Murderous rampages have become so common that crime trackers disagree over proper terminology to describe the carnage.
“Active shooter” incidents that the Federal Bureau of Investigations tracked at 30 in 2017 marked a 50 percent increase over the previous year. But that category is not as expansive as “mass shootings” that the crowd-sourced database Mass Shooting Tracker tallied at 427 in the same period.
Among the church’s challenges in the midst of the increasing violence is to continue to show God’s love, grace and mercy in the midst of Satan’s prolific work, pastors affected by such violence told Baptist Press.
Frank Pomeroy pastors First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, which suffered the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history Nov. 5, 2017, ending with 26 dead and 20 injured. Among deaths, Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter Annabelle.
“The church should respond to such tragedy as it would any other tragedy and that is with grace and mercy,” said Pomeroy, who broke ground on a new building in May, the scene of the crime counted a loss. “Whether dealing with survivors or with perpetrators, we have been called to be emissaries of Christ in all situations.
“We are to extend a hand of forgiveness and then counsel with wisdom to whomever will listen,” Pomeroy told BP, “so as to lead others to Christ.”
Tally Wilgis founded Captivate Christian Church (SBC) in urban Baltimore, which suffered the highest homicide rate in 2017 among U.S. cities with more than 500,000 people, according to FBI figures released Sept. 24. The city’s 342 homicides the FBI tabulated yielded a rate of 56 per 100,000 people.
“These are 342 people made in the image of God. This has become normal; no outcry, no march, no national media attention,” Wilgis said. “While mass shootings draw media coverage, the loss of life is happening in our urban centers at an astronomical rate.”
Wilgis, executive director of the Baltimore Baptist Association, believes society has become desensitized by the rapidity of such occurrences, including lone killings and mass murders.
Among the murders with the highest casualties, the killing of 58 and wounding 489 during an outdoor Las Vegas concert in October 2017, and the murder of 49 and wounding of 53 at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. In that same two-year period, the FBI ranks the Sutherland Springs murders as the third highest.
“The contrast between heaven and earth cannot be clearly known unless the people of God are vocal ambassadors of heaven,” said Wilgis, warning against complacency. “Sin, death, and destruction are not acceptable conditions for the Christian. The lost world around us must know that violence, death, and destruction are not to be expected. Our hope rests in Jesus’ making all things new.”
In the most recent mass shooting in America, a temporary employee at an Aberdeen Rite Aid distribution center north of Baltimore began firing a handgun Sept. 20, killing three workers and injuring three others before killing herself, police said.
“We should be concerned with mass public shootings,” Wilgis said, “but the main reason we draw our attention to these events at the expense of what is happening in our inner cities is because we have accepted as a society the murder of people who do not look like us and do not live near us.”
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Source: Baptist Press