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7 Ways Churches Can Minister in the Wake of Deadly Attacks

7 Ways Churches Can Minister in the Wake of Deadly Attacks

It was Sunday morning, and calm prevailed as I entered our church sanctuary. Inside the building was the beautiful sight of people worshipping God. I looked forward to preaching as it was Easter Sunday — the day we celebrate the glorious Resurrection.

The first person to meet me was one of our young leaders who said, “Shocking, isn’t it, Pastor?” His tone of voice and facial expression told me something serious had happened.

To my horror, I learned bombs had gone off in two churches a short while earlier. Shortly thereafter, another church and three tourist hotels were devastated by suicide bombers.

The damage was extensive and the death toll kept rising.

It was an Easter never to be forgotten by Christians. A total of eight bombs were exploded by suicide bombers that day. As Sri Lanka slowly struggles to come back to a state of normalcy, the final death toll stands at over 250 with more than 500 injured. A heavy price to pay!

As I reflect on what happened, I wonder how Christians and the Church should react to attacks of this nature, which are becoming all too frequent around the world.

After the Sri Lanka bombings, we heard of gun attacks on two churches in Burkina Faso. Over 10 people were killed, including possibly two Pastors. This article by the BBC indicates that the persecution Christians are facing today could be reaching ‘alarming levels.’

So, after some discussion with other leaders, here are seven suggestions on how we could respond to such events:

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  • 1. Pray.

    1. Pray.

    Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have. Even though we may feel helpless at these senseless acts, we need to keep reminding ourselves that God is in control and that our real battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

    The advice of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18 about putting on the full armor of God and praying in the Spirit, still holds good today. Some of the things we need to pray for are:

    • Wisdom for all Governing authorities (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
    • Wisdom for Church Leaders – Paul often requested prayer from the believers (Ephesians 6:19)
    • Protection for those affected by terror attacks and those under threat of persecution (2 Thessalonians 3:2)
    • Peace in the country and among communities
    • Speedy healing for the injured
    • The dismantling of terror groups
    • That fear be dispelled (2 Timothy 1:7)
    • The defeat of spiritual forces of evil

    These are only a few suggestions. There are many other areas of prayer we can focus on, but PRAY we must (1 Thessalonians 5:17)!

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  • 2. Comfort the grieving and wounded.

    2. Comfort the grieving and wounded.

    Families have lost loved ones, suicidal thoughts prevail in some, others cannot sleep at night, and many are either paralyzed or badly wounded. The Church has stepped out to comfort those affected as recommended in 2 Corinthians 1:4.

    Two pastor friends of mine took a near 7-hour journey the day after the bombings, to minister to those affected at Zion Church in Batticaloa. During their stay, they comforted those grieving in their own homes, ministered to the wounded in hospitals, and encouraged the church leadership.

    They like many others were the Lord’s hands and feet, reaching out in love and compassion on the ground.

    Comforting those affected should also include giving them hope and helping them to rebuild their lives. In Sri Lanka, churches and other organizations are looking at providing prosthetic limbs, crutches, wheel chairs, hearing aids, medications, food rations, and many other needed items, besides financial help (Matthew 25:31-46). In many families, the breadwinner has died which means that the family needs long-term help for their sustenance and livelihood.

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  • 3.  Respond with forgiveness.

    3. Respond with forgiveness.

    It must be noted that the Catholic Church which was the most affected, took the lead in spreading a message of forgiveness. This response helped those affected to reciprocate and do the same through God’s grace. The same was true of the worshippers at Zion Church, even among those who lost children, parents, siblings, and friends.

    As Christians, we need to follow the example of our Savior, who from the cross said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).” Paul emphasizes, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends…” (Romans 12:19).

    So, instead of trying to avenge ourselves, we should leave that in the hands of God who will repay all men for their wicked deeds (Romans 12:19).

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  • 4. Be agents of peace.

    4. Be agents of peace.

    After deadly attacks of this nature, hatred and anger can spread very quickly, targeting any one particular group of people. In Sri Lanka, it is the Muslims who are now experiencing the fears of a backlash.

    God’s people however need to be agents of peace.

    Romans 12:21 says “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The Church should therefore continue to be salt and light in a dark and bitter world because “The Church is meant to be a working model of what God wants to do with the rest of society.”(Donald English)

    A quote from ‘The Cream Book’ compiled by Keith L. Brooks says, “The messengers of Christ went forth with the word ‘peace’ upon their lips, the gift of peace in their hands, and the light of peace upon their faces.”

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  • 5. Always be vigilant and alert.

    5. Always be vigilant and alert.

    While our trust should remain in God ultimately for our protection (and this should never change), it doesn’t mean that we do not take necessary precautions to bring in safeguards and reliable security measures.

    Each church will need to decide how they want to do this. A man of God said, “God will not do what we can do, but He will do what we can’t do.” Therefore, being vigilant and alert is of vital importance.

    Psalm 127:1 tells us that “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” This is so true, but it is noteworthy that an alert watchman was always on duty to identify a potential threat.

    In the Sri Lanka bombings, it is believed that a possible blast was averted at a Catholic Church because of a security presence on site. At Zion Church, the death toll was significantly reduced because an alert believer escorted the suicide bomber outside the church building, where the blast occurred.

    Sadly, he died when the bomb exploded, yet many other lives were saved because of his alertness.

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  • 6. Prayerfully consider any necessary changes.

    6. Prayerfully consider any necessary changes.

    Two changes that have already taken shape are:

    House Meetings– There is still concern whether it is safe for crowds to gather in church buildings. A by-product of this concern has seen believers gathering in small groups in homes to seek the Lord in community worship. As a result, everyone is still being ministered to and new leaders are emerging. This takes us back to the model in the Book of Acts as shown in Acts 5:42.

    Greater use of media– Churches have started using media outlets, including online church services and social media messages to keep encouraging their congregations and to spread God’s message of love and hope. The response, not only from Christians but from others as well, has been very encouraging.

    The changes will vary depending on the particular situation and location.

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  • 7. Focus people towards Heaven and eternity

    7. Focus people towards Heaven and eternity

    Death comes to everyone, but the Christian has eternal life in him/her and that should be reinforced strongly in our preaching. We need to encourage people with Paul’s words: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Refer Colossians 3:1-2).”

    When it comes to terror attacks, they can happen anytime, in any place. A bomb is no respecter of persons. Death can come if someone is in ‘the wrong place, at the wrong time’. We need to be always prepared therefore to meet our Savior in all His love and glory.

    That’s why the imprisoned Paul could confidently say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).” Our sermons also need to keep this focus constantly, besides highlighting the beauty of Heaven. Let’s keep God’s eternal migration plan constantly before our people. “My home is in Heaven. I’m just passing through this world” is what Billy Graham once said.

    I trust these suggestions would be helpful to any church facing persecution at this time and possibly in the future. One truth remains however, ‘the gates of hell will never prevail over the Body of Christ’ (Adapted from Matthew 16:18)!  

    Palitha Jayasooriya is an Executive/Preaching Pastor at the 4000+ strong People's Church in Sri Lanka. He also counts over 20 years of experience as a Radio Broadcaster with the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. Palitha is married to Regina and is the father of two sons, Sheriah and Sheramiah. His favorite pastimes are serving God, spending time with his family, and listening to the radio. 

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