When I went out for lunch yesterday, I first heard about the shooting rampage on the campus of Virginia Tech that had taken place a couple of hours earlier. As the day went on, the facts began to unfold and we learned that at least 32 people, mostly college kids, had been murdered before the gunman killed himself.
Of course the blaming has already begun. In any situation like this, we want swift justice. The gunman is dead, so the villains are the authorities who decided not to lock down the campus or inform the students after the first murders more than two hours earlier. And it's highly possible they should be blamed. If I were a parent of a student at VT, I would surely be upset upon hearing that my son or daughter was not even told that a murderer was still on the loose.
As church leaders, we can pray just as Craig Groeschel has led us to here. We can help our people deal with the tragedy. Some pastors have students they are still worried about, like Ben Arment describes here. But there is something else we can all do.
We can secure our churches. We can train our security teams to keep our congregations safe. We can make sure that we have emergency procedures in place and volunteers trained to implement them. We can make sure that our classrooms will be locked down quickly and securely if an intruder is threatening to harm our kids.
Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, I have been convinced that a terrorist will someday strike an American church. What better way to inject fear and mayhem into the fabric of our society in this religious war than to hit us while we are worshiping--perhaps hitting a large church in a small community--the place where we think we are the safest.
If not a terrorist, perhaps an angry lover knowing his ex-girlfriend will be at church. Or perhaps a disgruntled, mentally-disturbed church member. It happened in 1999 in a small Baptist church in Ft. Worth, Texas when seven people were killed including three teenagers. It will happen again.
You can never be ready for a tragedy like this. But you can be prepared. Let this tragic day in Virginia be a wake-up call to every church in America.