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Heart Matters

Columbine High School is only a few miles from my office. On the day of the shooting, the gunfire and explosions rocked the school. Young people ran for their lives from the false safety of their school. Students huddled for three and four hours behind barricaded classroom doors as they listened to the mayhem just outside. Later, their tear-stained faces revealed the horror they'd seen as they told stories of carnage, terror, and reunion with loved ones. We were a community in shock.

On the Saturday night before the tragic Columbine High School shooting, my wife and I were at an outreach concert for kids on the fringe of society. We sensed the strong presence of God, and several members of the Trench Coat Mafia were there, including Eric Harris. Between bands, the youth leader spoke and one of the things he said was, "I sense from God that there is someone here who has either killed someone or is planning to kill someone. We need to talk and pray." It was a direct message to Eric Harris. Yet perhaps the message was too late. His heart was already too hardened by the choices he had made. He left a few minutes later.

Since that day, I've wondered what could've caused Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to methodically murder and injure their classmates and teachers. Something was terribly wrong; something was desperately missing in their lives and in the families that raised them.

As I've pondered these things, the critical call of God on my life has been reaffirmed once again. We have to ask questions about the present horror, but we also need to ask ourselves what happened in these young men's lives 10 years ago? When they were young children, Eric and Dylan needed to have a real, true, living experience with Jesus Christ and his power. So did their families.

For the church of Christ, this event dramatically points to the desperate need to compel parents with young children to get a hold of the reality of life in God -- apart from all the trappings, politics, and peripheral nonsense that we so often attach to it. We need to call parents to live out their relationship with God in the real day-to-day world -- in front of and with their children. And we need to take our impressionable young children by the hand and lead them into a vital relationship with the Lord.

"We have to stop this!" is the cry across our land on the day after, but the solution is not in tighter campus security or gun control legislation. The solution is in the heart. The battle is not against flesh and blood in this physical world but against the strongholds and principalities of the enemy.

The answer is in our young children having a life-changing, real encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and an ongoing life with him years before anything like Columbine can ever happen. Family ministries and children's ministries have never been more crucial to the cause of Jesus Christ than they are now. We need to do preventative medicine before our children become diseased. We need to reach them when they're most likely to respond. We need to win the little children to Christ and give them a firm, solid foundation in God and his Word.

Pastors, ministers, leaders, and teachers, if we fail in this we fail in our calling. We fail hundreds of other potential members of the Trench Coat Mafia and groups like them.

Can you hear the call? It's in the haunting wail of ambulances rushing the wounded and dying young people to your community hospital. Will the church rise up and take the challenge to make the investment of time, money, and energy to truly reach children from birth to 12 years old? Or will we simply continue to pick up the pieces of the lives that are already broken, instead of preventing them from tumbling over the edge in the first place?

Robb Dunham is a family and children's evangelist in Denver, Colorado.

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