You walk through the front doors. Although you’ve been hearing about this church for a while, you’ve never actually been inside. You’re wondering about the kind of people who will be there, what the service will be like, and since you just finished a large latte, whether you’ll be able to find the bathroom fast enough. Wiping the rain from your glasses (you’re in Seattle), you’re hoping to see an information table or someone who can point you to the facilities. You weren’t expecting to see a bouncer.
At least, that’s what he looks like. He’s big, serious, and he’s wearing a tight, black shirt with “security” printed in large, white letters. Confused, you pause, looking around for Bibles or a cross or something. Is this really a church? What kind of church has security? Then, a few feet away, you see two uniformed police officers, obviously on duty. With their guns. In a church. Why would a church need this level of security? Is the governor visiting today?
No, it’s just a normal Sunday at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Every Sunday they provide significant levels of security at all their services, some more so than others. Explaining why this is necessary was the task of Nate Finn’s post, “Why Does a Church Need a Security Team?” And, to summarize his arguments, Finn offers the following basic reasons:
- Effective Worship: They want people to “be able to come to a Mars Hill Church service and worship in peace,” something made difficult at times by the fact that there are people in Seattle “who are simply opposed to our church and the gospel of Jesus.” Specifically, they’re concerned about “the integrity of the service and how people are receiving the Word that’s being preached.” If there’s a disruption in the service, the ministry of the Spirit might be impeded.
- Safe Environment: Given a number of prominent kidnappings and killings at churches in the US, they feel that it’s wise to provide some level of security in the church. Though Mars Hill has not yet faced any of these, they do struggle regularly with theft and vandalism. So, they see security as exemplifying wise stewardship.
- Biblical Model: Finn uses the example of Israel in Nehemiah’s day as prominent biblical support for providing security in the context of worship: “God told Nehemiah to place guards along the wall to protect his people and the work, and we must place guards within our walls to protect God’s people and the work of sharing the Gospel.”
And, he closes the post with a quote from Mark Driscoll:
Opposition only comes to those who are doing something. There are many people out there who live their life without being criticized or attacked because they spend their time lying on the couch with their finger up their nose not doing anything. There is no reason to oppose such people. So if you are doing something, expect opposition and be encouraged because you are doing something.
What do you think? Mars Hill receives a lot of questions and criticisms for its practice of providing security guards armed police officers at its worship services? Do you have any problem it? Do you see it as wise stewardship or a lack of faith? Being as shrewd as serpents or being conformed to the world? Gospel living or fearful hiding? Obviously those are extremes, so feel free to land in the middle somewhere.