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USA (MNN) – Even as Sutherland Springs, Texas reels in shock from Sunday’s attack, the quest for answers begins.  It’s undisputed that the small community of First Baptist Church was targeted.  It’s also undisputed that 26 people from toddler to senior citizens — four percent of the small town’s population — died at the hands of a gun-wielding suspect, Devin Patrick Kelley.

(Map capture courtesy of Google Maps)

There is a bigger question being investigated now.  Why?

Global Advance equips and empowers national church leaders to share the message of a Savior with their countrymen. Their context is usually in countries hostile to the Gospel or in developing nations.  However, this tragedy struck close to their hearts for two reasons: first, because it’s a church body; second, because it happened in Texas, home to the ministry headquarters.  Founder David Shibley shared some of his thoughts in the moments following the breaking news:

“Our hearts and prayers are with the families forever affected by the despicable massacre of innocent worshippers at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. This hideous display of cowardice defies reason. As we sort through this, we need to restate what we know for sure.

“As Scripture foretold, a spirit of lawlessness is now rampant in our nation and throughout much of the world. As followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we are to defy this by living and ministering in the opposite spirit. ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …’ (Galatians 5:22). By God’s grace we will be instruments of His peace and proclaimers of His gospel of peace. Among other things this means we as Christians must allow God’s Spirit to filter what we say and the tone in which we say it. God grant us both civility and holy boldness. Mere ranting against evil is pointless and powerless. ‘The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God’ (James 1:20, ESV).

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“Attacks against churches are increasing here and worldwide. This is part of a satanic scheme that seeks to intimidate Christian believers from living out our faith in public worship. Again, let’s defy this by ‘not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near’ (Hebrews 10:25, ESV). To some of you ‘tough guys’ who send your wife and kids to church while you sit at home and drink beer — put on your big boy pants, take the reins of spiritual leadership in your family, and get back in church! Today’s events ought to make every true believer want to stand up and be counted with God’s people. This isn’t said in anger but as a siren call for us all to rise to the challenge of our times.

“I’m sure no one went to First Baptist in Sutherland Springs this morning intending to become a martyr. But tragedy has thrust upon them this noble status. They are now safe in the arms of Jesus. They were faithful unto death. They will receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

“A final thought: We need to be sensitized in prayer, and we need to be sensitized in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are to overcome evil with good.”