Today is a dark day in the history of church-related violence. Reverend Carol Daniels (right) was inside her small church in Anadarko, Oklahoma on August 23, 2009, when she was attacked.
Her killer stabbed her repeatedly, almost severing her head. He laid her body in a crucified position, and before fleeing the scene, set her hair on fire.
Investigators also revealed other disturbing facts about the case:
· The killer took Daniels’ clothes, perhaps to hide evidence or as a grisly trophy.
· The killer methodically took time to spray a dissolving chemical around the body in an apparent effort to destroy any DNA evidence.
This horrendous act happened 9 years ago this week: August 23, 2009 (my wedding anniversary).
And it all took place inside a church - in a town of about 13,000.
Reverend Daniels was pastor of the church. I have read accounts where on a good Sunday, three people might show up. She had a heart to reach the outcasts of the city.
Ms. Daniels was born on October 26. Same birthday as mine.
What could be going on inside the mind of such a person that he would be provoked to commit such an atrocity. Sadly, we may never know: the killer has not yet been caught.
I got a call a few days ago from a man in Somerset, Kentucky. He wanted me to speak to his church about the need to protect the flock. We agreed to conduct the conversation by Skype. Alas, the leadership, dumbed down by religion, canceled our session. “We’re just gonna trust the Lord…” they concluded.
Odd that such ignorance would prevail in Somerset, Kentucky. A year ago this week, Carolyn New was murdered inside a church in Somerset.
Her husband was the founding pastor of the church. She was found dead in an activity center at Denham Street Baptist in Somerset on August 24.
According to reports, the killer (a homeless man) went to the church while New was there and asked for food. Police said she walked to the church activities center to get some potato chips for him. Moments after she handed Bell the chips, police say he killed her. Her throat was slit. Reports indicate that she was also raped.
So, dear reader, what will you do with these stories (and the hundreds of others I could tell)?
Will you continue to allow your faith, your twisted version of it, to dumb you down?
Will you continue to display your ignorance of the Holy Book that you claim to believe – and from which some of you teach and preach every Sunday?
Sincere faith is not confirmed by those who claim to have it: on the contrary, it is affirmed by those who are doing something to prove their faith.
We know Abraham had faith because of his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac. In response to God's command, he took his son to the mount, strapped him down, and raised the sword to end his life. An angel intervened, stopping him. He then assured Abraham that his fear of God was the real deal. It was what Abraham did that validated his faith.
When the friends of the paralytic lowered him through a hole in the roof, so that Jesus might heal him, the scripture says that Jesus “saw their faith.” It was a visible, tangible faith. Jesus could tell they had faith because of what they were doing.
The woman with the issue of blood was healed and then complimented for her faith. Her faith was concrete. She pressed her way through the crowd, convinced that if she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. And she was. You could SEE her faith in action.
For God to intervene, it often requires that man first exercise faith, and that faith includes DOING SOMETHING to show that he is trusting God -
- Jesus did not turn water into wine until the attendants first filled the pots with water
- Lazarus was not raised from the dead until the bystanders removed the stone
There is a part for man to play, and after he has done so, he can then trust his God.
And how do we explain the violence being committed against Christians overseas?
- Last year, over 3000 Christians were murdered because of their faith.
- About six Christian women are raped everyday and forced to convert to Islam.
Is it because they have no faith that they endure such horror? Why doesn't faith protect them?
Dear pastor, can you not see the sheer heresy you preach when you declare that faith alone will protect? Or at least your version of faith.
Furthermore, dear church leaders, are you not paying attention to the times in which we live? Can you not see that violence is something that the pagans are resorting to more often? Look at the hate groups that are manifesting in our midst. Do you not have at least a little bit of responsibility to protect those in your flock?
I just sat down in my hotel in Columbia, Missouri. I turned on the TV and the first words from the set were about a man in critical condition after being shot.
Perhaps you should consider being more like Jesus. One of the reasons, if not the primary cause, for churches failing to protect the flock is a distorted image of Jesus. But a careful reading of his life does not reveal a defenseless sheep: on the contrary, a warrior!
Perhaps you should be more like him when it comes to dealing with people. We are told in John 2:25 that he trusted no man. Read it for yourself:
"But Jesus didn't trust them, because he knew human nature."
I am NOT saying that we are not to love others. Of course we should. We are called to love all men: but we are not called to trust those we do not know.
Not everybody who comes to your church has good intent. The killer at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs had visited the church a few days before his rampage. When he came the next time, he murdered 26 worshipers.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran Minister during WW2. He struggled greatly what to do about the rise of Hitler and his evil regime. Bonhoeffer had no inclination for violence, but, driven by conviction, he began to speak out against Nazism. And he didn't stop there: he joined in a plot to assassinate Hitler.
It cost him dearly; he was arrested in 1943 and stayed in prison for over a year. He was then tried, found guilty, and hung (as Germany was collapsing). We do well to remember what he said:
If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can't, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.
This is why we must have the Sheepdogs. According to some research, "...sheep have a strong instinct to follow the sheep in front of them. When one sheep decides to go somewhere, the rest of the flock usually follows, even if it is not a good decision. For example, sheep will follow each other to slaughter. If one sheep jumps over a cliff, the others are likely to follow. Even from birth, lambs are conditioned to follow the older members of the flock. This instinct is hard-wired into sheep. It's not something they think about."
It is because of this that the Sheepdog must intervene. It is the Sheepdog that must rise to the occasion and respond to the wolf. Or, as Bonhoeffer put it, we must "wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver."
Dear pastor, find the sheepdogs in your midst and let them do what God has called them to.
Let me close with a final thought. If you are trusting God, can you not also trust His word? And His word is clear:
"A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.
The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences." (Proverbs 27:12)
While driving across Missouri today, I saw a sign that stated 474 people have died on Missouri roads this year. The same sign also read that 60% of them were NOT wearing seat belts. Perhaps for some, seat belt or not, they would still have died. But certainly some would have lived, if they had heeded the words of Solomon and foresaw the danger (accident) and then took precautions (buckled up).
Faith without works is dead: and you might be too, if you don't have a plan to protect your flock.
UPCOMING SHEEPDOG SEMINARS:
THIS COMING WEEKEND: Kettering, Ohio (Dayton) this Friday night and Saturday morning (August 24-25).
Birmingham, Alabama - September 28-29. Click here. Stephen Willeford will be with us in Birmingham. Stephen is the man who shot, and stopped, the killer at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs last November (where 26 worshipers were murdered).
San Diego, California - October 6. Stephen Willeford will be with us in San Diego. Stephen is the man who shot, and stopped, the killer at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs last November (where 26 worshipers were murdered)