Late yesterday afternoon I heard the tragic news about the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It broke my heart to hear that seventeen teenagers and adults were heartlessly slaughtered in this horrific attack.
"Not again" has become my mantra every time I hear about the latest school shooting (eight school shootings so far in 2018.) And, of all the times for a shooting like this to take place, it happened on the same day when Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday collide.
April 20th, 1999 was the day my world was forever changed. That's when the Columbine High School massacre occured just across town from where I live. My wife is a public school teacher in the same school district and I knew a lot teens who went to Columbine. The news rattled me to my core, especially as, in the days that followed, I talked to and prayed with teenagers who had been impacted by the shooting as they gathered in the park adjacent to Columbine High School to mourn.
This tragic school shooting, now almost 19 years ago, led me to resign from pastoring a church that I loved to pursue Dare 2 Share full-time. I knew that, if I was going to be part of the solution, I had to go all in to mobilize teenagers to reach teenagers with the hope of Jesus.
And right now in Parkland, Florida there are thousands of teenagers who desperately need that hope. They need the hope of Jesus, the God/man who suffered like no person in human history and grieved like no one else could imagine. He is the only one who can genuinely feel their pain on the deepest level and bring comfort to their souls through his own shed blood on the cross.
So how should we as Christians react to the school shooting that happened in Florida yesterday? What can we do?
We mourn. There is a time to mourn, and this is it. We mourn for these teenagers. We mourn for their parents. We mourn for this school and the surviving teenagers and teachers who forever will be traumatized by these terrible events.
It is indeed strange that this shooting took place on Ash Wednesday. Yesterday was the beginning of Lent, a season where the church is petinent over sin for the 40 days leading up to Easter. Perhaps we should be petinent over our failure to reach out to the schools in our own areas...to pray for them, to care for them and to share the good news of Jesus with them.
We pray. We pray for God to act on behalf of this school in South Florida, its teachers, administrators, children and parents. We ask for him to comfort them in their grief. We also pray for the elementary, middle schools and high schools in our own community. We pray for their safety and salvation. Why not adopt your local high school to pray for on a consistent basis? Go to everyschool.com to adopt your school right now.
We support our local schools. It is time for churches to stop demonizing public schools and start reaching out to them. Let’s provide adults to support teachers, to help them grade papers, read with children and be available to serve. It may not prevent school shootings, but the more adults there are in a school, the better the chance that kids can be protected or taken to a safe place in an emergency situation.
Finally, we reach out. This nation needs the gospel now more than ever. We need to reach everyone with the hope of Jesus Christ.
Who knows how much violence has been averted because a potential killer or school shooter was led to Christ and had their soul transformed by the power of God. I know that, in my own family, the extreme violence that once characterized many of my family members was replaced with the love of God when someone reached them with the gospel message.
We must get the gospel out. We must reach teenagers and their teachers. We must reach our neighbors and co-workers. We must reach friends and strangers. Because only the gospel can transform hate into love and a potential shooter into a follower of Jesus.
On October 13th, 2018 we are hosting Dare 2 Share Live. Our goal is to mobilize 25,000 teenagers in 100 different cities from coast to coast to impact their cities and peers for Jesus. Our prayer is to equip them to share the Good News of Jesus with their friends and classmates and train them to make a difference at their schools. Eventually we'd love to be in hundreds of cities across the United States and mobilize hundreds of thousands of teenagers to be ambassadors of the hope of Christ at their schools.
It's time to take action. It's time to reach this next generation. It's a matter of life and death.