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This post was first written in 2017, but this tragedy is one we see all too frequently and need to think about – August 2019 saw 29 souls die in 24 hours between El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. How is the Church meant to react? And how should it not?
We are only 6 weeks into the new year and already there have been more than half a dozen school shootings. Yesterday 17 children lost their lives. And the church needs to respond.
How do you respond to such senseless tragedy? Such devastating, needless violence?
What the World Doesn’t Need
Let’s start with what the world doesn’t need from the Church. There are so many things the Church needs to do, but there are just as many things that it needs to stop doing.
Related: When the Church Needs to Shut Up!
The world doesn’t need your social media sentimentality.
Saying “our thoughts and prayers are with you” doesn’t do anything. It’s totally awesome if you want to pray, but you don’t need to announce it to the world.
Because, quite frankly, the world doesn’t care.
They want to see us doing something. James 2:16 addresses this clearly. It’s not enough to wish a hungry person a hot meal; it’s far more meaningful to give them that meal.
It’s time for the church to stop adding to the noise and start making a difference.
The world doesn’t need more Christians differentiating between evil people and guns killing people.
I get it. I do. Guns don’t shoot people; people shoot people. We’re Americans and intrinsic to our civil liberties is the right to bear arms.
But you know what?
This isn’t the time to pick that fight, defend that stance, or wave that flag.
What is it time to do? It’s time to start mourning the tragic presence of sin and the lost and dying souls who don’t value life. It’s time to start praying for them!
It’s time to climb off your high horse and stop looking down at the people who would shoot children and start going out and sharing the love of Jesus with them. Maybe then they’ll get saved and never go down that road.
No promises, but maybe.
The world doesn’t need you to explain why it happened.
They had a mental illness? They were abused? Yes, horrible and devastating. Truly.
But it’s not helpful to spend more time analyzing why they would open fire on fellow students than it is comforting those who lost a child or a sibling or a friend.
Talking it to death doesn’t change a blessed thing. Or in this case, an evil thing.
The world doesn’t need you to try to figure out God’s role.
It’s okay for the church to not know the answer. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to explain why this happens beyond one word: SIN.
Is God good? Yes. Is God able to stop bad things from happening? Of course, He is.
But He doesn’t always do so.
That’s what free will is. We still get to choose sin and because of that, wretched and inexplicably evil things still happen in this world.
No amount of theology can reach through the mourning of those who have lost loved ones and bring them comfort. Which is why the world doesn’t need our theology right now.
The world doesn’t need your invitation to church.
Trust me, they really don’t. The appropriate response to any loss is not, “I’m so sorry someone you love died. Want to come to church with me?”
People don’t need church. But they do need you to be the Church.
What they need is Jesus, and you can bring Him to them.
Jesus didn’t sit in the synagogue and wait for people to come to Him. He went out among them. He sat at their dinner table, drank from their well, walked among their sickness.
Get off your comfortable seat, out of your safe home, and follow His example.
The world doesn’t need to hear that this is why you _____.
- “This is why we enroll our kids in private school.”
- “This is why we homeschool.”
- “This is why we live in a nicer neighborhood.”
- “This is why we have to be careful about who we hang out with.”
That conversation isn’t helping anyone right now.
Believe me, I’ve thought it. I’m human. But adding it to the conversation right now won’t mend any broken hearts or comfort those who are scared and hurting.
What the World Does Need From the Church
So what does the world need from the church in response to senseless tragedy? How would God have us respond?
I don’t know.
How’s that for distressing honesty? I honestly have no clue what they need in the aftermath of such a tragedy. But I’ve been pouring through my Bible with tears on my face and prayers rushing out of my heart, asking God to show me something.
Some churches have crisis response teams ready to deploy to the scene of tragedies. That’s pretty proactive and forward thinking.
But what if you don’t live locally? Does that mean you’re off the hook?
Sorry, not even close.
The church needs to stop constantly reacting to tragedy and instead be proactive.
Like I said, I don’t know -beyond praying- what response you or I can have right now that would be appropriate. But I can think of things we can do that will make a difference in the future.
The world needs you to mourn
We are called to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.
Let’s not try to fix it or explain it. Let’s just cry with them, pray for their comfort, and sit with them.
If you know someone personally impacted, be the one who sits silently and is waiting for what they need. Make a meal, clean a house, play with the kids, do the laundry.
If you’re far enough removed to not have any personal connection, it’s okay to cry and pray for them. I encourage you to do so.
We fight for the rights of the unborn because all of life is sacred. If we truly believe that, then this will grieve us, too. We will have to do something more than talk about it on social media.
The world needs you to be salty
Jesus tells us to be the salt of the earth.
One of the jobs of the Church is to make those who don’t know Jesus thirsty for the Living Water.
That can’t happen if you’re not out among them. And it doesn’t happen when you live just like them. No, you need to live what the Bible says.
It won’t change the outcome of a senseless shooting, but it will change a life that is still on this earth (and remember, we value life).
The world needs you to go out and be a light
The things that happen in the darkest times, in the shadows, need light shed on them. Be that light.
Having the love of Jesus burning so brightly in your life that wherever you are is illuminated with His love.
Go out, into your community, and love people. Stop inviting them to church. Just start loving them where they are and start inviting them to Jesus.
Invite them into your home. Feed them a meal, get to know them. Call and check and them. Share His love and then tell them about him.
The world needs you to practice what you preach
Stop saying one thing and living just like they do. That’s what makes non-Christians roll their eyes. And it breaks God’s heart.
There should be a difference in your lifestyle that needs no words to point out. If you need to explain that you are different…you probably aren’t.
Be the one they know will love them, no matter what. Be the one they know will feed when they are hungry. Have the door they know will always be open.
And use the words they know will be spoken with love.
The world needs you to be the Church
When Jesus left this earth, He gave one command: GO: Go into the world, go preach the Gospel, and go make disciples.
Go Into the World
Get out of your little bubble, walk outside of your church doors, and get to know your neighbors. Be active in your community.
Stop using the violence and pain as your excuse to stay in your safe spaces and instead let them be the reasons that propel you out.
Go Preach the Gospel
When’s the last time you did that? Can you even remember? And yet, we’re all called to do it. No, not from a pulpit on Sunday morning or via a YouTube channel, but while we are out in the world.
Get that image of a sidewalk prophet out of your head. Picture instead a cup of coffee with a friend across the table and sharing Jesus with them.
Go Make Disciples
Don’t just stop at sharing the Gospel. Disciple them. Keep sharing about Jesus and help them grow. This is so important and a missing link many times.
Pray. Then Act.
Right now, all we can do is pray. But we can also act. It won’t change anything for this time, but it’s what we’re called to do and it will make a difference in someone’s eternity.
It’s time for the Church to stop reacting and start being proactive. That is what the world needs from the church.