How Do Christians Respond to Tragedy

How do Christians Respond to Tragedy?The tragedy that happened last week in Newtown, Connecticut was a reminder to Christians everywhere that they live in a fallen, broken, evil world. Innocent elementary students getting shot is not right, in fact, it’s down right evil. We are torn between compassion for the families effected and anger for the person who is responsible for this senseless act. But it’s a reminder that the world is not how it should be, it is fallen and broken because of one word-sin. It would be easy to get into a theological conversation and explain the effects of the fall and try to explain how it has and is messing up our world, but that’s not my intention here. My goal in this post is to share a few thoughts on how Christians practically should respond to tragedy whether it’s tragedy in their life personally or in the world around them.

Mourn. We should never try to avoid our first response to tragedy which is to mourn. Christians must not think mourning is “not spiritual,” but should embrace a season of mourning because it’s a natural emotional response. In fact, our Savior when He was on earth mourned. In John 11:35 it says that Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus. Not only did our Savior mourn, but Scripture tells Christians to weep with those who weep. So when tragedy hits, don’t be afraid to mourn and when tragedy hits someone else, mourn with them.

Don’t try to have all the answers. I’m guilty of this myself. As the events of last weeks shooting in Newtown unfolded, you saw tons of tweets and Facebook status that either had a “clever Christian saying” or someone trying to explain why things like this happen. The most honest and respectful thing you can do when tragedy strikes is to humbly mourn and reach out to the One who does have all the answers and that is God. Whether you’re the one facing the tragedy personally or are a spectator watching tragedy unfold in someone else’s life, don’t try to “fix” it or make it seem better with right answers. We are all sinners who live in a fallen world, cry out to Jesus.

Trust God’s Sovereignty. I want to be careful here because I could very well fall into the trap of trying to have all the right answers. But I do know that God is sovereign, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to believe and understand that God is sovereign, totally in control, when something as evil and senseless happens, like it did  last week in Newtown. But somehow He is. This is why I cringe when people say, “Where was God when these shootings happened” or “If we put God back in school this might have not happened.” Christians, God didn’t go anywhere and just because the Ten Commandments don’t hang on the wall of our school doesn’t mean God isn’t in the schools. In fact, God is everywhere and there is nothing we can do that can change that. Check out Psalm 139:7-8. In his book Radical, David Platt says, “We can rest confident in the fact that nothing will happen to us in this world apart from the gracious will of a sovereign God. Nothing.” How does this work when we hear about innocent children getting shot and tragedy hits homes? I don’t know, but we Christians cannot allow this fallen world to make them forget that our God is sovereign.

Hope in Christ and the good news of the Gospel! Suffering and tragedy are a part of this world. But as Christians, it should remind us that our hope is in Christ and the Gospel reminds us that God is in the process of reconciling His creation back to Himself and one day it will be complete. He will come and make all things right! I saw this tweet on the day of the shootings that reminds Christians of this truth. The tweet said, “Come Lord Jesus. End this thing and make all things new.” Our hope is not in “getting God back into our schools” or having new gun laws, but our hope is in Christ and one day He will return and make all things right.

I don’t claim to have the perfect plan for responding to tragedy and I know it’s easy to write these things when I’m not the one facing the tragedy personally. My prayer is God will give me the strength to respond to tragedy, whether in my life or in the life of someone else, in way that is true to His Word and honors Him.

Here are a few links that I have come across in the past week that add to these thoughts:
Steven Furtick talks about the Churches role in tragedy
How to Respond to the Horrors of a Broken World by Ed Stetzer
NBC’s time of reflection (not Christian-based, but is applicable).
Joey Newton’s first hand account is a very good read on this event.

Refuel Innovate Church Conference 2011

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend the first day of the Refuel Innovate Church Conference at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA. I saw this conference online a few months ago and thought it looked real good, but wasn’t planning on attending. I was planning on traveling up to Ohio for a week to visit my girlfriends family with her so we decided that on the way to Ohio we would stop at Refuel for the first day of the conference. I am so glad we did because God used the first day of the conferences yesterday in my life in great ways! I try to enjoy, but also think critically of every conference I go to so I can either encourage or discourage someone to go to the same conference and know enough about the conference to spread the word if it’s a good one. So I will try and cover some important areas here so hopefully this post will help you consider attending Refuel in the years to come.

Speakers: The speakers were great! Because it was put on by Thomas Road and Jonathan Falwell they had a strong pull to probably get any big time speaker they wanted. The speaker line up was John Maxwell, Ed Stetzer, Steven Furtick, Jonathan Falwell, Ron Luce, Johnny Hunt, Jud Wilhit, and Tom Mullins. Since I only attended the first day of the conference I only got to hear John Maxwell, Ed Stetzer, and Steven Furtick. All three of these speakers did a great job at sharing their hearts about ministry and leadership as well as preach the Word of God faithfully and powerfully. Maxwell spoke about having a “life list” where you put various things down on a list that you focus on doing, or being, daily. Ed Stetzer spoke on ministry idolatry which was extremely convicting as he spoke on how ministry becomes an idol many times. Steven Furtick, with all his passion and heart, spoke about believing God to accomplish the dream and vision He has given you. As far as the conference goes, the speakers where the best I have heard in a long time. If your looking for a conference with great speakers this conference is for you. I give this conference a 10 out of 10 for speakers.

Schedule: This is the only part of the conference I did not enjoy. Refuel was scheduled like this: two main sessions, roundtable lunch workshops, then two more main sessions. The second day was going to scheduled the same way except for the lunch workshops. I would have liked to have one main session in the morning then throughout the day have various workshops on different topics or issues in ministry. This is how most of the conferences I have been to have been set up and I enjoyed it very much. The Simply Youth Ministry Conference, which I would suggest for all youth pastors and youth workers, that I have attended for three years is like this. The day starts with a main sessions then you have fifty plus workshops and tracks to choose from to enjoy throughout the day and then the day closes with another main sessions. Now I understand of the smaller size and less speakers at Refuel, that keeps them from scheduling it this way, but more workshops would have been better than just main session after main session. Because of the world class speakers the main sessions back to back was not that bad and it was still enjoyable. I give this conference a 8 out of 10 for the scheduling.

Location and Facilities: You could have not asked for a better place for this conference. The campus of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University has been one of the best places I have ever seen for a big conference like this one. The main sessions were held in the worship center of Thomas Road and the that place is extremely comfortable. The seats have to be the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in within a worship center. Main street is what Thomas Road calls the area outside the worship center and that holds their coffee shop, book store, bathrooms, kids area, and more. Each speaker had their books out on main street at a booth for sale as well as different organizations such as Liberty University, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, World Help, and more had their booths set up. The facilities of Thomas Road are top notch and made it a perfect place to hold this conference. I give this conference a 10 out of 10 for location and facilities.

Price: The price of this conference was perfect for all that it included. If you registered before April 19th you only had to pay $49 and then if you waited until conference you was paying $59. For the speakers, free conference materials, and lunch this is pretty good. Since I am a college student I was able to go for the college student rate of $15! I give this conference a 9 out of 10 for the price.

Overall I would highly suggest this conference for all church leaders both full-time and lay leaders. I hope I can attend this conference again in the future and I’m sure it will only get better and better each year. I hope this short review of the conference might help you decided if you would attend in a future year or not.