Blog - Grasping Vocation
Airport Security and the Scattered ChurchThursday, December 31, 2009
What can the church learn from all the recent focus on airport and airline security? Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab failed in his attempt to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas Day, 2009. But he did succeed in escalating our demand to know how to intercept terrorists before they board planes. After the December 25th attempt, several media outlets sought out the advice of Rafi Ron, former director of security for Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport.
Ron believes we Americans have much to learn from Israel about protecting passengers. We search for weapons. They search for potential terrorists. Among Ron's many ideas, one in particular caught my notice. “Since we are looking for irregular behavior,” he said, “who knows better what is regular than an employee who spends most of the day and year in this location interacting with the public or at least witnessing people's behavior?”
His answer: we need to prepare all airport employees to become terrorist spotters. Rather than depending only on professional baggage screeners, we need to include everyone who works in the airport terminal. Janitors, skycaps, food vendors, ticket agents, and so on all need to be seen as a part of the observation team.
This approach makes sense, not only for airports but also for the church. To paraphrase Rafi Ron: “Who has more relationships with unbelievers than those who spend most of their days and years in the workplace interacting with co-workers, customers, clients, patients, students, and others?” When it comes to seeing and responding to spiritual needs in our society, it seems to me we have been relying too much on church professionals. Because they are not “out there” in the world of everyday work, they do their best to attract unbelievers to come “in here” to our gatherings. But few come.
Ron emphasizes the need to train all airport employees to be terrorist watchers. In a similar way, we need to train all believers to serve as authentic agents of Jesus Christ in their workplaces. Workplaces have become the social centers—the relationship-building hubs—of our modern culture. All whom God has called to himself through Christ need to be taught that they are in “full-time Christian service,” no matter what their daily work may be. They need to be shown what appropriate “ministry” looks like in the context of the scattered church in the workplace. They need to be unleashed from the tether of thinking, “I'm just a layperson.” Instead, they need assurance that they are the eyes and ears, the priests and pray-ers, and the salt and the light out there where the action is.
Rafi Ron thinks outside the box of traditional airport security measures. How can we as Christians escape our traditional boxes and begin equipping believers to follow Christ in those places where they spend most of their best waking hours?