Responding to Sutherland Springs

To those who haven’t experienced what happens in a Christian church.

From a follower of Jesus.

Yesterday, a man walked into a church in Sutherland Springs and opened fire. At least twenty-six people were killed and twenty more were injured. The New York Times describes the horrific scene: “Families gathered in pews, clutching Bibles and praying to the Lord, were murdered in cold blood on the spot.”

With you, I have been reading and watching the news and my heart breaks for the victims and their families. My heart also breaks for the shooter and his family. With many of you, I have been praying for God to “make His presence felt in their lives.”

As I’ve thought about how to honor the lives of the victims, I’ve considered what they would say to the world if they could. I’m a Christian. I was in a First Baptist Church yesterday. If I had lost my life in church yesterday, this is what I would want someone to write to the world…

As my heart grieves for those affected by the shooting, my heart also hurts for the many in the world who have their eyes focused on a Christian church and do not understand why Christians gather. Many who have reported on the story have implied that they don’t know what happens when Christians gather. I’ve been gathering with Christians all of my life. Here is a window in…

What is a Christian church?

Christian churches are gatherings of people around a Person. Christians (the church) gather, not to focus on working harder or getting better, but to be reminded of the selfless love of Jesus. Jesus is the one who demonstrated sacrificial love for all people (everyone) by laying down his own life and rising again so that others may live… eternally. His death and resurrection are historic events that happened 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. Those events changed history and the faith of billions of people. Christian churches are gatherings of people that focus on the person and work of Jesus.

Because of Jesus, Christian churches are gatherings of refuge. Christian churches are gatherings where people find help in times of trouble.

Why do Christians go to church?

Christians are a mess just like everyone else. All of us have hurt others in some way at some point in our lives. All of us have tendencies to be self-centered. But what makes the church different is Jesus. We go to church because we need to be reminded of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus showed us selfless and sacrificial love. Jesus’ love changes people. Christians love because Jesus first loved us.

And that leads me to the other reason that Christians go to church. Christians go to church to gather with other Christians. Christians give one way love to others because Jesus first gave one way love to us. The real ones do. There is nothing like being in a gathering with people who are really for you. There is nothing like authentic friendships that go deep with people who are open about their imperfections (we don’t have to hide them because we believe Jesus came to forgive them) and love other people selflessly.

In a relationship with Jesus, we find refuge and strength in times of trouble. In a relationship with those who follow Jesus, we tangibly see this refuge and strength play out.

Experience “church” for yourself.

 If you haven’t experienced what happens in a Christian church, you might think that gatherings of Christians will be skeptical of you coming to check it out… especially this week. It’s actually the opposite. Jesus’ selfless love for us is overwhelming for those who really get it. We long for you to experience that love for yourself… I’m emotional as I type.

So, as someone who believes what the victims believe, don’t just look in from the outside and wonder what goes on when Christians gather. Check it out. I hope you will be welcomed warmly. I pray you will hear about and experience the most incredible, selfless, and sacrificial love the world has ever known. It’s the only place in the world where you will find supernatural refuge and strength in times of trouble.

You might think that this is an insensitive statement after yesterday’s shootings. I know this is what would most honor of those who lost their lives. I honestly believe that this is what they would want you to hear. As a Christian, if I had been shot in a church yesterday, this is what I would want someone to write to the world. Because I believe what they believe, I know their greatest desire right now is for you to experience on earth what they are experiencing in heaven. The gathering of people around a person – Jesus.

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