March 22, 2014

Media Attention Puts Spotlight on Guns, Jesus

BY DAVID ROACH ©2014 Baptist Press

evangelism strategy that involves giving away guns to attract unchurched men to
wild game dinners has drawn criticism from gun control advocates in an array of
national media outlets this month, including TIME, USA Today, MSNBC, Fox News and the Huffington Post.

But Kentucky Baptist Convention leaders say God is using KBC’s controversial
ministry effort and the flurry of media attention to increase attendance and
salvation decisions at the events. Sixty-eight people professed faith in Christ
at a wild game dinner last weekend, and nearly 500 attendees have done so in
Kentucky churches since January 1.

"The recent reports regarding the giving away of guns at wild game dinners
have, by and large, missed the essence of the story," KBC Evangelism and
Church Planting Team Leader Chuck McAlister told Baptist Press in written

"There is a basic misunderstanding of evangelism and what compels us to
share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.... The offense that many have
regarding the guns themselves also causes the greater story to be

The wild game dinners, which some churches refer to as "Second Amendment
Celebrations," feature a free meal and a message from McAlister about the
outdoors, hunting and how to know the God who created nature through His Son

The number of unchurched men in attendance is directly proportional to the
number of firearms given away, said McAlister, former host of the Outdoor
Channel's "Adventure Bound Outdoors."

The Second Amendment Celebrations are part of the KBC's larger "affinity
evangelism" strategy, a method of sharing Jesus by bringing people
together based on common needs or interests -- including hunting, quilting,
archery, and dozens of other possibilities.

Local businesses and individuals donate guns to be given away during the events
as door prizes. Gun winners are photographed with their prizes but can only
claim them at local gun dealers after passing background checks.

McAlister told the Louisville Courier-Journal that he does not "advocate
violence" and that the guns are intended "for hunting and protection
only." But that hasn’t silenced critics.

"Most churches would be appalled. It is an appalling form of outreach of
evangelicalism that is an offense to the Gospel of Jesus," Nancy Jo
Kemper, pastor of New Union Christian Church in Lexington, Ky., told MSNBC. She
said "Jesus would puke" in response to Kentucky laws that allow
clergy and laypeople to carry concealed weapons on church property.

Joe Phelps, pastor of Louisville's Highland Baptist Church, which separated
from the KBC in 2012 after the congregation ordained an open homosexual, told the
Courier-Journal that it is inconsistent to give away guns at an event where
people hear a message about Jesus, who said, "Put away the sword."
Phelps went on to take issue with all "giveaways for God."

"Can you picture Jesus giving away guns, or toasters or raffle
tickets?" Phelps said. ".... He gave away bread once, but that was as
a sign, not a sales pitch."

McAlister has participated in outreach events featuring gun giveaways for more
than 20 years, he said, but "only recently have these events been called
into question."

"This is largely due to the explosion of violence that we are seeing in
our nation, particularly on our school campuses," McAlister said.
"Many in our culture would point to guns and access to guns as the culprit
in this escalating violence. They have chosen to view guns as something evil.
Anyone who dares associate with a gun is therefore doing something terribly
wrong in their minds. However, the people to whom we target our Gospel message
do not share this mindset. They see guns as a part of their everyday

Giving gifts to draw people to Jesus follows the example of God Himself, who
gives creation, conscience, and the cross in attempt to woo sinners, McAlister

"I believe the giving away of guns draws the men to hear [the Gospel]
message,” McAlister said. “If giving away toasters would accomplish the same
purpose, I would be glad to give them away. It would be much less
controversial. The giving away of guns helps us be incarnational with our
audience and to present the message that God became incarnate to share with

KBC executive director Paul Chitwood told Baptist Press that neither giveaways
nor guns are new to Kentucky Baptists.

"While gun control advocates may bristle at the approach, personally, I
find nothing about these events to be sinful," Chitwood said. "To the
contrary, at events like these in Kentucky and beyond, Southern
Baptists are seeing thousands of people won to Christ each year."

Southern Baptists have long practiced "attractional evangelism" said
Chitwood, "from the Power Team to 'Judgment Houses' to Upward Basketball
and Easter egg hunts."

Although the KBC did not attempt to incite the recent blitz of media coverage
surrounding Second Amendment Celebrations, the convention welcomes the opportunity
for evangelism.

"During this brief time in the media spotlight, I have seen Chuck
McAlister have opportunities to share the Gospel with more reporters and talk
show hosts than we would have ever imagined," Chitwood said. "While
we have not sought this attention, we are praying that God will find us good
stewards of it."