office at Central Baptist Church. 

The family plans to hold remembrance gatherings for friends at Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock and with family members in Fort Smith in early June.  

Donantions in Bjorkman’s memory may be made to Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes.