I again found myself horrified and saddened to learn of the shooting at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois yesterday. In front of some 150 people in attendance at the church’s 8:15 a.m. service, a lone gunman fatally shot the church’s pastor of 22 years.
My wife and I have friends in that congregation. They are numb, shocked, grief-stricken, and devastated. Yet their faith remains strong. As Christians we know that God’s specialty is turning bad situations into opportunities to bring glory to Himself. Jesus tells us in Scripture, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b, ESV)
Already in the hours since this seemingly senseless attack, church members, reporters, and everyday people have sought to do just that: make some sense out of what happened. From all accounts, the gunman suffered from some form of mental illness — and if he survives his own self-inflicted wounds, the new quandry will be the age-old issue of justice and what that looks like under these circumstances.
As I watched Good Morning America today and listened to the church’s Children’s Minister, I was heartened by the faith of the people — who in a time of unthinkable tragedy and trial — will turn to God and to each other for comfort, for guidance, for healing, and for re-focusing on those things that are most important in life.
I believe with all my heart that Pastor Fred Winters is worshipping now as never before, in the very presence of the Lord. Join me in praying for his family, his church, and his community as they pick up the pieces of life — moment by moment.
Pray that in the face of this tragedy believers would shine even more brightly — and glorify the Father in heaven.