Christmas is one of the most sacred holidays to the Christian faith… the celebration of the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Breitbart News is reporting that ISIS is encouraging jihadists to attack churches in the United States and Canada on this Holy Day. I am sharing this article, not to incite fear, but to open our eyes to the fact that ISIS and radical jihadist are now targeting churches here locally. They have already been targeting churches in the Middle East and in Europe… but we are seeing a very determined call to export that same terrorism to the states. The mainstream media has not done a very good job of covering such stories, and I can only assume as they continue to be worried about “Offending” anyone who is not a Christian.
I want to share a true story with you. Recently in a large church in the Southern United States, we witnessed this type of targeting first hand. I am leaving the name of the church and the specific city out, simply because it is a policy of Hedge Protection Ministries, to protect the identity and reputation of churches involved in any security incident. If we did not protect them, churches would be less inclined to discuss those incidents, which essentially would limit our ability to share lessons learned with other churches.
It was Easter Sunday Morning 2016 another of the most sacred holidays to the Christian faith. About 9:00 am, a young male with dreadlocks, wearing camouflaged pants, a dark hoodie and carrying a back pack walked into a very large Baptist church a few minutes before one of their multiple morning services that day. He had a 9mm handgun clearly protruding from his right front pocket. As he entered, he approached an elderly greeter and casually asked “How do I get to the balcony?” The greeter could clearly see the gun and was somewhat taken back… and as she processed what she was seeing, she responded with some hesitancy, answering his question and pointing him to the stairwell leading to the balcony. He said “thanks” and then, ignoring her directions to the balcony, headed straight into the sanctuary.
The greeter was frightened, however, despite her fear… she acted. She immediately notified a member of the ministry staff. It is important to know that this church takes its security very seriously and had previously established a dedicated security ministry. Thank God they Did!
The minister alerted their head of security who happens to a reserve police officer in the local PD. (We will call this officer “Andy” because… that’s actually his real name) Andy caught up with the armed man as he passed through the sanctuary and into a very large and crowded hallway. Andy approached the man from the front as the offender was walking towards him. He confronted the man, identified himself as a police officer and Andy began to walk backwards, attempting to guide the man out of the very crowded main hallway and into a less crowded side hall. As Andy walked backwards, the man began to aggressively and repeatedly demand him to “Show me your badge… Show me your Badge”!
Once into the less crowded hallway, Andy told him he was going to show him his badge. Andy purposely held the badge out away from his body with his right arm extended. As the offender’s eyes went wide to look at the badge, Andy seized on the opportunity. He quickly reached out and took possession of the handgun that was protruding from the right front pocket… saying “I’ll take that.”
The man immediately cast his backpack approximately six feet away from his body, where it hit the floor with a rather loud thump. He began to protest that he possessed a permit for the gun. Andy told him that he didn’t care if he had a permit, the man was scaring the liver out of the people in the church. During this exchange, Andy was actively dropping the magazine and clearing the weapon. He told the young man that he could not openly carry a weapon in the church. He informed him that if he indeed possessed a license, then they would simply place the weapon in the backpack, then secure both the weapon and the backpack in his vehicle. The man would then be allowed to return to the service and participate in worship.
The man agreed and Andy picked up the backpack, as he was about to put the handgun inside. Andy noticed the pack was unusually heavy and as he began to unzip the bag he quickly identified that it contained an AR15 semi-automatic weapon. Andy discarded the backpack, put his hand on his own service weapon and immediately ordered the man to his knees. He then asked the church dispatcher to roll some city cars as he had an armed offender detained. Andy also requested the immediate help from other security team members.
One of the other team members arrived and Andy directed him to check the bag. As he opened the bag, the team member, who had significant prior weapons training while in the military, just said “Woah”. Inside was the AR 15 and several magazines loaded and ready to go. The offender suddenly rolled off his knees and began to run towards the sanctuary. Andy gave chase, tackling him into a wall. The other team member arrived within a second or two and piled on. These two men managed to overcome and secure the offender.
Interestingly, the offender in this case went directly into the custody of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. It was determined the man had a history of mental issues and was being actively recruited and radicalized by a jihadist group.
The most important thing that we can take away from this interview, is that ISIS isn’t coming… they are here! Radical Jihadists are no longer a potential threat in the future… they are an active threat to your church Right Now! This Breitbart article is just confirming what we already know.
So why do I tell you this… Understanding the threats facing your church is critical to understanding how to protect yourself and your congregation. You cannot effectively protect yourself from an enemy you don’t recognize nor understand.
The reason this ended well… was an effective and well trained security ministry. God used a proactive and well trained team of volunteers to be able to recognize and respond to this threat. There is no telling how many lives were saved thanks to the quick thinking of the Greeter, the minister, the dispatcher, the team and especially Andy. Even more important was the prior recognition of the need for such a ministry by the church leadership and their willingness to implement that program.
I close with these questions… what if this man had entered your church? Is your church prepared to deal with a situation like this? When you read an article like the one we posted from Breitbart, do you assume this could never happen to your church? Are you just hoping and praying that nothing will happen?
There is a solution. You can significantly improve the security you’re provide to your church through the implementation of a security ministry. I urge you… Don’t be apathetic and believe for a second that this cannot happen in your church. It can!
I want to thank Andy for his willingness to allow us to interview him. It is our prayer that through his transparency, churches across this country will begin to take the steps necessary to properly protect themselves.
I also wish to encourage you to pray for churches who are right now in the cross hairs of these jihadist lunatics, not just during this Christmas Holiday but every day! God Bless!