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Roots of Disruption

Knowing and Recognizing Factors Leading to Violent Disruption

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Based on the Sheepdog Church Security Training Course

“Dealing with Disruptive Persons using Verbal Deescalation” [1]

In the Bible

The Bible has several indications of factors which lead people to violent disruption. Here are a few:

Despair or Depression – Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. (Psalm 69:20)

Substance Abuse – Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. (Proverbs 23:29-31)

Uncontrolled Anger – A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. (Proverbs 15:18)

Desperate Financial Stress – Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8-9)

Jealousy – For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. (Proverbs 6:34)

In the News

Aurora, Illinois, February 15, 2019 - An employee pulled out a gun in a meeting with plant management and opened fire, killing five, and was later killed in a shootout with responding police officers. He was being fired. [2]

October 1, 2017 Las Vegas, Nevada - A well-armed multi-millionaire in a high-rise hotel opened fire on a music festival, killing 58. To this day, police are still not sure about the motive. [3]

What Brought This About?

What leads people to become disruptive? What factors put them at risk?

For many years, now, public officials, law enforcement officers, psychologists, journalists, and the general public have been asking those questions after violent incidents, especially mass killings or inexplicable murders of family members, classmates, and co-workers. Many times the motive becomes clear, such as with the Feb 15, 2019 shooting in Aurora, IL, but often, as with the 2017 Las Vegas massacre, it remains a mystery. In cases when the person killed is an unarmed or lightly armed disrupter, we ask, "Why did this person have to die?"

Knowledge Is Power

To protect the flock, a Church Safety Ministry needs to know what the threats are and how to recognize them, then how to deal with them.

Risk Factors

When it comes to details, it"s easy to say that there are many contributing factors for disruptive behavior. In reality, these boil down to a handful of underlying causes. Risk factors can be summarized in three categories: Internal Factors, Environmental Factors, and Situational Factors. From a number of sources, here are a few of the Internal and Environmental Factors (Situational Factors are covered in another article):

Internal factors:

Environmental factors:

Medical issues and medications


Mental illness [4]

Relational conflict

Oppositional Defiant Disorder [5][6][7]

Occupational conflict

Cognitive impairment

Financial stress

Intoxicating substance use [8][9]


Spiritual factors

Legal stress

In the first news story, the shooter in Aurora had a history of not following the rules, threatening others, and defiance, which indicates Oppositional Defiant Disorder. The Las Vegas shooter was a gambling addict who may have been facing future financial stress.

Factors indicated in the Bible passages above can be seen in this list:

Seldom recognized by secular writers are spiritual factors, such as rebellion against God, spiritual pride, hopelessness rooted in a guilty conscience, lack of faith, idolatry, etc.

Threat) Assessment

For the church, recognizing underlying causes leads to opportunities for ministering to persons at risk. It also helps in protecting the church from violent disruption. This is the role of Threat Assessment.

Threat assessment is a confidential process. Periodically, key members of church leadership and the Safety Committee meet to share what they know about potential risks for disruptive behavior in the church, especially that which may lead to violence and/or vandalism. Besides in assembled meetings, members of the Threat Assessment Team can share their information and concerns with each other at any time.

The reason this process is confidential is two-fold. First, this is not gossip, but serious business. It may lead to persons at risk getting the help they need. Second, in a confidential setting the members are free to be open about what they know.

Threat Assessment Team members may be aware that a certain person has the following warning signs (among others) listed by the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety (2014):

Discussion of persons and situations of risk then involves what to do. Depending on who the persons involved in the situations are, Safety Team members may be advised to be aware of certain persons. For instance, the ex-husband of a mother in the church may try to take the child, or he may accost her at church. Or perhaps a church member has been receiving threats from a fired co-worker.

Recognizing Persons at Risk

Obviously, it is next to impossible to know every risk of disruption coming through our doors. Safety Team members should be able to see signs that a person may become disruptive. For instance, one person may be argumentative or loud. Another person seems to be under the influence of alcohol or a drug. Or someone comes in the door looking or acting depressed.

There Is More

Other articles in this series cover situational awareness, calming words, being in control, and following through.


  1. Sheepdog Church Security, Training Courses, "Dealing with Disruptive Persons using Verbal Deescalation" - Online Training [], Training Materials [].
  2. Megan Jones, Sarah Freishtat, John Keilman, "A termination meeting, a burst of violence and a terrible toll: Aurora police describe mass shooting at Henry Pratt Co.," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 16, 2019 [].
  3. Mark Berman, "Las Vegas police end investigation into massacre without "definitively" determining what motivated the gunman," Washington Post, August 3, 2018 [].
  4. Anon, "What Are Disruptive, Impulse-Control and Conduct Disorders?" American Psychiatric Association, n/d [].
  5. Janice Rodden, "What Does Oppositional Defiant Disorder Look Like in Adults?" ADDitude Magazine (Inside the ADD Mind), n/d [].
  6. Anon, "Signs & Symptoms of Disruptive Behavior Disorder", Valley Behavioral Health, n/d [].
  7. Anon, "Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)," Mayo Clinic, n/d [].
  8. Anon, "Treating Conduct Disorder & Heavy Drinking,", Last updated on October 25, 2018 [].
  9. Melanie C. Morse, Kari Benson, and Kate Flory, "Disruptive Behavior Disorders and Marijuana Use: The Role of Depressive Symptoms." Substance Abuse, Volume: 9s1 [].
  10. Anon, "Violence in the Workplace - Warning Signs," Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety, Document last updated on October 6, 2014 [].