Pastor: there is a certain truth you must come to grips with: the violence we see escalating is NOT going to stop. We are going to continue watching news stories of slaughters -
- inside houses of worship...
- at the mall...
- anywhere else a killer can gain entry.
Why will these massacres continue? It doesn't call for deep research to figure that out. These killers are ANGRY, and woe unto them who get in their path. Those who kill want their voices heard. Their goal is a large body count, and the more corpses that lie in their bloody path, the more they will gloat. And anger is the driving force that pushes them forward.
What kind of anger must have resided in the heart of the Sutherland Springs killer? How much hate must possess a man to drive him to commit such atrocities?
Even animals are sometimes the brunt of someone's anger. Recently, a man in South Carolina set his girlfriend's 10-month old dog on fire in a church parking lot. He later confessed to a deputy, "...I feel sorry the dog DID NOT LIGHT THE FIRST TIME."
Pastor: YOU can help. There is something you can do. In all honesty, this could be your "finest hour" - if you exercise the wisdom needed in your ministry. And what I would like to do for next few moments is help you address this "elephant in the room."
First of all, you will need "fire" in your preaching: the kind that comes with the Holy Spirit's power. This is a missing ingredient in the lives of a lot of preachers. You are going to have to practice a kind of preaching that our forefathers possessed; the kind that is saturated with spiritual power.
It is the kind that Peter had on the Day of Pentecost. It was said of his message that it "cut to the heart." It was so effective that the hearers cried out, "What must we do to be saved?" It is the kind of preaching practiced by John Wesley, George Whitefield, and so many others. Mass conversions were recorded under their powerful preaching.
The truth is, dear pastor, if you preach the truth, yet lack spiritual power that brings conviction, your words will merely fall on deaf ears. Your congregation will forget your message by the time they are back home.
I can't think of five sermons I have heard in the last 10 years that "cut to my heart." Of course, some of that may be due to my own hardness, but it is also because of the shallowness that accompanies much of today's preaching - and the conspicuous lack of power.
The Great Revival Preacher Charles Finney knew something of powerful preaching. It was not uncommon for his hearers to fall under conviction long before the conclusion of Finney's sermons. It was said of his voice that it was like "a fire … a hammer … [and] a sword."
You must find this fire! As the old prophet Leonard Ravenhill used to say, "Unction in the pulpit brings action in the pew."
Secondly, you must take on the culprit that lies behind much of the violence we see playing out. And that culprit is anger.
Millions of people are filled with anger. And some of those millions are in your city - and in your church.
You have men in your church who are on the brink of disaster. They are inches away from hurting someone in their family. Some of them do not attend your church, but their wife does. If she were to pour out her heart, you would soon learn of the rage that controls her husband - and the fear she lives in daily.
I remember my fellow officers once responding to a domestic disturbance where a man had fired two shots into the ceiling. And why had he done so? By his own admission, his wife had not consented to his demands for sex.
Have you ever considered the possibility that some of the women in your church who wear excessive make-up may be doing so only to cover the scars?
In 2014, in Florida, a man killed his wife and her friend. But he didn't stop there. He also went to the church and shot and killed the pastor.
These angry people are often not calmed until they have done as much damage as possible. And the "damage" is sometimes a string of dead bodies in their path.
In my last five years as a police officer (prior to retirement), I noticed the escalation of anger: neighbors mad at one another, road-rage, disturbances in stores - and the list goes on. Anger, if not dealt with, is a ticking time bomb.
And "anger" is a subject you must address from the pulpit and Sunday School classes (and anywhere else a platform is provided). Let me suggest 2 approaches:
1- Help your people see how anger is destroying their life. It puts the heart at risk, increases the chance of a stroke, weakens the immune system - and so much more.
But there is a dark side to anger that is seldom addressed. In Ephesians 4:26 Paul warns his hearers to not allow anger to linger in their life: "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath." The reason for this warning is found in the very next verse: "And do not give the devil a foothold" (v27).
Now we are treading where demons dwell. You must help your congregation to see that unresolved anger opens the door to the dark side - the demonic side. Yes, those who do not lay aside their anger, and allow it to linger, invite the powers of darkness into their life.
When Cain's gift was rejected, he sunk into depression, as well as anger. In his sullen state, God warned him that sin was crouching at his door; but he ignored heaven's plea, and a few days later murdered his brother.
4000 years later when the Apostle John wrote about this, he told his recipients, "Do not be as Cain who killed his brother, because he was of the devil" (1 John 3:12). Cain chose to not deal with his anger. Allowing it to find a home in his heart, he sold out to Satan - and became a murderer.
2- Help your congregants to see that anger grows in the soil of selfishness. If your people are born again, and the Spirit of God resides within, they may be able to see this. Anger can only occur when one does not get what he wants. James 4:1 is quite blunt: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?"
Angry people are control-freaks: they want everything in life to live in subjection to them. They want drivers on the freeway to clear the way - for them; they want the wife to put out sexually upon demand - for them; they want the children to act with perfection - for them; they seldom think of others. They are narcissists. They have stared into the pond and seen their own reflection - and have fallen in love with the image.
I am NOT speaking of those who "lose their cool" every now and then. I am speaking of those who carry an ample supply of anger in their soul, who allow it to linger, who permit it to not be a guest in their house - but a resident! They are defined by their anger. Some of them even think they are God's prophets, expressing His righteous indignation. It is such people that sometimes resort to violence, and do so "in the name of God" (ever heard of Jihadists?)
3- Spend time with the men in your church. Lay aside some of the activities you are engaged in that are fruitless. Get out there with your men! Heed the words of Proverbs 27:23 - "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds..."
Get away from some of those meaningless meetings you have at church. Shun them! I spent a week with a church in Washington in 2015. Not one time did I see any of the staff members leave the office to check on members of their flock. Instead, they devoted their day to time on their computers.
Find out where your men work and meet them for lunch. If they are self-employed, ask to go to work with them. Hang out with them. As you do so, you will gain their trust. And should anger be a pest in their life, you may help them be rid of it.
There is so much more that can be said, fellow minister, along these lines. Anger is a demon perched on many shoulders in our day: a bear in hibernation, and when awakened, there can be hell to pay. Study its causes, its roots, and help your people to see its destructive path. WE NEED YOUR HELP PASTOR.