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John Murphy, a staff member at Youth With a Mission's Denver offices, was racing on foot toward the Arvada training-center dormitory minutes after a shooting there left two students dead and two others wounded.

It was the very definition of an emergency, but Murphy still stopped to help when he saw a man nearby slip on the icy sidewalk, The Denver Post reported. Are you okay? he asked.

"Sorry, guys," the man responded in a shaky voice.

Murphy thought this response odd until hours later, when he saw photos that indicated the man to be the gunman at the training center and, later, the parking lot of New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

The irony is compounded when one considers that most churches have a plan for when someone slips on their sidewalk, but not if he were to show up with three guns and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

New Life Church is an exception, but its response plan has been misunderstood and misappropriated. The church did not issue a call for members to pack heat. Instead, it implemented a studied, careful security plan appropriate for the nature of its congregation.

In the wake of the Colorado shooting, more American churches are debating armed security. What's remarkable about New Life's system, however, has less to do with arms and more to do with the body. It doesn't just have a security team. It has a security ministry. And it's not something you can sign up for on a clipboard in the back of the sanctuary. Instead, it is managed with a sense of Christian vocation and gifting.

Members have military and law-enforcement backgrounds, but the church doesn't confuse vocation with profession: not everyone with security experience serves on the security ministry. Those who are selected are carefully screened, as news ...

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February 2008

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