Church Attracts worshipers with AR-15 giveaway

Ignite Church, a nondenominational congregation in Joplin, Missouri, is one of those churches going outside the normal pie and quilt raffles to bring new people through the doors. Rather than the traditional raffles, Ignite Church recently gave away two AR-15 rifles in a free raffle at a Father’s Day event last month.

The church gave area fathers the chance to enter the raffle for coming to church and for bringing their children to church. Each father got one free ticket for himself and a ticket for each of his children who went to church with him.

Heath Mooneyham, the church’s lead pastor, planned the raffle as part of an outreach by Ignite Church to a specific demographic group: males aged 18 to 35, a group that Mooneyham says is “the biggest black hole in our society.” To draw this demographic, Ignite Church offers later Sunday morning services than many other churches, offers praise music reminiscent of a rock concert, and the pastor has tattoos and a short Mohawk.

One of the AR-15s raffled is made by Black Rain Ordnance, and Mooneyham referred to the gun as the “Lamborghini of guns.” The church also organizes hunting trips and outings to shooting ranges as a way for churchgoing men to build bonds with one another, and the gun giveaway was conducted in the same spirit.

Unsurprisingly, some churches and other citizens don’t share Mooneyham’s vision for how to draw in congregants. One pastor from a rival church claimed that it was “careless and reckless” to give away weapons, but that pastor also erroneously referred to the AR-15 as an “assault weapon” and demonstrated an appalling lack of understanding of just what the AR-15 is by saying it’s “not a sport” to use an AR-15 for hunting.

That pastor, most likely, confuses the AR-15 with the M-16, a fully automatic “assault” weapon that keeps firing as long as you hold back the trigger. The AR-15, for those who aren’t sure, is not fully automatic. Fully automatic weapons are illegal to sell and own for private citizens. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic, and offers no real benefit to hunting over any other rifle.

Mooneyham pointed out that his goal was to get people to church. He was quoted as saying, “If we get people in the door, we get to preach the gospel. If we can get more people to follow Jesus, I’ll give away 1,000 guns. I don’t care.”

Well said, Pastor Mooneyham. If it takes giving away an AR-15 to get someone to step foot in a church and hear the gospel of love, then get ‘er done!


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