In the sensitive moments soon after a tragedy, it is important we remember as churches we exist to live out the mission of Jesus to seek and save that which is lost.
Last weekend a gunman opened fire at LGBTQ-friendly Club Q in Colorado Springs, killing five people and wounding 18 others, less than a mile from our church, Vanguard Church.
Just a few blocks away and nine hours later our church hosted its regular Sunday morning worship services.
During the 9 a.m. service we had people in our church who were not present for the service but attending online let us know that they had friends in that club who were wounded by the gunman.
What does a church do in this situation?
Do we table the tragedy to reiterate to our congregation and online community that we don’t condone the behaviors sanctioned at gay clubs like Club Q because they’re contrary to what the Bible teaches? Do we ignore the broken hearts of the people impacted by the shooting in our community?
Maybe there is a third option.
Christ through Paul commands His church to “Grieve with those who grieve” (Rom. 12:15). I don’t know what it is like to lose a loved one in a mass shooting, but I do know what it is like to lose a loved one instantly at the hands of a drunk driver. I know what it feels like to talk to your loved one, and then hours later realize they are gone.
In the sensitive moments soon after a tragedy, it is important we remember as churches we exist to live out the mission of Jesus to seek and save that which is lost. The best way to do so is to relate to humanity through the universal language of pain.
I have never met anyone who doesn’t have pain in their lives. And by the way, that will remain true for all of us throughout our lives whether we come to Christ or not.
If we begin with the universal language of pain, we will find the right balance between love and truth.
When tragedy strikes a community the question, “Why did this occur?” is not the most important factor for the church to mobilize around. This question usually takes a long time to unfold, and by the time it does the moment has passed. It is important that when a tragedy strikes a community, we immediately ask the question, “How can we care?”
We live in a care-less world.
We watch the news, decipher the details, draw a conclusion and make a judgment. And rarely is it accurate. Rushing to judgment is the same thing the world does to the church. But we, the church, should be different. We should be slow to speak and quick to care.
Now sometimes we don’t know how to care, and that’s fair and maybe the answer to that question takes a lot of time, but eventually we will through relationship have opportunity to show the love of Jesus Christ and His desire to show care to others through us.
When tragedy strikes in your community and around your church, mobilize your people to pray.
Challenge them to suspend the dialogue in their head and refuse to pass premature judgment on the matter so that the grace and compassion of Christ can manifest itself in and through your community of believers in Jesus.
For our part, we prayed.
We took time in each of our services to acknowledge what had occurred and the proximity to our church. We invited our congregation in unity and unison to join in a corporate time of prayer extending their hands toward one another. We asked the Lord to show comfort on the brokenhearted and all who were impacted by this sorrowful situation.
Christ commands us to grieve with those who grieve, not just those who agree with us, but with all the world. He is the Suffering Servant. He is the Savior of all humanity. The Bible says that God is near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18).
As churches, can we seize the moment not to be about politics or the press, but about prayer? Can we offer up prayers for those who are hurting, and if the opportunity presents itself, may we step into the process through relationship and care for those who have been broken by the careless world we live in today.
Step forward in your church, now, and say, “I will care more for the brokenhearted in this careless world we live in today.”
That’s what Jesus would do.