It also makes me think about how vulnerable my church is—and all churches are—and about how vulnerable I personally am and how vulnerable all preachers are. It causes me to ponder the steps our church should consider taking to enhance the security of our worshipers and of our preacher, who happens to be me.

Some advocate for detailed security arrangements for churches, perhaps even involving armed guards. There are now firms that will help churches develop such plans.

On the one hand, churches certainly have a responsibility to try to protect their parishioners from harm. At the very least all churches should probably make their adult members aware of the need to keep an eye out for people, particularly strangers, who behave in suspicious ways. On the other hand, we don’t want to become too paranoid in such efforts because, after all, we are called to minister to all people; and not all who appear strange are a threat. Besides, hospitality to the stranger and sojourner in our midst is basic to our calling as the church. The balance is between security and hospitality, between safety and openness, between protection and vulnerability.

The word vulnerability is one that keeps popping into my mind as I think about this. We are vulnerable. We should be vulnerable. We will always be vulnerable. More specifically, I am vulnerable, I should be vulnerable and I will always be vulnerable.

Christianity means vulnerability; ministry means vulnerability. I will not take foolish chances. If someone had expressed specific threats against me, I might consider temporarily wearing a bulletproof vest under my preaching suit (maybe that would give me an excuse to wear a robe like I’ve always kinda sorta wanted to do); but I can’t see wearing one all the time. I certainly don’t want our church to take foolish chances, and I would be in favor of our becoming more security conscious; but I don’t want us to become overly suspicious and paranoid.

Frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine how a church and a preacher could reasonably guard against the kind of thing that happened that Sunday in Illinois. If someone walks into our church, I will greet him. If he wants to speak with me, I will speak with him. If in that context he wants to do me harm, he will probably do me harm. If he can be stopped, I’m sure the members of my congregation will try to stop him.

I want the people I pastor to know that I want them—I want us—to be safe. I want them to know, though, that as we minister to real people in the real world, people who are in danger in their own way in their own world, we just may get hurt. I hope not. I hope they don’t get hurt, and I hope I don’t either.

Chances are good—excellent, really—that what hurt we encounter or that I encounter will not involve bullets or even slings and arrows or tomatoes. But sometimes helping to heal the hurt of people involves taking some of their hurt onto yourself—I think that’s part of living the crucified life.

Yes, there is danger in the pulpit because the pulpit is in the church, and the church is in the world and the world is a dangerous place. I hope that the hurting don’t hurt me; I hope that they don’t hurt us.

But I also hope that the hurting will keep coming to us because in coming to us, they just might find the Christ who—willingly and purposely—died for them.