Monday, December 10, 2007

colorado church shootings

The news from New Life Church and the Youth With A Mission center in Colorado is stunning. Four innocent people shot to death. It elicits the response: what in the world is going on? At this point in the stream of news, it appears they were linked: the shooter was a 24-year old psychopath who “hated Christians” and had allegedly been asked to leave YWAM five years earlier.

Google “church shootings” and you’ll find numbers of incidents; schools and malls are not the only public spaces where anyone can enter and create havoc. Churches provide an open venue with lots of people, creating opportunities for deranged people to get their “fifteen minutes”. And if you’re a believer, the evil factor feels all the more obvious. It’s morbidly curious how many of the shooters had an anti-Christian bent.

Though I’ve never really spoken much about it, we’ve had a few run-ins with disturbed people. The Vineyard has certainly been the target of vitriolic hate mail in the past. Some of it we have passed on to the authorities because of the violent and/or aggressive sexual nature of it. Frankly, my wife and I have had anonymous angry letters show up in our mailbox at home.

Some years ago a guy came up on the stage while I was talking with people between celebrations. He was pacing behind me then suddenly pulled a fire extinguisher off the wall, started swinging it and hit me with it. I wrapped my arms around him to hold him steady until a couple of guys from the prayer team came up and we pulled him to a back room, while praying for him and calling the police.

One Saturday night in the atrium a woman climbed up on a table and started preaching at people. When I asked her to step down, she hit me and said it was because she was a woman. After asking her several times to get down, we had to call the police to avoid any accusation of what we did or didn’t do. The police took her out while she screamed threats.

We’ve had a couple of people stand up during the celebration and rudely challenge us on something inconsequential in the message. We’ve had emails and letters that said unspeakable things. We’ve had people who were mad for one reason or another sit and glare during the message. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there have been some celebrations where I’ve wondered if someone might show up and do something irrational. I’ve met with angry people in public places simply because if anything happened I wanted to be in a place where it could be witnessed. We’ve had to ban some people from coming because of things that were threatened. And let’s not mention lawsuits. There are behind-the-scenes reasons we hire security police to roam the building on weekends. Any public place has a responsibility to do what’s necessary to provide a safe environment. And we do.

But it’s just a different world today. None of us can afford to get paranoid; it takes too much energy.

The early disciples had some terrifically harsh things happen to them. Paul had to escape a city over a wall in a basket by a rope. There was the time the leadership told him not to go to a particular meeting because of its riotous, dangerous potential. He still ended up getting beaten, stoned, arrested and imprisoned at different times. Paul said he was often in danger not only from the Gentiles, but people from his own religious heritage. Religious people.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not comparing the experiences of the early disciples with our minimal travails in megachurches with padded seats and air conditioning. But the point is: angry, emotionally disturbed and, dare I say it, demonized individuals exist. And they’re sometimes hyper-religious. I think we have a hard time admitting there are people with evil intent. Jesus didn’t seem to have a hard time with it: he plainly called some people evil and at one point told one of His closest friends: “Get behind me, Satan…your agenda is your own, not God’s.” That’s pretty strong.

We have to have God’s agenda at the top of our to-do list. And that’s simply to bring the Kingdom with words and actions...and to pray for the will of God to come to this crazed place the way it always is in His dimension. Apparently that’s not always the case here on the Blue Planet. We must be willing to be the carrier and messenger of His power and grace.

Is there a cost? Is there resistance?

You’ve got to be kidding. Jesus said plainly, “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves.”

There’s a reason why Hollywood movies, books and fireside stories from the dawn of humanity have villains and classic clashes between good and evil: it’s because it’s an intuitive reflection of the real universe.

Welcome to the world of spiritual warfare.


  1. The phrase "Welcome to Spiritual Warfare" caught my attention for sure. Satan has chosen to attack the Church and Followers of Christ on so many different levels that its hard to comprehend sometimes. We can fight easier on a physical level with bomb threats, disturbers of the peace, false witnesses, and any other form of resistance that you can physically touch or see. The physical realm is almost easier. We can higher security guards, place cameras, call police, there are certainly preventative measures we can take to protect ourselves physically. There is however, a battlefield in which is not given half as much credit that is due mostly because of its obvious strategic value... the human mind.
    I was just having a conversation today with some close brothers and sisters in Christ and talking about how the past few months have been (pardon my language if taken that way...) hell. Our lives have been ripped to pieces, our worlds flipped upside down, friendships and bonds broken, anything and everything that would tear us apart. It all started in our minds, in our cases, with fear. I won't go into details, but our close knit group of believers was torn to shreds by jealously, hate, malice, fear, sadness, uncertainty, rules, stress, and a plethora of other factors - I feel exactly what Satan wanted. I personally had been fighting it for a year.
    We mentioned how much this all feels like a war. Constant battles over things that seem so simple that begin only as a whisper in someone's mind. This is a scary place. I've heard it said that you can hear several voices in your head, four to be exact. We have our voice, naturally the voice that I hear as I'm typing out this response, things I think as I'm having a conversation. The voice of God - we as Christians are searching Him out, and He is searching out His children, so of course He speaks, softly and gently, but He speaks. The voice of others, definitely the most distinct and recorded voice, we remember what people say decades after they've forgotten it. Then there's the voice of Satan that is so well disguised that it drowns out the voice of God, twists the voice of others, and distorts the your own voice to turn against you. Do we live in a war zone... absolutely evidence of this is seen physically in newspapers and television all over the world, but more subtly, but more powerfully is the kind that, for the most part, isn't seen at all. This concept has changed my life, and Dave, I hope that the Vineyard has, or will be able to touch on this form of spiritual warfare, its so necessary, and so prevalent, but unfortunately the only places it shows up is psychiatric clinics, counselors offices, passing glances, or most unfortunately when the enemy succeeds ultimately, lifeless in the back of an ambulance.
    I never want to hear Christians referred to as passive or weak. The battles we fight are more intense than battles that the secular world could ever dream of seeing. They are invisible but more real than the words on this screen or the computer you are using right now. God is moving us, growing us to become bigger and better soldiers for Him. Both sides are advancing, and we are right in the middle... we're the battlefield. Spiritual Warfare? You bet. That's why we must stand firm in Christ, utilizing Him as our foundation otherwise we WILL be shaken, we WILL stumble and we WILL fall. Satan isn't given enough credit for what he can do. Don't let him get ahold of you. The day you became a Christian, you became a threat to him, and as Dave said, "Welcome to Spiritual Warfare."

  2. Shannon Lewis, Assoc. Music Director at St. Simons Community Church, here. I used to visit with you all when I lived up near Cincinnati, and you post sure puts our current phase of ministry in context. God's really blessed us, as we're really growing and having an impact locally, particularly among the unchurched and those bitter with conventional southern 'religion'. This growth has led us to build a new building to hopefully be able to be a more than adequate facility for us to continue ministering to our community for a number of years to come. In the midst of these transitions, the opposition has been considerable, but nothing - yet - on the level you've discussed. God has led our whole church to set aside weekly days for prayer and fasting, and begun scheduling weekly worship and prayer times as well - we can feel that the responsibility is great, and having been given much, much will be expected.

    Thank you for this insightful post. May God bless you as you continue working out the Gospel in your community!

    Shannon Lewis

  3. Wow what a sad commentary on things. I mean, the obvious question really seems to be what is an appropriate 'christian' response to spriritual warfare that spills over into our physical one. Especially in church or in our private affairs. How far can we carry self defense, or just roll over? Be alert, martial arts, mace, 911, conceal carry? Someone once said that "no man is an island", I must admit that the island doesn't sound to bad...

    Anyone have some ideas...


  4. My question to anyone who might have an answer is this, We are told that it is principalities that we face and its not humans that we are really fighting against. But like you said Jesus himself refered to certain people as evil. Where is the line? When it is people doing the evil even if it is the devil behind it, it is people that we are dealing with. We all do wrong sometime but then there are people like you talked about and who shot those people in the churches. How do you be loving like we are supposed to when people are acting in evil ways? How can we love like Jesus loved but still do justice?

  5. Pastor Dave, you just go right on and say "demonized". Because there is no other way to explain the sickness out there. When a woman who was completely sane by all accounts can kill her 2 kids and then herself (this happened here on the west side of town recently)there is just nothing else to say but that an unclean spirit had its way with her.
    So keep calling them like you see them!

  6. In regards to the post about pricipalities vs. human vessels I believe that we can and will be used by the enemy. None of this happens without God knowing and providing permission. Satan had to ask God to tempt Job so I believe that the enemy would have to ask to use or tempt me too. It's up to me to depend on and aggressively lean into God's strength, use every piece of armor, check my motives/pride and stand firm to God in the midst of my battles. Satan and his army can tempt me to sin but ultimately it’s my decision to act on it. When my pride is wacky or when my motivations are less than honorable evil powers start their bidding. Sometimes, in my Father’s strength, I can withstand some dark temptations. Other times, in my own strength I fall, eyes wide open into sin. I love when Paul writes about this battle and how he does what he doesn’t want to and doesn’t do what he should. I really want to know what his ‘thorn’ was.

    The shootings at New Life Church are heartbreaking. I do believe folks can be possessed by demons either by their own doing or unknowingly used as a vessel for the enemy. I too know they can show up as a “sheep” vs. that creepy girl from The Exorcist. I think the conscience or our spiritual eyes, empowered by the Holy Spirit, can correctly discern what is and what is not of’s like an instant warning device.


  7. We can only use these situations to do what the bible suggests, to "PRAY FOR THE BELIEVERS"
    HEBREWS 13:3
    COLOSSIANS 4:3-4
    It is our Godly duty, that we do so. to ignore and not believe in spiritual warfare is the devils lie
    Ephesians 6:12
    paul said in 2 TIMOTHY 3:12 that as a christian we will all be persecuted, to think otherwise is to hide behind the devils lie, Where is the line, there is really no line when you attack a sinner, maybe in defense of ones life i would say, but 1Peter 4:8, says "Love covers a multitude of sins" that seems to be jesus' responce. he only got physical in response to the temple being defiled by religious people symbolic of what the temple and thus our bodies means to God. We can only pray keep the faith and go on, look at our nation, God is being removed from everything by officials what do you then expect from other people, with resourses being influenced by the devil

  8. Pastor Dave,

    I live in Cincinnati and I am a former New Lifer when it was a REAL small congregation in a shopping center on Centennial Blvd. in the Springs. God was present at New Life then and He is present there NOW!! Please keep Pastor Brady Boyd and New Life in prayer and please don't forget the YWAM community.

  9. Isaiah 4:5, 5:12,23,28,29, 6:3,12, 7:4,7,9,12-16