Church shooting survivor Joey Spann talks about forgiveness at Summer Celebration 2018

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Spann_1Summer Celebration guests had a unique opportunity to hear Joey Spann share his testimony of the tragedy that happened Sept. 24, 2017 at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, during which a gunman opened fire at the end of morning services killing one and injuring seven others.

Rhonda Lowry, presidential spouse and faculty member in the College of Bible & Ministry, hosted the event titled “Conversations of Significance” in the Collins Alumni Auditorium on July 2.

Spann is a minister at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, located in the Antioch suburb of Nashville. A Lipscomb University alumnus, Spann was shot twice during the attack — once in the chest and once in the hand, which resulted in the loss of one of his fingers.

“I heard pow, pow. Two of them. Somebody said, ‘Was that a gunshot?’ So, I stepped out and as I was looking I thought it was somebody on the road next to the building driving by. I kept looking, and then he turned a corner and started toward us and just started shooting,” recalls Spann.

“We honestly felt like he was going to shoot everybody and was going to come back through and finish us off.”

Then Spann was shot. “I didn’t know what he had done (to me) because I was fading away,” he says.

In the ambulance “was just like what you see on TV with the medical team asking him questions over and over,” Spann remembers. He joked about having to tell the doctors his name and age repeatedly.

“The first time that I knew I was going to live I saw lights. I heard this voice that sounded far away from me saying, ‘Mr. Spann, Mr. Spann. I did the best to save your finger. I’m so sorry.’ I still thought I was dying. I asked him what about me. He said, ‘Oh, no. You’re going to live,’” he says.

While in the hospital, Spann was protected by the FBI and couldn’t have visitors.

A lifelong minister, teacher and coach, Spann spoke on the traumatic experience and how he handles it with grace and forgiveness. He says he doesn’t get mad about what happened.

Spann_2“We use humor a lot on it,” says Spann to “shine light” when talking about the incident. He says God’s fingerprints are all over the story.

When asked what has he learned about God through this trauma? Spann answers, “do we forgive him [the shooter]? Yes.”

What has Spann learned about forgiveness? “Forgiveness comes down to a personal choice. In this case, we choose to do so because Christ first forgave us,” Spann told the audience. “To be a Christian it would be harder not to forgive.”

The night before, during the opening keynote session of Summer Celebration 2018, Burnette Chapel Church of Christ was recognized with a Kopio award. Spann accepted on behalf of the congregation. Eric Egan, anchor at WKRN-ABC Nashville began the ceremony with a presentation recounting the events of the day of the shooting.

Summer Celebration is a popular spiritually-focused annual lectureship that has drawn Christians to Lipscomb’s campus from across the country for 90 years. This year’s theme was “Mindset Preparing God’s Family for a Secular Age: The Message of Deuteronomy.”

Want to know more? Visit summercelebration.lipscomb.edu.

—Photos by Kristi Jones