A Missouri church held an assault rifle raffle to lure more young men to worship.
Joplin’s Ignite Church gave away two Black Rain AR-15s on Father’s Day. Men age 18 to 35 were allowed to bid on the guns. Men were given extra raffle tickets for bringing their children or their fathers to church. The church also pushed back Sunday service to 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to accommodate late risers.
“We thought instead of a lot of small things, we’d give away stuff the guys were interested in,” said Ignite Pastor Heath Mooneyham.
Mooneyham referred to the AR-15 as the “Lamborghini of guns,” according to the Joplin Globe.
The announcement of the giveaway sparked a heated debate among area residents. One commenter on the church's Facebook called it "seriously messed up."
“I think giving away weapons, with all the violence in this country, gives way to new violence,” said Pastor Steve Urie of the Joplin Diversity Fellowship. “I don’t think it’s just nontraditional. I think it’s careless and reckless.”
Mooneyham said outreach to this demographic is essential because “that’s the biggest black hole in our society.”
Members of Ignite organize church hunting trips and excursions to gun ranges as a way to bond.
“There are other ways to attract young people,” Urie said. “If it takes an assault rifle to hunt, that’s not a sport.”
“It doesn’t enter our minds that we’re potentially harming society by giving away a gun,” Mooneyham said. “It’s just our nature, where as if you have a church where it’s 75- to 85-year-old women, they would give away a nice quilt, and they’d be excited about it. That’s how excited our church got about the AR-15 because that speaks our language.”
“If we get people in the door, we get to preach the gospel,” he said. “If we can get more people to follow Jesus, I’ll give away 1,000 guns. I don’t care.”
Ignite also made headlines in 2011 when it sponsored billboards promoting sex among married couples in order to avoid the vices of adultery and pornography.
“It’s easy to not like us. It’s not hard,” Mooneyham told The Globe. “You don’t need to go out and find ammunition, we’ll just hand it to you — we give away guns and talk about sex.”