The Washington Post reported that there were red flags, cries for help, and ominous warnings that Nikolas Cruz, a troubled 19-year-old, was collecting guns and knives and “could be a school shooter in the making.” There were disturbing patterns in his life.
One tip to the sheriff’s office warned that Cruz “planned to shoot up the school.” Ample evidence was provided that Cruz was planning to do something destructive, but the entire system built to stop the disturbed student repeatedly broke down.
Unfortunately, neither did the churches in the Parkland area do anything to thwart the deadly attack unleashed upon the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. However, it is possible that churches could have made a difference.
In a recent conversation with evangelist Ron Herrod, he raised the question, “Why can’t we equip our young people to reach out to the troubled students in our schools and see if that won’t help to curb the school shootings that are so devastating and disruptive to our way of life?”
It was obvious that God had placed a burden on Dr. Herrod’s heart and given him a plan to help troubled youths and solve the problem of violence in schools across the landscape of America.
I was interested in what Brother Ron had to say for several reasons: First, the recent school shooting in Parkland, FL that left 17 dead and sent 14 others to local hospitals seemed to be the tipping point for violence in America’s educational institutions. The incident had dominated the news since Valentine’s Day, claimed the attention of the media for weeks, caused Washington’s political elite to abandon other issues in order to address the mayhem happening all too often in our schools, and put the NRA in a defensive mode.
Secondly, the school shootings have snuffed out the lives of bright, talented, and promising young scholars and athletes; brought grief to loving parents, family members, and friends; and robbed our society of youths who could have been the future Billy Graham or Mother Theresa.
Finally, the attack upon America’s student population is diametrically opposed to the current emphasis of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. Troubled teens have declared war on their peers. Georgia Baptists are gearing up to save the next generation by reaching them for Christ.
But, who are these troubled students?
In the book McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers, Fourteenth Edition, Wilbert J. McKeachie and Marilla Scinicki describe four challenging behaviors that students may exhibit. They are: the attention-seeking, discussion-dominating student; the inattentive student; the unprepared student; and the uncivil and disrespectful student.
I would add to the list the student who is a loner, an outcast, and a disenfranchised person.
As I considered Dr. Herrod’s question I began to see just how appropriate and thought-provoking it really is. I feel certain that every middle and high school in Georgia has enrolled at least one student from a Georgia Baptist church.
And what if those Georgia Baptist students were faithful followers of Jesus Christ and trained to seek out those troubled, uncivil students, built a relationship with them through Christian love, attempted to win them to faith in Christ, welcomed them into a family of faith, and began to disciple them?
That approach to stemming the tide of violence in our school system would win the day for America’s educational system and for the cause of Christ. Who knows? When Christian students rise to the occasion with the prayer support and encouragement of their individual churches, we may win the right to bring God back into our educational system.
The statistics would indicate that in Georgia this idea would work. There are 10.31 million people in Georgia. There are 1.3 million Georgia Baptists in the state. That means there is one Georgia Baptist for every eight Georgians.
There are 181 school districts across the state with 2,200 schools employing over 114,000 teachers who educate approximately 1.6 million students.
In other words, we have almost as many Georgia Baptists as there are students in our public schools.
Surely, we can find at least one Christian student in each of the schools who will become a sentinel on the lookout for troubled teens and be a gracious witness for Christ to touch those disturbed teens with the love of Jesus realizing, first, that God is able and secondly, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.