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church shootings don't intimidate the church

(Excerpt from Russell Moore writing in The Washington Post, 11/6/2017)

While millions of other Christians were singing hymns or opening their Bibles or taking communion this past Sunday, a gunman was opening fire on the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX. Whatever the shooter’s twisted objective might have been, we do know this: It won’t work.
The goal the gunman sought, to terrorize worshipers, has been attempted over the centuries and around the world by cold, rational governments and by terrorist groups. All assume they could, by the trauma of violence intimidate the church. Such violent tactics produce the exact opposite: a resilient church that moves forward with even more purpose than before.


Killers assume that gunfire or poison gas or mass beheadings will show Christians how powerless we are. That is true. Killers assume that this sense of powerlessness will rob the community of its will to be the church. That is false.

If they looked overhead, in almost any of the churches they attempt to destroy, these killers might see what they miss: the Cross. The church was formed against the threat of terror. Jesus stood before a Roman governor who claimed the authority to kill him in the most horrific way. That’s what he did. And the empire’s intimidation worked, but only briefly.

Most of Jesus’ followers went into hiding. The very ones who scattered, though, soon returned, testifying that they had seen the crucified Jesus alive. They proclaimed the Christian message. Within a few centuries the terrorist Roman Empire was gone; the church marched on.

The church claims that death is not the endpoint.

Much of the New Testament is made up of letters from the apostles of Jesus on why the cross is, counterintuitively, the power of God. The Christian gospel does not cower before death. That’s because believers are joined to a Christ who has been dead, and never will be again.

The day of the shooting was, for many churches, a day of prayer for the persecuted church. Christians do not view as victims believers around the world who are rooted out of their churches, even lined up and executed. We see in them the power Jesus promised us: the power that is made perfect in weakness.

Christianity can be suffocated with comfort, to the point that we forget who we are. Those who confront the church with death only remind the church that we were dead, and are now alive in Christ.

The days ahead will be awful for the grieving community of Sutherland Springs. But come Sunday, Christians will gather again, singing and praying and opening the Word. That church will bear witness to the truth that shaped them: Eternal life cannot be overcome by death.

And over that church will stand a Cross. ~

Dan Nygaard