Keeping Churches Safe at Christmas

Much like the stable and the manger kept the Christ child protected, and as the shepherds guarded their flocks in the fields by night, churches must now keep their congregations safe.

Many churches are considering safety measures they previously hadn’t thought about after a deadly shooting at a small Texas church last month rocked both that community and the nation. Suddenly, pastors and church leaders are thinking about safety—no matter the size of the church.

The American Pastors Network, the largest national network dedicated to equipping pastors to be a voice for truth in the public square, has been focusing on church security by guiding pastors in the wake of the Texas tragedy.

In 2015, LifeWay Research conducted a study to learn more about church attendance patterns during Christmastime, reported Christianity Today. Historically, Christmastime attracts more visitors than perhaps any other time of the year. In fact, for the survey, LifeWay found that six out of 10 Americans typically attend church at Christmastime. Among those who don’t attend at Christmas, a majority (57 percent) say they would likely attend if someone they knew invited them.

With these trends in mind, church leaders know they will welcome many visitors through the doors this month. And with church security front and center, some churches need a starting place to keep everyone inside the church safe.

“Over the past several weeks, leaders of the American Pastors Network have had many conversations with pastors who want to make safety a priority in their churches, but don’t know where to start,” said APN President Sam Rohrer. “We live in a time where we now must acknowledge the harsh reality that the church sanctuary does not shield us from the evils of this world. Especially knowing that more people will visit American churches this month perhaps than any other time of year, the American Pastors Network wants to help church leaders as they make plans that will keep churchgoers safe—and so that many visitors will feel welcomed and want to return in the new year.”

After having internal meetings and conference calls on the matter, and while addressing the topic on “Stand in the Gap Today,” the daily radio ministry of APN, leaders developed recommendations for churches to consider when it comes to the important matter of church security.

  1. Understand the biblical and moral responsibility of safety. It is the duty of pastors and church leadership to do all they can to protect the lives of those in the congregation.
  2. Develop and train a security team.Dedicate certain individuals, whether staff or volunteers, to undertake the important issue of security. Train these personnel how to identify potential threats and how to de-escalate potential threat situations. During services or functions, outfit the team in plain clothes.
  3. Perform a risk assessment.Where is the church vulnerable in its facility and grounds? Consider a community threat assessment as well.
  4. Implement security protocols.Consider these suggestions: 1) Lock doors after services begin; 2) Post security team members at entrances; 3) Conduct a regular, annual re-assessment of the security plan.
  5. Install security cameras.Consider video surveillance to document and record potential threats or incidents.
  6. Establish a medical response team.Mobilize medical personnel already within the congregation who can take action if injuries ever occur.
  7. Evaluate the legal parameters for security measures.Research insurance requirements and conduct a liability assessment. Identify state civil laws regarding security measures, which can vary from state to state.
  8. Create an evacuation plan.Be sure the security team knows how to best evacuate churchgoers of all ages and mobility ranges, and consider creating another key team to assist. Practice the plan through drills.
  9. Involve local law enforcement in the security plan.Tell local police departments and other emergency responders about the security plan, perhaps through an evening meeting. They may be able to offer additional suggestions or protocols.
  10. Communicate the new or existing security measures with the congregation.Members will appreciate knowing the church has a plan to keep them safe.

Has Political Correctness Silenced Us?

The Greek poet Euripides was known to say that “Silence is true wisdom’s best reply.”

But when it comes to discussing political views in this sometimes-tempestuous society, many are taking the stance that silence—especially in difficult conversations about politics, religion and other controversial topics—is preferred and safer.

As evidence, the American Pastors Network, the largest national network dedicated to equipping pastors to be a voice for truth in the public square, is pointing to a new Cato Institute study that found 71 percent of Americans say political correctness has silenced some of the discussions society must have, and 58 percent have political views they are afraid to share.

APN President Sam Rohrer says these findings are telling in regards to how Americans interact with each other, the cultural climate and the role of the church in these important conversations.

“The most pressing topics in our society are not being discussed because a culture has been created that silences our voices,” Rohrer said. “This can be due to a variety of reasons, including fear, isolation or ridicule. These are the topics, however, Americans should be discussing, and especially Christians as they hopefully bring the truth of God’s Word to our everyday conversations. Furthermore, how does this translate to the Church? We pray pastors are not silencing themselves as well, but we know that many choose not to address from the pulpit the crucial matters in our culture for whatever reason.

“One of the missional goals of the American Pastors Network is to encourage biblically faithful clergy to take seriously Jesus’ command to be the ‘salt and light’ to the culture, encourage informed Christian thinking about contemporary social issues, examine public policy issues without politicizing their pulpits and engage their congregations in taking part in the political process on a non-partisan basis,” Rohrer added. “We certainly can’t act as salt and light by hiding the light of God’s truth under a bushel, which is exactly what we resort to when we keep silent in an increasingly PC culture.”

The Cato 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, which polled 2,300 U.S. adults, also found that political party somewhat dictated how people felt about silencing their conversations. For example, a slim majority (53 percent) of Democrats do not feel the need to self-censor. Conversely, strong majorities of Republicans (73 percent) and independents (58 percent) say they keep some political beliefs to themselves.

Cato also reported, “A solid majority (59 percent) of Americans think people should be allowed to express unpopular opinions in public, even those deeply offensive to others. On the other hand, 40 percent think government should prevent hate speech.”

Despite this, the survey also found Americans willing to censor, regulate, or punish a wide variety of speech and expression they personally find offensive:

  • 51 percent of staunch liberals say it’s “morally acceptable” to punch Nazis.
  • 53 percent of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
  • 51 percent of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people’s preferred gender pronouns.
  • 65 percent of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
  • 58 percent of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
  • 47 percent of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
  • 59 percent of liberals say it’s hate speech to say transgender people have a mental disorder; only 17 percent of conservatives agree.
  • 39 percent of conservatives believe it’s hate speech to say the police are racist; only 17 percent of liberals agree.
  • 80 percent of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say illegal immigrants should be deported; only 36 percent of conservatives agree.
  • 87 percent of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say women shouldn’t fight in military combat roles, while 47 percent of conservatives agree.
  • 90 percent of liberals say it’s hateful or offensive to say homosexuality is a sin, while 47 percent of conservatives agree.

“These findings, especially the chasms between liberals and conservatives when it comes to moral and biblical issues such as a homosexuality, immigration, religion and gender, are especially important for church leaders,” Rohrer added. “While every pastor must first and foremost preach the whole counsel of God and reveal the Bible’s truth without waver, it is helpful to know where the people in the pews stand and the conversations they are having—or not having—regarding these important matters.”

10 Action Steps Every Church Should Consider Regarding Security

More than a week after the horrific, tragic and frightening shooting at a rural Texas church, many church leaders are thinking seriously about their own church security and what may need to be done to protect their congregations.

Leaders from the American Pastors Network, the largest national network dedicated to equipping pastors to be a voice for truth in the public square, have discussed the tragedy with pastors, held strategic conference calls on the topic and addressed the news on the APN radio ministry, “Stand in the Gap Today” (listen here and here), heard on 425 stations around the country.

“Unfortunately, church security is now a pressing matter in our nation,” said APN President Sam Rohrer. “No longer can we fully count on the peaceful and serene sanctuary of the church. It’s clear that those with evil intentions, whether against the church itself or those inside, have sought to steal and kill and destroy, as we witnessed at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Because of the magnitude of the destruction of lives there through violence, church leaders are now considering demolishing the church building, after the hopes and dreams of 26 lives were demolished on November 5. We live in a culture where our churches must seriously think about how to keep people safe. Just as a shepherd carries a staff to guard his sheep, so must every pastor employ ways to protect his flock.”

After conversations over the past week, Rohrer and other APN leaders developed recommendations for churches to consider when it comes to the important matter of church security.

  1. Understand the biblical and moral responsibility of church safety. It is the duty of pastors and church leadership to do all they can to protect the lives of those in the congregation. Scripture sets forth clear responsibilities for those in positions of authority. They are to lead (II Tim 4:2, Hebrews 13:17); teach (James 3:1, Jeremiah 3:15, Eph. 4:11-12); protect (Ezekiel 34:1-10, I Peter 2:5, Acts 20:28) and serve (I Peter 5:1-4). The Bible also gives examples  of watchmen and gatekeepers who were to guard the temple and the city in Old Testament times (I Chron. 23:5, I Chron. 26:1-19, Neh. 7:1-3, II Sam. 18:26); and shepherds who were to guard the sheep in the New Testament (a type of Christ and the true Church of believers) (John 10:1-3). The church should be a place of both spiritual and physical safety. The Pastor, especially, is to guard the church from false doctrine, and those who would take advantage of the “sheep” both morally and physically, as the churches in Revelation were commended for their watchfulness and condemned for their failure in this area (Rev. 2:2, Rev 2:20). To listen to a Stand in the Gap Radio program with more on  this topic, please click HERE.
  2. Develop and train a security team.Dedicate certain individuals, whether staff or volunteers, to undertake the important issue of security. Train these personnel how to identify potential threats and how to de-escalate potential threat situations. During services or functions, outfit the team in plain clothes.
  3. Perform a risk assessment.Where is the church vulnerable in its facility and grounds? Consider a community threat assessment as well.
  4. Implement security protocols.Consider these suggestions: 1) Lock doors after services begin; 2) Post security team members at entrances; 3) Conduct a regular, annual re-assessment of the security plan.
  5. Install security cameras.Consider video surveillance to document and record potential threats or incidents.
  6. Establish a medical response team.Mobilize medical personnel already within the congregation who can take action if injuries ever occur.
  7. Evaluate the legal parameters for security measures.Research insurance requirements and conduct a liability assessment. Identify state civil laws regarding security measures, which can vary from state to state.
  8. Create an evacuation plan.Be sure the security team knows how to best evacuate churchgoers of all ages and mobility ranges, and consider creating another key team to assist. Practice the plan through drills.
  9. Involve local law enforcement in the security plan.Tell local police departments and other emergency responders about the security plan, perhaps through an evening meeting. They may be able to offer additional suggestions or protocols.
  • Communicate the new or existing security measures with the congregation.Members will appreciate knowing the church has a plan to keep them safe.

Photo by Daniil Kuželev on Unsplash

American Pastors Network Responds to Texas Church Mass Shooting That Left 26 Dead and 20 Wounded

Encourages Day of Prayer for First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs While Warning Congregations Regarding Safety Measures

Sam Rohrer, President of the American Pastors Network , has issued this statement for publication over the weekend regarding the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  

“The American Pastors Network has been standing in the gap for truth around America. We grieve today with our friends in Texas who have suffered unspeakable tragedy at the hands of an armed killer. We encourage pastors in Texas and beyond to join us in a day of prayer for the people of Sutherland Springs.”  

While the investigation continues, this tragedy has forced America’s pastors to reevaluate preparation with their local congregations. In addition to praying for those impacted by this tragedy, Rohrer encourages ministers to consider how to best protect their member.

The reaction of these two local residents is a reminder to all people who love truth, love people and hate evil. There are two principles here that are instructive. First, all that evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing. When good people act appropriately, evil is stopped. Second, we must always be prepared and committed to respond to evil at a moment’s notice. To delay could mean loss of life, loss of freedom, or the success of evil.”

Gary G. Dull, Executive Director of the PA Pastors Network, has also issued the following statement:

“On Sunday November 5, 2017, after many of us attended the church of our choice, we heard that Devin Patrick Kelly, a ‘dishonorably discharged’ member of the United States Air Force, walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and shot nearly 50 people, 26 of whom were killed, including Pastor Frank Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter. What a tragedy! It is interesting this took place on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church for which many of us who attended church yesterday spent time in prayer.

“No one knows why Kelly went on this shooting spree, but we do understand that his in-laws attended the First Baptist Church that he massacred. Having been killed after fleeing the premise, there will be no opportunity to interrogate Kelly to discover his motive for the shooting, although I am sure an investigation will be conducted into the history of his life and actions.

“When things like this take place we all ask, ‘Why?’ Many will immediately say it is a gun issue. Yes, Devin Patrick Kelly used a gun, but the gun is not the main issue. There were many people killed even before guns were invented, so banning guns is not the answer.

“Some will ask, ‘Where was God as those people gathered to worship Him in Sutherland Springs?’ God was where He always is, governing every aspect of the universe to honor and glorify His name. Ultimately the result of this tragedy will be a stronger church, a united community and God will be glorified.

“The answer to why such tragedies occur is found in the total depravity of mankind. In other words, mankind is sinful at its core. Jeremiah 17:9 says, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ Only after one allows his or her heart to be changed through faith in Jesus Christ as personal Savior will events like this be reduced.

“As a pastor, my heart goes out to pastor Frank Pomeroy who has a very heavy burden in trying to support, strengthen and rebuild his broken congregation. We must all pray for him, as well as for the rest of his congregation, the church leadership, family members of the victims, the entire Sutherland Springs community and churches across America. In time, God will heal the broken hearts of those involved as Psalm 34:18 teaches: ‘The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart.’

“These days churches are considered ‘soft targets’ for those who have a desire to inflict terror where a group of people are gathered. Therefore, the leadership of every church, no matter what the size of the congregation may be, must be vigilant and prepared in advance in the case that a shooter should show up at a church gathering. This preparation must involve having a trained security team present at all events and a plan to protect the congregation should a shooter appear.

“In the meantime, we must pray for the devastated and brokenhearted First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, remembering God Himself is the healer of the brokenhearted.

“In addition, we all must remember God is our greatest protector. Psalm 121 reminds us He never sleeps and never slumbers, but watches over us with His care all of the time. We can be assured as we go throughout our day, God is there and His care and provision is with us for He has promised to ‘never leave or forsake us.’

“I offer the following suggestions in light of the shooting in Texas:

  • Christians across America must pray earnestly for the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas and their leadership as they work to recover from this tragedy and endeavor to strengthen the congregation.
  • Every church must make efforts to have qualified security teams prepared to protect the congregation that gathers to worship, no matter the size of the congregation.
  • We all must recognize we are in a spiritual battle and are not just facing flesh and blood but the evil forces of Satan that desire to bring fear and destruction into the hearts of all people.
  • We must remember that God is in control and will always work to perform His perfect will and purpose in our lives as we trust Him to provide for us.
  • We should acknowledge that Christians will suffer persecution which will become even more intense as we draw closer to the return of Christ according to 2 Timothy 3:12.
  • We must all be vigilant and alert as to what is going on around us and be prepared for anything that may come our way according to 1 Peter 5:8.

“Pray for pastor Frank Pomeroy and the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.”

To listen to a Stand in the Gap Radio program on “The Biblical Perspective on Self Defense and Church Security” including practical tips to incorporate a church security program, please click HERE.

To read a complete article featured on Lifezette by APN President, Sam Rohrer, please click HERE.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

New Study Finds Most Pastors Feel Supported and Energized

With Pastor Appreciation Month now concluded, parishioners can rest assured that their gestures of thankfulness did not go unnoticed, as a new study from Barna research found that most pastors feel supported and energized.

The call to pastoral ministry has its unique benefits and challenges, which Barna explored in partnership with Pepperdine University in a major study of how Protestant senior pastors in the U.S. navigate life and leadership in an age of complexity. The American Pastors Networkwhich frequently welcomes George Barna to its radio ministry, “Stand in the Gap Today,” aims to be a support system to pastors around the country by offering useful resources, motivating events and fulfilling relationships with fellow pastors.

“Serving God’s call as a pastor may be one of the most challenging occupations in the world, but it can also be one of the most rewarding,” said APN President Sam Rohrer. “Therefore, it’s encouraging that most pastors feel fulfilled in their roles, as well as supported by those around them and energized by their work. The American Pastors Network seeks to be another support system for pastors, who can sometimes feel isolated, unappreciated and overwhelmed. We seek to lift up pastors through events that encourage and equip them to speak truth from the pulpit, as well as inform them about the subjects that are impacting our culture daily so pastors can respond from a biblical and constitutional perspective.”

The recent Barna research sought to give insight to pastors’ general wellbeing: Are they satisfied with their quality of life? How is their physical, emotional and spiritual health? Are they motivated and supported, or do they struggle with exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy? Some of the results include the following:

  • Overall, 91 percent of pastors are satisfied with their quality of life, compared to 78 percent of practicing Christians and 62 percent of all U.S. adults.
  • 67 percent of pastors feel positive about their physical health (compared to 73 percent of Christians and 55 percent of all adults), 88 percent feel good about their spiritual health (87 percent Christians, 60 percent all adults), and 85 percent of pastors are satisfied with their emotional health (79 percent Christians, 63 percent all adults).
  • 73 percent of pastors are frequently motivated to become a better leader, 68 percent frequently feel well-supported by the people close to them, and 60 percent are frequently energized by their work, as opposed to 22 percent, 43 percent and 24 percent of all adults, respectively.
  • However, pastors say they are sometimes plagued by feelings of inadequacy about their work (42 percent) or emotional/mental exhaustion (25 percent), while 70 percent of all adults say they sometimes experience feeling of inadequacy and 45 percent of adults say they are sometimes emotionally or mentally exhausted.

Read the entire Barna study here. Barna research is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends since 1984.

American Pastors Network Planning Pilgrimage to Biblical History Center of Israel in March; Christians Called to Stand with God’s Chosen Ones

As headlines continue to come out of Israel during one of the world’s most turbulent times, the American Pastors Network  regularly creates a dialogue about the matters that should be important to all Christians, especially through its daily radio ministry, “Stand in the Gap Today.”

APN President Sam Rohrer, along with “Stand in the Gap Today” co-hosts Gary Dull of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN,www.papastors.net) and Dave Kistler of the North Carolina Pastors Network (NCPN, www.ncpastors.net), works to engages listeners by considering today’s news from a constitutional and biblical perspective—including headlines from the Holy Land.

“News from Israel should be extremely critical to Christians,” Rohrer said. “And the importance of Israel to today’s Christian leaders cannot be overstated. The simple reason we must support the State of Israel is because God does. The Jews are His chosen people, and He gave His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He would not only bless them but also bless every nation that blesses them and curse every nation that curses them. Throughout history, God has miraculously protected the Jewish people although the nations around them have sought to annihilate them. 

“Additionally, we cannot ignore the biblical significance of standing with God’s chosen people in Israel,” Rohrer continued. “What America does in relationship to the support of Israel is the difference between experiencing God’s blessing or God’s judgment on our nation. Additionally, Israel has long been America’s strongest ally in the Middle East, continues to be the only truly democratic nation in that region and is the only nation in the Middle East that allows true religious freedom.”

Because of the important ties between the U.S. and Israel, as well as the impact on today’s churches, the American Pastors Network will co-host an upcoming trip to Israel, partnering with Prophecy Today, led by Jimmy DeYoung, for a tour beginning March 7, 2018. During the trip, travelers can experience Israel like never before, and see the sights and sounds of the Holy Land while considering Israel’s past, examining current events in light of biblical prophecy and understanding God’s plan for the future.

APN noted that especially pastors who take a pilgrimage to Israel find the experience to be personally rewarding, and those rewards flow into their ministry, as they return to their congregations with new passion, a deeper spiritual relationship with Christ and a Bible that went from black and white to color.

Photo by David Rodrigo on Unsplash

5 Reasons and 5 Ways to Honor Pastors During Pastors Appreciation Month

October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and while churchgoers might think the “good sermon, pastor” sentiments they give on their way out the door is enough, today’s church leaders serve as a light to millions of people in a dark world.

Perhaps at no other time in history have America’s pastors been more needed in this culturally significant time, says the American Pastors Network.

For that reason, APN is suggesting five reasons and five ways to appreciate and honor pastors this month.

“We know from research that pastors can feel isolated and sometimes unappreciated,” said APN board member Gary Dull, who also serves as executive director of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN, www.papastors.net) and leads a church in Altoona, Pa. “Those feelings can sometime lead to early burnout, and today’s churches need committed pastors who are sold out to preaching the whole counsel of God now more than ever. Even a small word of encouragement or gesture of appreciation can make all the difference in a pastor’s life. And what better time than Pastor Appreciation Month!”

5 Reasons to Appreciate Pastors

  1. Pastors are “on call” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They often must break away from their own families to help someone in the church through a difficult situation.
  2. Pastors are selfless and make daily sacrifices for their congregations.
  3. Pastors make the Word of God and His Truth plain and simple so we may apply it to our everyday lives.
  4. Pastors are people, too! Churches tend to put their leaders on a pedestal, but they also have joys and struggles, hobbies and favorite things.
  5. Pastors have followed God’s call to give up their own life and their own desires to serve others.

5 Ways to Appreciate Pastors

  1. Tag your pastor in a social media post with the hashtag #pastorappreciation and tell your friends, family and fellow church members what you appreciate about your pastor.
  2. Send a personal thank you note or card and let your pastor know how your life has been bettered.
  3. Make and deliver dinner to your pastor’s family, invite them to your home or take them out for a meal, not only to express appreciation, but to also get to know them better.
  4. Find out your pastor’s hobbies and interests, and consider giving a gift card or certificate for an experience to enjoy “off duty.”
  5. Give your pastor a gift from the APN online store, which includes resources that will rejuvenate and refresh your pastor. Now through the end of October, use the code MYPASTOR for a 25 percent discount on the purchase of the U-Turn DVD set, which are recordings from an APN church leader conference and transformative information.

New Study Finds That Americans’ Opinions on Abortion Can Be Confusing and Polarizing

American Pastors Network: How Should the Church Respond?

As the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would outlaw abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy, the American Culture & Faith Institute is releasing a new survey on Americans’ views on abortion, which, say the researchers, can be confusing and polarizing.

According to ACFI and lead researcher George Barna, who is a frequent guest on the American Pastors Network radio ministry “Stand in the Gap Today,” 47 percent of adults claim to be pro-choice, substantially more than the 38 percent who claim to be pro-life. Another 8 percent said they held neither position, and the remaining 8 percent were not sure.

“However,” Barna reported, “when the intensity of one’s position is taken into account, the difference between the two sides is reduced. Overall, 31 percent said they were strongly pro-choice compared to 24 percent who said they were strongly pro-life.”

APN board member and “Stand in the Gap Today” co-host Gary Dull said news about the study and the pain-capable act are especially timely in October—Abortion Recovery Awareness Month and Respect Life Month.

“In the church, we can’t assume that every person sitting in the pews is passionately and strongly pro-life,” Dull said. “They may be confused about their views on abortion, or they may waver with the culture or even with personal experience. That’s why is still crucial that pastors and the church stand up for life and not take for granted that all churchgoers realize that God created every life in His image from the moment of conception. He values these unborn children of God and has placed them in our protection.”

The ACFI study also found that 56 percent of Americans want abortion to be legal, but that view is dependent upon the circumstances:

  • Less than one-quarter (23 percent) want abortion to be legal under any and all circumstances.
  • One-third (33 percent) want abortion to be legal under most but not all circumstances.
  • Another one-quarter (24 percent) want the practice to be illegal under most circumstances.
  • Only one out of 10 adults (10 percent) wants to outlaw abortion in all situations.
  • 11 percent were not sure.

A double-digit percentage of those surveyed are also confused about the morality of abortion, with 36 percent stating that abortion is immoral, while close to one-fourth (23 percent) say abortion is a moral act, while a similar proportion (24 percent) says that abortion is not a moral issue. The remaining 16 percent do not know.

Still more perplexing are Americans’ contradictory views on the legalization of abortion. One-third say abortion is murder and yet they believe it should be legal. Three out of 10 adults (29 percent) argue that life starts at conception and yet they support the legalization of abortion.

Dull added that pastors and churches should especially pay attention to the views on the value of life, as Americans provided numerous answers on what makes a human life valuable:

  • 38 percent say that people are made in the image of God or that life is a gift from God.
  • 17 percent said that life is of value by the mere fact that we exist, while the same proportion attributed the value of life to our potential to become something greater or more productive.
  • 14 percent said the value of life comes from what we are able to accomplish.
  • 4 percent think life matters and is valued because humans can identify a purpose for living.
  • 2 percent said life does not have value.
  • 8 percent said they are not sure how to identify whether and why life has value.

Read the full American Culture & Faith Institute study here.

Pennsylvania Pastors Network Leader Says Lehigh County Must Stand for Constitutional Law After Judge Rules Cross Must Be Removed from Seal

A federal judge last week ruled that a cross must be removed from the Lehigh County seal in Pennsylvania because it is violates the U.S. Constitution, reported Fox News and several other outlets.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the suit on behalf on four Pennsylvania residents, who claimed the cross was offensive. According to Fox News, U.S. District Judge Edward Smith “made it known in his ruling that he was not happy about the decision he had to make but was following the rule of constitutional law, including the establishment clause, which states that Congress may not pass any laws establishing a religion.”

“It is obvious to me that Judge Smith failed to recognize the truth of the United States Constitution and the historical background of our nation and Lehigh County,” said Gary Dull, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN, www.papastors.net), a state chapter of the American Pastors Network. “The First Amendment of the Constitution states that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’ Having a cross in the center of the Lehigh County seal is not in any way ‘establishing’ a religion by county founders, leaders or citizens. Therefore, the opinion of Judge Smith is unconstitutional in that it both prohibits the free exercise of people of faith who historically were and are a part of the county and also fails to recognize the Judeo-Christian heritage upon which our nation, of which Lehigh County is a part, was founded. 

“In his own statement, the judge said that ‘the court does not believe the current state of law applicable to this case comports with the text of the Establishment Clause,’ and so in the mind of any sensible person, that ends the argument,” added Dull, who is the senior pastor at Faith Baptist Church of Altoona in Blair County. “For the judge to then rule in favor of the plaintiffs is an act of twisting the wording of the First Amendment in an effort to make it say what it does not according to original intent. The citizens of Lehigh County, whether they are religious or not, must stand up for constitutional law if indeed the integrity of the court system is to remain in compliance with the law of the land. America is a nation of law based upon a Constitution that has lasted for nearly two and half centuries and is not based on the whims and opinions of individual citizens. The best thing any judge or citizen can do to maintain the strength of our country is to follow the law of the Constitution, interpret it accordingly and refuse to allow personal opinion, politics, philosophy, desire or pressure from those who oppose the basic principles of our nation to take away from what America has been about from the time of its founding.”

Judge Smith wrote in his ruling that “While the court does not believe the current state of the law applicable to this case comports with the text of the Establishment Clause, the court is not in a position to reject it. The law, as it currently stands, requires that the court rule in favor of the plaintiffs: the inclusion of the cross lacked a secular purpose both when the defendant adopted the seal and when the defendant refused to remove the cross from the seal, and a reasonable observer would perceive the seal as endorsing Christianity.”

Lehigh County will now have to redesign the seal, in use since 1944, which includes a Latin cross near the center, as well as a heart, bison, silos and other imagery. The seal appears on flags, buildings, letterhead and legal documents, as well as the county website.

APN President Sam Rohrer also spoke with WFMZ-TV in eastern Pennsylvania about the ruling. View here.

Pastor Offers Biblical Perspective on Las Vegas Shooting

As the investigation continues into the mass shooting in Las Vegas last night, and as Americans continue to wait for word on family members visiting the popular location, leaders from the American Pastors Network  are considering the tragedy from a biblical perspective.

The mass shooting that took place last night at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas is, above everything else, a clear indication of the spiritual depravity of mankind,” said APN leader and Pastor, Gary Dull, who also serves as executive director of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN,www.papastors.net). “How a 64-year-old man who, according to his brother, never really had an interest in guns was able to randomly shoot at the distance of over 300 yards and kill at least 58 people and injure more than 500 others is truly in accordance with what Jesus Christ teaches about the mission of Satan in John 10:10—to ‘steal, kill and destroy.’

“Yes, this event that is stated to be the deadliest shooting in American history is truly devilish and from the pit of hell,” Dull continued. “There are still many unanswered questions about the background of the shooter, but the fact remains that this was a terrible massacre as innocent people were shot at random by a depraved individual. Many officials have yet been willing to call this an act of terror, but in reality it was a terrorist action. We know that Satan is the chief terrorist of the ages and will do all that he can to bring fear into the hearts and minds of us all. Are we to give into that fear? Not at all. The Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7 that ‘God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.’ Therefore, we should determine to not live in fear but live by faith.”

Dull added that as the world watches the facts develop from this tragedy in the days to come, pastors across America will consider how to bring the event into a biblical perspective for their congregations. Dull says that consideration will include several concepts:

  1. It is the total depravity of mankind born into sin that leads to this type of action of killing and injuring so many.
  2. Christian citizens should not live in fear but fully trust in the Lord to face such events with courage and strength.
  3. Churches and pastors must be about the ministry of evangelizing the lost, as this tragedy would not have occurred if the shooter had known Christ as his personal Savior.
  4. Events like this are a part of the “perilous times” that 2 Timothy 3:1 states will come and will continue to increase in the “last days” before the return of Jesus Christ.
  5. All must be ready to meet the Lord by knowing Him as a personal Savior and serving Him according to His will.
  6. Believers must encourage one another with biblical truth in light of such events, so as to be able to properly represent Christ to the world that struggles to find answers in times like these.
  7. Americans must pray for one another, for the citizens of our nation, for the families of those who were killed or wounded in the attack, for our political leaders and law enforcement officials as they deal with the situation, and for the Church of Jesus Christ to stand tall as the “pillar and the ground of the truth” in times such as these.
  8. Christians should ask God if there are further spiritual lessons to learn in light of this terrible event and order our lives accordingly.