The president of our church’s denomination, Converge, responds to the recent shooting in Las Vegas:
Monday morning I made the long drive from Arizona to California to join our team at the Exponential West Church Planting Conference. Converge exists to help people meet, know and follow Jesus by starting and strengthening churches together worldwide, so I love gatherings where I am reminded of the power of the gospel and the role of the church to bring help, hope and healing to this world. To prepare my heart, I made the decision to make the six-hour drive without technology, a rest from the noise that constantly invades my mind, concluding with an extended time of reflection. God gave me the time of refreshment that I needed.
Soon after arriving at the conference, one of our church planters mentioned there was a shooting in Las Vegas. When I heard this, I chose to end my “technology fast” to find out what he was talking about. This is what I read:
“Country music star Jason Aldean was performing Sunday night at the end of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival when the gunman opened fire across the street from inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. A gunman perched high on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas Strip casino unleashed a shower of bullets down on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 59 people and leaving at least 527 injured as thousands of frantic concert-goers screamed and ran for their lives, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Monday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.” (CBS News/Associated Press)
There are so many thoughts that run through my head. My hope is that as I let you see my thoughts, two things would happen: first, you would see I am just as fragile as the next guy, and second, my thought process may help you process recent events.
Thought one: This hurts.
Every person matters to God; therefore, they matter to us. I can’t imagine what is going through the hearts and minds of those who lost loved ones in Las Vegas Sunday night. I can’t imagine their pain in this moment, but I can draw from the pain in my past to suffer with them and pray for them.
I choose to ask God to be the God of all comfort that Paul described in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
Thought two: The world is falling apart!
I’m confused, shocked and frustrated at the facts of this incident as they continue to unfold. Who would do this? Why? How does someone get 42 guns into a hotel room and nobody notice? All this comes just a couple weeks after three hurricanes swept through the southeast and personally affected us, the families of our staff in the Caribbean, many friends in Texas and millions of others. Add to that the controversies involving tweets, nukes, earthquakes, protests, etc., and you have a world on edge. It’s true, the world is falling apart – but scripture reminds us that it has been this way since the garden of Eden.
Knowing we live in a fallen world permits me to stop trying to place blame and instead place hope. Today’s world is in trouble, yet Jesus’ world wasn’t much different. The night before he went to the cross he said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Thought three: We are not a people of fear, but of faith.
We should not be surprised when bad things happen in a fallen world full of broken people. In the midst of the chaos, questions and uncertainty, we have clarity. God is bigger than any circumstance we will ever face, and our faith will be tested, because a faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.
So we choose to trust—that God is good, that God is powerful and that God is a redeemer—he can take what is broken, fallen and seems unfixable and he will make it new. He is the God who brings beauty from ashes (Isa. 61:3). So we choose to trust. As the Psalmist said: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Thought four: The only hope for this world is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our world has many needs—freedom from tyranny, food for the hungry, justice for the oppressed, answers for cancer and other diseases, an end to persecution and many other things. Yet in the end, this world needs more than better response to the crises of life. It needs a savior! The gospel is the only power that can truly transform people, communities or countries. We cannot settle for behavior modifications. True change always takes heart transformation and only God can change a heart.
The church is uniquely positioned to respond to crisis with compassion, generosity and hope. It is time for the church to be the church. Pray with me for those who were impacted by this tragedy in Las Vegas.
We must pray, but we must also speak and act as ambassadors who carry the message of hope, life and peace. We must weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. We must encourage the disheartened and help the weak. We must speak out against injustice, give hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless and bring healing to the hurting. Everywhere the church exists should be transformed because of our presence and our actions.
The writer of Psalm 46 lived in a world of difficulty, tyranny and trouble. Life did not go as planned. There was war, natural disasters, famine and disease. Yet in the midst of all this, the Psalmist chose to focus on the character of God, not the chaos of his circumstances. His God was ever-present, all powerful and good. In the midst of the trials of life he chose to trust. Our world needs to see that kind of faith in us.
May God give you grace, through the power of his Holy Spirit, the truth of Scriptures and the fellowship of his people to know how to give hope, help and healing to this world. Be the church.
Scott Ridout, Converge President