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Russell Moore Exclusive: How to Pastor After the Shootings

Editor’s Note: This video and article were originally published in February 2018, just after the Parkland, Florida school shooting. After the cluster of shootings the United States has recently experienced, our editorial team thought it would be helpful to revisit Russell Moore’s thoughts on pastoring in an age of shootings.

As churches gather to worship God on Sunday, just days after 17 died in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, pastors will be struggling with what to tell their congregations.

In an exclusive interview for ChurchLeaders, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, advises church leaders not to give in to the temptation of easily explaining away evil or where God was as a gunman killed innocent teenagers.

Speaking to Maina Mwaura, Moore recommends pastors take the same approach to evil as Scripture that talks about the mystery of iniquity. Moore said, “God doesn’t give us the reason why he permitted that to happen or why it seems that God is silent… There are so many times that God’s own prophets are saying, ‘God where are you, you seem to be silent.’” Instead, Moore suggests pastors let their congregants take time to grieve and lament.  

But in the midst of their sorrow, Moore says to remind them that God is sovereign and just and one day will deal with evil once and for all.

Moore also believes that in this tragedy there is an opportunity for the church. He thinks it’s very possible that unbelievers will attend churches this Sunday to see how people are processing the senseless violence.

He tells of a friend who pastored a church in a town with another shooting. He invited everyone, believer and unbeliever, to attend the Sunday after the violence. In the service, pastors laid hands on and prayed over everyone who came. It presented an opportunity for ongoing ministry with people the church had never interacted with before.

Still, the question “why?” will persist.

Moore answers, “We live in a fallen world where things are not as they are supposed to be. I turn directly to the cross to show that God is not distant from this evil. He took that upon himself. Jesus also said this is the kind of world you’re in now. The spirit causes us to groan at the world around us.” 

Moore says this is the type of tragic event that brings the reality of evil to light for almost everyone, believer and unbeliever alike. For Christians we can say, “This is not how it’s supposed to be,” and Moore says that truth is one that needs to be shared with the culture at large.

Russell Moore is not alone in his advice to pastors addressing the shooting in their congregations this weekend.