by Pastor Tim Burt
The church I pastor at is a significantly large church—between 9-10,000 members. We have a large building that houses not only our church, but our Christian School. We started out in 1980 with about 20 people in a Bible Study and grew over all these years.
Maybe about 10 years ago, at the time when there were some disturbed people attempting to kill children in schools and people in churches, we began to build a security team. It was necessary on a number of levels: for watching over the children, our parking lots from thieves trying to break into cars, and not-so-nice people coming into the church to steal items—the kinds of things that are happening in the world everywhere. After 9/11, terrorist threats became possibilities on larger venues in Minneapolis, and we were advised to continue to step up our security force because of our size and just out of common sense. We did that and over time have built a tremendous and dedicated security team that undergoes continuous training. They are excellent at what they do. They blend in well, loving the congregation, yet remain aware of their surroundings and having an attentive eye as they have been trained. Each of them first and foremost pray and ask the Lord and His angelic host to be the ultimate protector of us all. Then they do their part to the best of their ability.
Recently our head of security was told that we should be more cautious with backpacks and larger bags that people bring in during service times and occasionally and kindly conduct a spot check. This could be awkward for a church and is still a rare occurrence, but unfortunately it has become a necessary part of what we do if the situation presents itself. Our team is trained to do so courteously so as not to offend anyone.
Yesterday, a man walked through the doors of our church with a large athletic type bag as he was coming to our services. The head of our security was present and noticed the bag. He kindly walked up to him, introduced himself in his role at our church and asked if he could inspect the bag and why that might be necessary. The only thing in this large bag was a computer. That seemed odd as people usually care a computer in a computer bag and if not, something closer in size. So he asked this man some questions which made him quite upset. The head of security was trying to delicately and kindly follow some guidelines that seem normal at the airport, but more difficult to execute at a church. This man would not listen to the reasoning for the process from our security man. He would not let one of our Pastors try to calm him down and explain. Instead he became very belligerent and consequently had to be escorted off the premises. This is what we try most to avoid and, to my knowledge, have never had to do before, and yet this time we couldn’t. Why? In my opinion, for whatever reasons unknown to us, he would listen to no one.
As I was driving home from church, I happened to see him sitting on a curb outside of church on his computer. I thought, “Great. I can take some time to explain all the reasons we have security and have been advised about bags coming into the church. If he understands the big picture, surely he’ll be more understanding and we can make peace.”
I introduced myself and my role at church. Immediately he began to verbally attack me. He pulled out a little notebook and wrote my name down. He demanded the name of our security head. I wasn’t rattled. I told him that I stopped because I felt so bad about what happened and the misunderstanding and wanted to back up and help him understand what happened so that we could reconcile this situation. I could understand how he might have felt and wanted him to know he was loved and welcome. That didn’t happen. He wouldn’t let it. The verbal assault and barrage of accusations flew and he wouldn’t listen. I was shocked at how cruel he was and extremely disappointed that he would not let me help turn the situation around.
As I was driving home, I almost felt sick. It was such a great day in church—the worship service, the interaction with so many wonderful people, and the opportunity to help and pray with many. But then it ended on this note. It bothered me more than I can say and more than I should have let it. I was reminded by the Lord in Romans 12:18 that says, “Do your part to live in peace with everyone, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.” Jesus also had His moments when He was misunderstood and they would not listen to what He was saying.
In tough situations, you do everything you can to represent God, the love of Jesus, and a Christian demeanor that reflects love, mercy, grace, and kindness. Just because you do does not mean it’s going to be received. But at least you will know deep in your heart that you tried your best. Even then you can still end up feeling icky about it, but when you seek the Lord and give your best, you’ve done what the Lord would have you do! Doing your best may not always seem like enough, but it is! You are not God. You can only represent Him the best you can! The rest is in the Lord’s hands.
Romans 12:17-18 (NIV) “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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