Ministering After a Shooting
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REV. ROB SCHENCK INVITATION TO PASTORS TO ADDRESS GUN VIOLENCE
Statement of Concern
On the Crisis of Christians and the Embrace of a Gun Culture
As evangelical pastors, Bible teachers, theologians, academics, ministry executives, and lay leaders—people who believe in the paramount importance and incomparable value of the Gospel, the centrality of the Bible, the missionary mandate in the Great Commission, the importance of Christian discipleship, an irreproachable witness to the only Savior, Jesus Christ, and to an absolute obedience to Him as the only Lord—we look to the authority of God’s Word when determining His will for our personal lives, for our culture, and for our world.
Over the more than three centuries of Evangelical presence in America, Evangelical Christians, individually and collectively (through churches, movements, organizations, and institutions) have directed their prayers, engaged in public and private activities, and marshaled human and material resources to ameliorate the suffering of those inside and outside our communities. We have sought to bring the Good News of God’s saving grace to those that do not know it; we have practiced the love of God towards the most unloved and unloveable; we have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the forgotten, and housed the homeless.
Evangelicals have also spoken up for the the marginalized and the disenfranchised. Our predecessors maintained orphanages, hospitals, and free schools. Many resourced the abolitionist movement. Some of the early Christian suffragettes that spoke out powerfully on behalf of women’s rights were from Holiness churches.
While for most of our history in the U.S. we have clearly looked to the Word of God on many social issues saturating our culture such as prostitution, alcohol abuse, child labor, pornography, the decline of the family, and abortion, it has become clear that we have not spoken with one voice on the growing tide of gun violence in American culture.
When it comes to the issue of guns and gun violence, our community has been strangely silent.
This is why we are deeply concerned that American evangelicals, who should be led by the good news of God’s saving love for humanity, are instead being led astray by a popular gun culture that contradicts the teaching and model of Jesus and the Apostles.
The increased presence of firearms among American evangelicals, including pastors that are now armed in the pulpit and ready to shoot into the congregation if necessary, signals a serious moral crisis in the church that deeply concerns us. Just as concerning is the often acerbic language that comes from certain corners of our evangelical community which promotes individual Christian’s “arming up” and taking justice into their own hands by “killing and striking first before being killed or struck.”
In everything we think, say, and act upon, it must reflect the character of God and point others to Him.
Our primary concern is that the subject of Christians and guns should be looked at as a biblical issue—not a political or legislative one.
Within a framework of Christian discipleship, we seek biblical answers to questions like:
- How do we deal with fear? Is it right for a Christian to live his/her life in fear and ready to shoot someone dead in a confrontation?
- What are the spiritual, moral, and emotional ramifications of such a killing act?
- What example did Jesus and the apostles give when threatened by violence?
- Are there non-lethal ways to protect ourselves and others, and is it better for Christians to choose non-lethal means over lethal means of defense?
- In whom (or what) do we put our trust for our protection? God or a gun?
- How do we reflect God’s love and His character in a hostile confrontation?
- How do we minister God’s love and hope to the family of a victim of gun violence?
I created Sword of the Spirit to answer all of these questions not come from a secular source or group, but from the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit residing in the hearts of believers.
Because of this grave concern, I invite all Christians and Christian leaders to seek out the Lord’s will on this important issue through His Word, prayer, and the fellowship of conversation with other believers and pastors.
I urge you to join with us in a prayerful, biblically-informed, and Christ-centered conversation. Sword of the Spirit has no hidden or obvious agenda for changing the laws or policies regarding gun ownership and use. Our concern is wholly a spiritual one and we believe the problem will be best resolved spiritually, morally, and ethically.
Now is the time for Christian church leaders to fully engage this theological crisis—and to do so with wisdom, respect, and in the love of Christ for all.
Rev. Rob Schenck
Founder, Sword of the Spirit: A Christian Conversation on Gun Violence
“At critical and traumatic moments, people need a pastor more than at any other time in their lives. I can’t stress enough how pastors fill a vital role, not only for their churches, but for their entire community. Events such as mass shootings and other tragic death experiences, require us to perform at a level beyond our normal pastor’s capacities. I know this kind of work personally because I am a Chaplain with the U.S. Senate Chaplaincy Emergency Pastor Response Team. Also, I have ministered at the site of mass shootings and other large-scale tragic events. As a civilian chaplain, I have been trained by professionals and I urge you to the same. If you have already undergone this training, we invite you to share with us your own thoughts on how the Lord has used you to reach out to your community and to minister to those who have been affected by violence. Let’s all pray that we won’t be needed often for this kind of work, but that when we are needed, we are ready to give people the spiritual, emotional, and physical care they need in Jesus name.”
The Pastor’s Role in Responding to Shootings and Gun Violence
Whether responding to a mass shooting in a public place or an individual injury, pastors have an instrumental role ministering to those affected by gun violence. As a minister of the Gospel, you can show the love of God by becoming involved in your community and ministering to those who have been affected by trauma. By offering support, compassion, and care to those that have been victimized (and their families) you can bring the hope and healing of Jesus Christ to “the least of these.”
Below, we’re offering resources to help pastors respond to crises, both in official and informal capacities. If you are not trained in crisis response or as a chaplain, there are still things you can do as a pastor and as a church to minister to your flock and to your community in the wake of a shooting in your area—and the opportunities for ministry within the community will expand as pastors become involved.
Become a chaplain with your local law enforcement, fire department, or hospital. They will provide the needed training, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to minister to the citizens in your community as well as offer encouragement and spiritual support for your local police and firefighters.
Crisis Response Training
Get trained in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD), or other crisis response programs offered by the following agencies:
- International Association of Evangelical Chaplains
- The American Red Cross
- National Organization for Victim’s Assistance
- International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, Inc
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
Find out if your community has developed a Crisis Response Team (CRT) and get involved as a member of the clergy, offering either your CISM/CISD-trained response or your spiritual counseling expertise.
Make yourself and your church available as a resource to the community in various capacities:
- Offer your church as a location for shelter, communal meals, or a central gathering place for first responders, crisis teams, and search parties.
- Speak to your own congregation about the shooting. Offer prayer and guide their responses—not only to the victims’ families but also to the perpetrator’s family—with the love of Christ.
- Come alongside a congregation or fellowship who have members that are directly impacted by the crisis. Adopt that church as your own and offer friendship, prayer, and tangible needs to them as they suffer grief and seek to bring healing to families and to the church body.
- Meet with fellow clergy in your community and designate prayer time for those impacted by gun violence.
- Lead a prayer walk at the site of the violence.
- Run a donation drive at your church to collect and package “care boxes” that include prayers and inspiring notes for victims’ families or those injured.
People have come together to seek God’s will on how best to respond to gun violence in a manner that glorifies the Lord while also serving those who have lost loved ones with the love of Christ. The Armor of Light documentary is a great way to create a biblical conversation about the moral questions surrounding guns and gun violence at your church or in your other work as pastor.
The Armor of Light Trailer
See the Film
Watch on Online Now
The film is available to watch online on these platforms.
Host a Screening
Many churches across the nation are spearheading screenings of the film and hosting their own conversation regarding this difficult issue in American culture. Click on the link below to create a screenings event at your church.
SCRIPTURE RELATED TO VIOLENCE & GUN CULTURE
The Bible serves as an ‘owner’s manual,’ teaching us who we are in Christ and providing valuable instruction to form our character and mold our behavior. Just as importantly, God’s Word provides abundant guidance on the issues we face as individuals and as a culture and community.
Does the Bible have anything to say about gun violence, or about Christians owning and using guns to kill others when under real or imagined threat?
Below are several topics from the Bible that relate indirectly or directly to the contributing factors of gun violence with correlating scriptures for pastors to consider using in sermons, small group studies, articles, and/or in pastoral care.
We welcome your feedback as well as suggestions of others to add, such as those used in your sermons or from scripture websites, including Bible Gateway, Blue Letter Bible, and The King’s Bible. Please send us your comments here.
IDOLATRY: Christians have one allegiance: God. Simply put, idolatry is anything that takes the place of God in our lives.
Scripture is very clear that only God is to be worshipped, and though in modern times it’s rare to see an “idol” set up in a person’s backyard, we can idolize many other people or things. When it comes to America’s gun culture, we can be prone to idolize the weaponry of guns—we become so admiring of them and their power in our possession that we replace our trust in God with trust in our guns to protect us.
Ezekiel 4:14: “Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any of the Israelites set up idols in their hearts and put a wicked stumbling block before their faces and then go to a prophet, I the Lord will answer them myself in keeping with their great idolatry.’”
1 Corinthians 10:13-15: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.”
Colossians 3:5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
1 Samuel 15:23: “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
OVERCOMING FEAR: One of the most talked about subjects in the Bible is fear. Fear is paralyzing and devoid of faith and love.
Time and again, we are told not to be afraid—no matter what our circumstances may be. Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. You believe in God—believe also in Me.” God’s Word tells us, “I have not given you a Spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” The Lord’s antidote to fear is faith—faith in Him; His goodness; His promises; His very character! Much of the culture surrounding guns is driven by fear. We fear being harmed, losing our rights, or losing our property. But for the Christian, a gun is not the solution to our fear, but rather faith and trust in our loving God.
Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:13: “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
Isaiah 51:7: “Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have taken my instruction to heart: Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals or be terrified by their insults.”
1 Peter 3:14: “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
Luke 12:4-5: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
SANCTITY OF LIFE/PRO-LIFE: When God created the human race, He made man and woman in His image—in His very likeness.
Unlike the rest of God’s creation, mankind was the only living being that resembled God’s character and essence, with the ability to reason; to feel; to create; and to love. God breathed His very life into the first man and woman, and according to Scripture, each of us was “knit together in the womb” by Him before He even created the foundations of the world. Knowing that each human life is made in the image of God—known by Him; created with the purpose to know God—should give each Christian the mandate to protect and cherish another human being’s life rather than destroy it. When it comes to owning a gun as a believer, we have to recognize the fact that owning the gun means we are willing to use it to take the life of another human being, even in the name of self-defense. And to do so is to take the place of God—to take away a human life and enact judgment. This is not what the Lord has called individual Christians to do.
Isaiah 44:24: “This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself.”
Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Psalm 139:13-14: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Matthew 10:39: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
Mark 3:4: “Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.”
Acts 17:24-25: “ The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”
VIOLENCE: The Bible tells us that “violence begets violence” and when we as Christians try to be vigilantes, or take the law into our own hands, we do nothing to show the glory of God in our situation.
Even when confronted with our enemy, Jesus commanded us “to do no harm” and to “bless those who curse us” and to also “pray for those who spitefully use us.” It is a natural response to want to defend ourselves or to desire to get even, but the Lord calls believers to live according to His Spirit and not according to our natural (fleshly) selves. Throughout history, it has been the Christian testimony and witness to shun the violence of self-defense and to allow the outcome to be determined by the Lord. Whether it’s the calming and loving response to our enemy, or the act of martyrdom, God’s name has been glorified when believers treat their enemies with the love of God.
Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Proverbs 3:29: “Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you.”
Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”
Romans 13:10: “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Matthew 26:51-52: “With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’”
LEGAL RIGHTS VS GOD’S LAW: God is the author of law. Throughout Scripture He instituted Covenants between Him and His people, and the Lord also gave the Ten Commandments as a moral compass on right and wrong.
It was also God that devised human government as a source of administering moral law, while also instituting the priesthood as a means of overseeing spiritual law. Scripture tells us that Jesus came to fulfill the law—He was the only one that could perfectly keep the law of God. And because of His death and resurrection, God’s law has now been written on our hearts. It is the Lord’s desire that we obey the laws that government’s hand down; with one exception—when man’s law contradicts God’s law. In these situations, the Bible is clear that we are to obey God rather than man. When it comes to the issue of guns in America, it is clear that the 2nd Amendment of our Constitution gives us the right to bear arms. As believers, we need to be very careful that our 2nd Amendment rights don’t violate the 2nd Commandment! We may have a legal right to own a gun, but do we contradict God’s law if we use a gun to kill another person?
Leviticus 18:4: “You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 11:1: “Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.”
Deuteronomy 13:4: “It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.”
Romans 6:17: “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.”
Acts 5:28-30: “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.”
Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”
FORGIVENESS: God’s grace is at the heart of the Gospel.
The fact that God gave His only Son to die on the cross for our sins—to be the perfect sacrificial lamb—shows the depth of God’s love and forgiveness toward mankind. Jesus, who had been falsely tried, abused, persecuted, tortured, and mocked by the religious leaders and the Romans, did not resent or vilify His enemies, but rather, entrusted Himself to His heavenly Father. Even while dying on the cross, Jesus intervened in love for His enemies, asking the Father to forgive them for what they had done because “they know not what they do.” In the same way that God forgives us for our sins, so are we to forgive those who sin against us. When we recognize our own sinfulness and the great grace and mercy that Jesus Christ has showered upon us, how can we look at our enemy any differently than God looks at us?
Matthew 6:15: “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Luke 6:37:Luke 6:37: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Psalm 130:4: “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”
Matthew 26:28: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Jeremiah 31:34: “No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Mark 11:25: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Luke 17:4: “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
Luke 23:34: “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
LOVE THY NEIGHBOR: Love is a central theme of the Bible because God Himself is love.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” All of God’s laws were summed up by the directive to love God and to love others just as you love yourself. When we love God first and foremost, we are able to love other people with God’s love. Through God’s love we are able to see people as God sees them and we are able to offer them grace, compassion, kindness, and mercy—no matter how they treat us! Love is the earmark of a follower of Christ. The Bible tells us that if we possess every gift under heaven and are able to move mountains by our faith, but have no love, we are like a loud, sounding gong! It is God’s love that draws people to Himself—and it’s God’s people showing His love that turns our world upside down.
John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
Romans 13:8: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
Galatians 5:13: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
Leviticus 19:18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Matthew 5:38-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Luke 6:35: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
1 Corinthians 13:3-5: “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”