“Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:10-13
Mere words cannot accurately portray what I felt Thursday as the news began to present a clearer picture of exactly what happened just a few miles down the road from my place of employment. The words “Chattanooga” and “terrorist attack” just don’t go together. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined my city undergoing such an horrific event.
Chattanooga, the city that I’ve called home my entire life (even though I’ve lived on the tip of northwest Georgia about a mile from Chattanooga for most of my 33 years), is not supposed to experience this type of thing. A cocktail of emotions like shock, grief, pain, fear, and anger was suddenly thrust upon the city that I love.
As I sit here still trying to process the reality of what took place in my hometown, nearly 24 hours after the cowardly attack that killed four U.S. Marine soldiers, my mind turns to the scripture at the opening of this blog post.
We’re going to hear plenty of flesh & blood reactions in the coming hours and days. The investigation will likely reveal more things that make us cringe. There will likely be a massive politicization of the events that took place on 7/16/15. Folks will blame everything from gun laws to Obama to all Muslims. But I will never forget the response of the Church in my city on this day.
I’ve never been prouder to be a part of the body of Christ in Chattanooga, Tennessee. There were prayer vigils, old fashioned pentecostal prayer meetings, and worship services across the city just hours after the gunman opened fire in two separate parts of our fine city.
The Church rallied together and said “not in our city.” And really, that’s the biggest story of the day for me. I’ve been a part of the Church in Chattanooga my whole life. I know many Church leaders in our fine city who lead strong, vibrant churches. There are countless men and women who I have always counted on to get a hold of God. Chattanooga is home to many prayer warrirors. So it’s with that background that I understand Thursday’s attack as more than simply a terrorist attack by what appears to be a young Islamic radical.
Thursday’s attack was not just a strike on our military. It was an attack on a city with a thriving body of Christ. It was an attack on a city that was recently named as one of the most bible conscious cities in America for the second straight year (Barna Group). And we, the Church in Chattanooga, will not take it lying down.
The Church, one writer of Scripture called it “the pillar and foundation of the truth”. The Church, strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. The Church, this army of prayer warriors who go to battle not with weapons and ammunition, but who fight on our knees pushing back against the evil forces that influence those who pull the trigger. The Church, this triumphant band of men and women who take a stand in this evil day. The Church, this entity that will not allow our citizens to be overrun with fear and intimidation.
We grieve with those who grieve. We mourn the loss of these incredible soldiers and we pray for the continued recovery of the injured like Chattanooga Police Sergeant Dennis Pedigo who’s heroic actions on Thursday likely saved many more lives.
The Church of Jesus Christ is activated and ready for a fight. The enemy will not take Chattanooga. His cohorts will not cause fear and terror to reign in our streets. Chattanooga belongs to Jesus and we, the Church, will go to battle on our knees to ensure it stays that way.