Fred Winters was killed in church today doing what many of us pastors do every Sunday. The senior pastor of FBC Maryville, IL, was in the pulpit preaching the gospel for what would be his last time. I doubt if that thought ever entered his mind.
People came to worship Sunday, but they never imagined the possibility of seeing their pastor shot and killed before the service was over. You can find the story here.
I read this shortly after getting home from worship today. As usual, I stood in the pulpit and delivered the sermon. There’s not a more vunerable moment for the pastor, either through what he says or what could happen to him. He is exposed before the congregation to deliver God’s Word, and there are those who appreciate it and those who do not. Still, the idea of someone being killed in such a dramatic and public way is unbelievable. There’s no way to prepare for and anticipate such a horrific act, even though churches look into ways to secure their buildings.
Church buildings are open to the public, which means anyone can enter when there is a worship service going on. We had a woman come to our Wednesday evening service a few weeks ago asking for money, and we were able to help her. But, if she had come in brandishing a weapon the results would have been catastrophic. There is simply no way to plan for and prepare for every contingency.
Pastors deal with all sorts of people all the time, some who are needy and troubled. It’s a terrible thought to consider that people can target the pastor in this way, knowing where he will be on any given Sunday. It doesn’t change a thing, but I would be interested to know what kind of motive this attacker had to do such a thing and then attempt suicide afterwards. This inexplicable event has happened in churches before and will probably happen again somewhere else.
My heart goes out to FBC Maryville and the family of fallen pastor. He had a wife and two children, and their lives will never be the same. Added to this tragedy is the fact that he didn’t even have a chance to say good-bye to his wife or children. They had no way of knowing this would be their last day together as a family. This family will need a lot of help and support, in ways I can’t even imagine. Church is supposed to be a happy place, and this event has taken that away from them. May God have mercy on his family as they struggle with this unspeakable tragedy. And may the rest of us in turn never take any day for granted.