These are dark days. When our brothers and sisters are gunned down in cold blood as they worship, we are tempted to despair. Those of us with a burden and passion to see God revive His people can easily give in to the temptation of the easy path of bemoaning the hopelessness of the culture of our day.
But we are not filled by the Spirit of God for the purpose of complaining about how dark the darkness is. We are called to light it up! And that is what Christ followers at their best have always done—caring for dying pagans in Rome during the plagues of the first few centuries, or leading the charge of the Abolitionist Movement, like William Wilberforce and so many others.
And then there are those in our day who care for a shattered refugee who walks to us as a poor, naked stranger right out of the pages of Matthew 25. This is still how we shine in the dark.
But millions of believers woke up this morning wishing they could do something specific about the horror in Sutherland Springs. I will offer a few thoughts, with the prayer that nothing I or anyone else writes will be insensitive or premature. There is so much we do not know, and some of how to help or not help may not be clear for a while. But here are some things that do seem clear to me.
First, we can actively love First Baptist Sutherland Springs. I believe, over the next weeks and months, the world will have an opportunity to once again say, “Look at how they love each other!” In the days ahead we can help meet the needs of children who have no parents and parents who have lost children. We can donate to funds to be sure children are provided for and education is paid for in the days ahead. We can meet physical and counseling needs.
We can ensure that the attempt to destroy a church fails. If I were a pastor within a short distance of Sutherland, I would ask some of our people to pray about joining that church, at least for a season. Would you join me in praying that people in the small city itself would come to Christ through this tragedy, and that the church would have its greatest days ahead? I know how God’s people respond in times like this, and the biggest concern may be overwhelming this small church and community. But I have no doubt that the love of Christ will be poured out on them.
Second, all of us and every church can love our hurting brothers and sisters in Texas by praying for them and letting them know that we are. I was preaching last night at Chillicothe Baptist Church in Ohio, and we began with a prayer meeting for Sutherland Springs, with the altar full. Prayer matters! It is a great act of love.
Finally, there is something each of us can do right where we are to change the spiritual climate in our nation. The truth is that the Enemy doesn’t need a gunman to destroy most churches in our country. Churches simply self-destruct. But we can change this. You can rob the Enemy of his goal in your church.
It struck me yesterday that this horror is not new. It’s just new to us in America. It is normal life for believers in many parts of the world. The Enemy desires to destroy EVERY church! And in much of the world, he does it through war, terrorism, and persecution. But he is failing!
For instance, in the Middle East, great movements of God are spreading in many areas, even where church buildings are being destroyed and believers murdered. One pastor told me, “They tried to destroy our church. But they just made us a church in 100 places!”
So, where you are, resist the destruction of your church. How do you do that? Most churches are destroyed by words, not bullets. So speak to bless and build up, not to criticize and tear down. Confront gossip at every turn. Have the courage to do it.
Learn the ways of God for your church rather than the ways of the world. Decide it’s not about you. You don’t have to “like” your church. It’s about the advance of God’s kingdom and the fulfillment of Jesus’ mission to “seek and save the lost.” Call each other to prayer. Let the Holy Spirit change your church. It’s not your job.
Love God. Love each other. Love the lost. That’s what the church is meant to do. And as you do that, you drive the Enemy back a step in his attack on your church—on every church.
In our new ministry opportunity with Life Action, we seek to “ignite movements of authentic Christianity.” That’s our hope. And that’s not a vain hope! Because God is still God. And the Church will NEVER be destroyed!
So let’s grieve with Sutherland Springs. Then let’s get up off our faces and follow Jesus in life or death until He comes again to make all things right.
– John Avant