With horrifying frequency, there is yet another report of a mass shooting. Whether in streets, clubs, theaters, concert venues, workplaces, schools, or churches, no place seems to be exempt from massacre.
After shootings of worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, and Sutherland Springs, Texas, many churches are devising security plans. They are setting up background checks, child safety protocols, keyed entrances, alarms and video cameras, and training for violent situations.
Some churches are moving beyond this to armed security—to volunteers who carry firearms to protect the church with deadly force.
There is biblical precedent for this. Nehemiah posted armed guards to protect workers rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:16).
Still, the teaching and practice of the New Testament church is decidedly different. The early church refused to respond to violence with violence (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:17-21; 1 Peter 4:12-19). Instead, they chose to suffer or scatter in the face of persecution (Acts 7:54-60; 8:1).
Under duress, the New Testament church put on the “body armor” of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. For an offensive weapon, they wielded the Word of God (Ephesians 6:10-20). They countered the threat of death with fervent prayer (Acts 12:5, 12-17).
Despite violent opposition, the apostle Paul relied on the "weapons of righteousness”—purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God (2 Corinthians 6:3-10). He refused to fight with human weapons. “For the weapons of our warfare,” he insisted, “are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).
The early church understood that there are no assured outcomes. Peter was spared; Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:57-60; 12:1-17). Some heroes of the faith miraculously escaped; others were martyred (Hebrews 11). Risk is inherent in unconditional love.
Even under threat, churches today can choose to be wise and prudent in safety measures without resorting to lethal deterrents.
More importantly, churches threatened by violence anywhere in the world can equip themselves with the armor of God and train for proficiency in weapons of righteousness—as a security plan with divine power to protect now (though not always) and forever.