Why guns belong in churches this Christmas

I know that not all of my readers attend church.  Even if you don’t attend church of any kind, there is good information here that can be applied to other situations and locations.  I’m not going to get preachy, but there is some church-talk in here.  Regardless, I’d encourage you to read it to pick up some easy to find, but little known things that the Bible says about self-defense.

There’s been a lot of talk since the 2017 shooting in Sutherland TX about church shootings and church security.

Well meaning people have said that guns don’t belong in churches.  I disagree and furthermore I believe that peace-loving, gentle people are the ones who benefit the most from guns and believe the Bible says that it is appropriate to have an armed congregation.

Church security has been a passion of mine for more than a decade and I have had to wrestle with several issues regarding the place of guns in church, stopping evil vs. turning the other cheek, carrying when it’s less-than-legal, and the balance between people who abhor violence of any kind and people like me who train to use violence to be able to stop aggressors from preying on innocent people.

There is a big problem with people misunderstanding the Bible’s stance on killing vs. murder and muddle the waters on the topic of self-defense and church security as a result.

Take it 1 step further and there’s a very serious issue with warriors coming back from war feeling like they don’t have a place in church anymore because of the fact that they took life or were willing to take life.

The Bible doesn’t say, “Thou Shall Not ‘Kill'”  Let’s start by going back to the 10 Commandments.  The word used for the 5th/6th commandment translates to “murder” and not “kill” as many people misquote.  “Thou shalt not kill” is incorrect and unbiblical.  “Thou shalt not murder” fits with the rest of the Bible.

The word for kill applies to humans AND animals.

If the commandment was not to kill, God wouldn’t have killed animals in the garden to clothe Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21),

He wouldn’t have taken sides in war (Gideon-Judges 7, David & Goliath-1 Samuel 17, etc),

Animals wouldn’t be listed as food (Genesis 9:3 and

He wouldn’t have instituted killing animals as part of the atonement process (Leviticus 3:45).

Jesus wouldn’t have told the disciples to sell their extra cloak and buy a sword (Luke 22:36-38), and

He would have told Simon to get rid of his sword instead of re-sheath it when he cut off the Roman guard’s ear (22:50-51).

The misinterpretation has long caused guys who have legitimately killed and guys who have switched their brain to be able to kill bad actors to protect good ones to feel a disconnect with the Bible, church, and with other Christians who haven’t dug into what the Bible says.

What about the need to turn the other cheek?  Matthew 5:38-40.

I’m not a Biblical scholar, but the only way that I can find to make that mesh with the rest of scripture is to interpret it as saying that we’re not supposed to take revenge, be a vigilante, or be Frank Castle from “The Punisher,” no matter how appealing the storyline is.

We have a system in place called due process to institute justice after the fact.  It’s not perfect, but it’s probably better than everyone serving out justice individually on their own terms in the heat of the moment.

Stopping violence is different than getting revenge.

Along with not being a vigilante, the Bible tells us that life is precious, that we’re to rescue the weak and needy & deliver them from the hand of the wicked.  We’re to take care of widows and orphans.  We’re to rescue those who are being taken away to death and pull back those who are being taken to slaughter.  I’d argue that sometimes that entails stopping violence.

But we’re also supposed to love our enemies, be quick to forgive, and if possible, live at peace with everyone.

So, God has a history of blessing warriors, makes provision for killing an intruder at night (Exodus 22:2), Jesus tells the disciples to be armed, but no other mention is made in the rest of the New Testament, and we’re supposed to protect the weak and the sick.

What’s this mean for churches and church security?

A few things…

“Tactical Preacher” sent me a link to a sermon he gave on Christian self-defense.  You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huR0djKL2p8&feature=youtu.be and a few of these points came from him.

1.  When Jesus tells the 11 disciples to arm themselves, they replied back saying they had 2 swords and Jesus said that was enough.  He didn’t tell everyone that they needed to be armed.  The numbers work out to roughly 20%.  It’s not a command, but it is an illustration of a good model.  As a comparison, there are roughly 800,000 credentialed law enforcement officers in a country of 325 million.  20% isn’t a hard and fast number, but if ONLY law enforcement were armed, we’d be at roughly .2% or .002.  About .7% of the US population is active or reserve military.  IF the 20% number is a guide, it means a lot of pastors, staff, and other civilians need to fill in the gap.

2.  Some law enforcement will never switch off…even in church.  But those who can or need to should be able to and shouldn’t always carry the burden of protecting the flock by themselves.

3.  Not everyone can or should be armed.  Current/past legal issues, lack of training, sickness, lack of temper control, mental state, negative effects of medications, a lack of good judgement, and other issues all make the right choice for many to NOT be armed.  I’d argue that some pastors shouldn’t be armed because their hearts are tender and tuned to help the hurting rather than being tuned to stop evil.  We’re all wired differently.  Some are wired to protect the flock from evil with force…others are wired to protect the flock from evil with prayer.  Some are wired to do both, but a focus on either end of the spectrum at the expense of the other is not healthy for a church.

4.  If you’re a Christian, your faith and hope should be in the Lord…not your gun.

5.  I don’t believe all church ushers or all church security should necessarily be armed.  For many people, it’s difficult to think of non-gun solutions to problems when you’re carrying a gun.  In an ideal situation, you’d have greeters who are JUST happy and smiling.  You’d have another (smaller) set of people who are ready to respond to conflict where lethal force is not appropriate.  Finally, you’d have a smaller set of people who are ready to respond to conflict where lethal force is necessary.

The reality of church volunteer programs is that the same people fill multiple roles, but I think it’s important to delineate the roles and know which people are filling which roles.

As an example, I’ve found that when my overall stress level is high, I can still be the guy looking for and ready to respond to threats, but I’m not the best guy to smile and shake hands with a bunch of people.

The point of this is that, when possible, let people serve in the capacity that they’re able to and use the gifts that they were blessed with.

6.  A LOT of churches are addressing their security concerns right now.  Guns are a very valuable tool to stop violence.  So are tactical lights, tactical pens, OC, Tasers, fire extinguishers, cups of coffee, Bibles, and chairs next to the aisle that you can pick up and ram into an attacker.

7.  Historically, the majority of church related attacks have happened during the week, between the church and parking lot or off property…not during service.  Most disturbances that happen during a service don’t justify a lethal force response.  There’s an incredible book that I recommend called “Evil Invades Sanctuary” that goes into more of these statistics.

It’s tempting to focus on preparing for the incidents that are the most dramatic and that have historically received the most media attention, but it may not be the best use of time/resources.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t plan for the worst, but don’t do so at the expense of planning for events that are more likely to occur.

8.  Just because there are guns in church doesn’t mean that they’ll get used any more than having Bibles in homes means they’ll actually get read.  Guns don’t shoot themselves any more than Bibles read themselves.

9.  The New Testament doesn’t support the idea that people are supposed to act “more Christian” in church and differently out of church.  If you don’t think that guns belong IN church, why would they belong out of church?  And, if you’re supposed to protect the weak, both in church and out of church, why would you voluntarily choose to limit yourself to less effective tools when you’re in church than out of church?

10.  A tricky and sticky thing to keep in mind is that “illegal” has different meanings.  Speeding 1 mile an hour over the speed limit is illegal.  Jaywalking is illegal.  I have carried a concealed pistol in churches where it would have been a minor misdemeanor trespassing charge if 1. It was known that I was carrying, 2. They contacted the police and signed a complaint, and 3. I was charged and found guilty.  I consulted attorneys and fully understood the law, risks, and potential consequences.  Yes, I know that Christians are supposed to follow the laws that have been established and go through the appropriate process to change them if they’re unjust.  Eventually, I was asked to carry (still technically illegal) by an elder.  If the potential consequence would have been a major misdemeanor or a felony, I wouldn’t have done it.

11.  Carrying a gun without training is like driving a car without air in the tires.  Don’t do it.  Get training.  Practice on a regular basis.  Strive to keep improving your skills over time.

Here’s my wish for you…

May you live a life worth defending.

May you be surrounded by people you
love enough to fight for.

May you live a peaceful life,
even though you practice violent arts.

And, on that day when violence
turns your world upside down,

May you stop the threat with
superior skill, intensity, and purity of heart.

I’d be completely remiss in telling you to train if I didn’t give you a more effective method than simply going to the range.  One of the most effective training tools for church security teams or individuals carrying a firearm in churches is the Draw Stroke Mastery program, which includes a 1-hour follow-along dry fire training session that I put on for a church security team.

In addition, one of the reasons why 21 Day Alpha Shooter is done the way that it is is so that small groups can incorporate structured small-block dry fire training into their weekly meet-ups.

Here’s a note from a group from his church does just that.

Here’s what he said, “My friends and I have incorporated the alpha shooter video into our home church group.

We do a shooting related activity every time we meet (it is a rather unusual church).

It was a great way to get our wives involved, and way cheaper than our usual burning up ammo at cardboard boxes.

Thanks to you, I realized I am gripping my pistol completely wrong, so we will see how Sunday goes as I work through the proper grip.”

Is it a fit for every church small group?  No.  But if it’s a fit for yours, it’s a great way to combine studying God’s word with becoming more effective at protecting the flock.  Click >HERE< Now for more details.


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  • Steve Seeley

    Reply Reply December 17, 2018

    Bravo to a well-composed article. When in doubt, look to the Word, the Bible – and in this article, the scripture speaks.
    Our church security protocol was designed by a former FBI assistant director. We employ uniformed detail officers every day, as our activities and programs are during the week as well. Then, our volunteer security detail of mostly law enforcement professionals covers our church campus in plain clothes. Some of us are just good, cheerful hand-shakers – others, not so much. Work with your talents God gave you.

    One of our lady greeters is retired DEA!

    I love my church!

    Thanks to you all that have replied with excellent information from scripture!

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 17, 2018

      Thanks, Steve! That article is the result of over a decade of struggle with the topic as well as devouring every article, video, and book on the topic I have found.

  • Alan D Kerby

    Reply Reply December 14, 2018

    For a Jewish perspective on personal self-defense and the rationale for carrying in Synagogue check out, “The Ten Commandments of Self Defense” by Rabbi Dovid Bendory, available from JPFO.org.

    While many liberal Temples and Synagogues abhor personal self-defense as much as liberal Christian churches, some (Orthodox more than others) take a more proactive approach. The Conservative Synagogue I often attend took down the no gun stickers on the doors several years ago and uses area sheriff deputies for security on major holidays although the rabbinic staff supports the demanding mommies. I carry every time I go and concealed means concealed. It’s difficult to broach the subject of congregational members carrying in any formal way with the “professional security only” mentality. I’ll just do my part to protect myself if things go sideways.

  • Kane Fischer

    Reply Reply December 14, 2018

    We see people that I am sure God has sent and I see people whose motivations for being there are questionable. Regardless of their motivation for being in church, we greet people with love and compassion. We welcome them and try to make them feel comfortable at ALF but we still WATCH them. In the bible, the purpose of the gate keepers and the watchmen were to protect the flock and protect the sanctity of the sanctuary.

    There are different types of people in the church. There is the shepherd who is Jesus. Then there are the flock….the sheep….wonderful loving people…. friends families, brothers and sisters in Christ. then there are two types of sheepdogs. Tim(the pastor) and the staff are one kind of sheepdog and assists the shepherd in guiding the flock. We are the other type of sheepdog….
    we deal with the wolves……Kane

    Ephesians 5:15,17
    See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because
    The days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the lord is.

    Proverbs 24:11,12
    If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;
    If thou sayest, behold, we knew it not, doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it ?
    And he that keepeth thy soul, doth he not know it? And shall render to everyman according to his works.

    Matt 10: 16
    Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, be ye therefore shrewd as serpents
    And innocent as doves.
    ( a lot of people get the “doves” part OK but they fail to recognize that serpents can be lethal.)

    Luke 22: 36
    And he (Jesus) said to them, if you have a money bag, let him take it, and likewise, a sack, and he who has no sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one.

  • Greg Hopkins

    Reply Reply February 19, 2018

    Dear Dryfire Training,
    I’m Greg Hopkins lawyer, 40 years teaching the Bible and author of “A Time To Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism”. I just read you r fine article on Christians and self-defense and recommend that you read my book on the subject by a Christian/Gun nut/Lawyer-me. It surveys the entire B and concludes that God commands us to defend the innocent with all legal force. It demonstrates that Jesus never taught pacifism, explaining “live by the sword, die by the sword” and “turn the other cheek” in their biblical contexts. It includes 4 chapters on Jesus and the military (He never told anyone to quit the army.) I hope it helps vets with PTSD to know that God knows the difference between “murder” and killing in combat, law enforcement or self-defense. It also has 3 chapters on the Bible and the death penalty. It’s available on Amazon. I hope you find it helpful.


    Reply Reply December 19, 2017

    I am one of two directors of the new Safety & Security Team for our church. Our Mission Statement is: Protect the Flock. We have total backing of our Pastors and our Church Board. We will start training for our congregation on such topics as Identifying Sexual & Physical Assaults of Children and Vulnerable Adults, Basic First Aid, Fire Safety, Severe Weather Safety, CPR, AED, Identifying a Heart Attack and/or Stroke, etc. We will chose the members of the Safety & Security Committee, the liason between the Team and our Church Board next month. The following month we will start monthly training for our Team after background checks and interviews have been completed. Not all our Team will carry – only about half, since we will have 2-person units with one armed and both carrying pepper spray gel and tactical flashlights. Verbal De-Escalation will be stressed, including scenarios, at each training session. There will also be monthly sessions at the range, and dry-fire scenarios for those Team Members authorized to carry in and around th church. Training for our Team will never stop.


      Reply Reply December 19, 2017

      Please excuse my typos. I neglected to mention that our Team is actually the Safety And Security Ministry.

    • Drew

      Reply Reply January 6, 2018

      That is a perfect application for dry fire training cards and the alpha shooter program! Affordable, can be done in a group setting at normal meeting times and locations, and it’s effective.

  • Drew

    Reply Reply December 16, 2017

    Great article as always. The mainstream Christianity misconception that God wants us all to be limp wristed, weak little pacifists doesn’t make sense to me in the context of the actual Bible where God commanded His people to be warriors on many occasions. The book Wild at Heart is a great study on the pathologies rampant among Christian men who are shamed away from their masculine nature by the weak, mainstream Christian culture.

    God ordered the Israelites to utterly destroy His enemies. Ecclesiastes 3 documents there is a time to hate in addition to a time to kill. Jesus was very clear that his followers were to carry some weapons for their defense, and to go so far as to sell their clothing in order to afford a sword (implying it is better to be naked than unarmed!).

    But Jesus also said to love our enemies right? Correct. I am commanded to love *my* enemy. My enemy is that one jerk at work, and the idiot who cuts me off in traffic. I am obligated to forgive *my* enemy and love them. But, nowhere am I given the authority to love God’s enemies. The extreme example of this principle is Satan. Was Jesus telling us to love Satan? No! Satan is God’s enemy, as well as those who would use violence to victimize others, and we are told there is a time to hate and kill God’s enemies i.e. when violently attacked or in the context of a justly declared war.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 17, 2017

      Excellent, Drew. Thanks!

  • Scott Miller

    Reply Reply December 16, 2017

    A concise, lucid and well-worded article addressing a real need in our churches. Thanks Ox, for so powerfully speaking out for the “Sheepdogs” who’ve been bearing the burden of protecting their flocks for so long in the face of media adversity. Hopefully everyone who reads this article will share it where appropriate and open a dialogue in their circles of influence regarding whether armed security has a place in their places of worship.
    [21 Day Alpha Shooter]
    [30-10 Pistol Training]
    [Dry Fire Training Cards]

  • Cary Kozberg

    Reply Reply December 16, 2017

    Great piece– and really important.
    Wanted to reply in Facebook to Steve Rosenblum’s and your comments re Judaism’s take– but my phone isn’t letting me.
    I’m an ordained rabbi and have taught classes on the topic of self defense for over 30 years.

    Not only Scripture but also the writings of the Rabbis in the Talmud and later codes are all about self protection and protecting others ( “thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor”–Leviticus 19).

    From a Jewish point of view, the reason that carrying in a house of worship may actually be an OBLIGATION for those who are properly trained is this:
    Our lives are given to us by God– therefore we are stewards, not owners. As stewards we have an obligation to safeguard them to the best of our ability. This is the main reason why the Talmud very clearly teaches: if someone comes to kill you, you must kill him first.

    ALSO– referring back to that verse in Leviticus 19: I would add that it is just as important to get training in “field trauma”as it is to get training in firearm use. Folks need to know how to STOP the bleeding as much as they need to know how and when to properly cause it…

    God bless!!

  • Lonnie Hartke

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    As a pastor and a church/non-profit security specialist let me say “Well Done”. I share most of these same truths when I train churches how and why we must defend the flock. I often get strange looks when someone finds out I am a pastor and firearms instructor.

  • G

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    Turning the cheek has nothing to do with how the western church teaches about it.
    The enemy in this case is a family member you are on the outs with. If the trouble last 3 days or more they are the enemy referred to in this passage, not somebody who is out kill or otherwise out to hurt you.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 15, 2017

      That’s 2 views on what “turn the other cheek” means that I’ve never heard before. Thank you!

      • G

        Reply Reply December 15, 2017

        Also another little known fact is that in some Jewish circles consider it a sin to let yourself be killed when you could of done something about it.

        • Ox

          Reply Reply December 15, 2017

          I REALLY didn’t know that. That’s fascinating. Thank you.

  • Jim

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    Ox, I’ve been carrying concealed to church since the 70’s when I was an LEO. I was even carrying concealed at my wedding in the church as well as my groomsmen. I’m not an active LEO now but still carry concealed wherever I happen to be. In today’s society, I don’t see why I should risk a situation for me or my family by not carrying a firearm.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 15, 2017

      🙂 I carried at my wedding too. Stay frosty.

  • Mark H

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    A fantastic read/article. LONG overdue too. I could not agree more with ALL that you Ox have expressed. “Thank you” for shedding light on this much-needed mindset that WILL BE required in the coming ‘days’, as we are living in the ‘End Times”. God Bless you…

  • left coast chuck

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    I worked as a court reporter for 25 years. There are truly evil people in the world. It has been 30 years since I worked in court yet I can name at least half a dozen people who are so evil they represent a danger to anyone in their reach. I could easily inject them with a lethal dose of some medicine, pull the switch to drop a cyanide pellet into whatever solution releases the gas, close the circuit on a high voltage switch to send 1,000 volts of electricity through their body or put a gun to the back of their head and blow out their medulla, go home and get a good night’s rest knowing I had performed a significant service to humanity. They truly have no redeeming social quality about them. Unless you come face to face with such evil, it is hard to acknowledge that such exists on the face of the earth. I have always likened it to killing a rabid dog or some other animal with a highly contagious disease. You don’t feel good about it, but it is a task that needs to be done to protect society. Just as I would kill a wolf killing more than one elk, a mountain lion ravaging a flock of sheep, I would put down the individuals whose names and evil is forever burned into my mind.

    I am not an especially religious person. I don’t regularly attend organized religious services. In my world someone who indiscriminately attacks a congregation attending church service is deserving of immediate elimination. The same with any indiscriminate killing. Shooting up a movie theater where you don’t know any of the people you are shooting and killing. In my view Hinckley should have been executed. He tried to thwart the will of millions of people. I don’t care that he didn’t kill anyone, his type of evil should be eliminated from the world. Same with the shooter who effectively ended Gabby Gifford’s life as she knew it. He should have been executed. I don’t particularly like her brand of politics, but her shooter should have been executed long ago.

    Sorry for the long rant. One of the reasons I am a former court reporter is that I could not stand what was happening in our court system. It’s still a sore point.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 15, 2017

      Thank you, Chuck. I completely understand where you’re coming from, even though many are fortunate to not have knowledge or first hand knowledge of the type of evil you’re talking about. And the fact that what was happening in our court rooms was a sore point for you is not a surprise. What is a surprise is that EVERYONE who had similar exposure as you didn’t come to the same conclusion.

      Again, thank you, Chuck.

  • Steven Granty

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    Thank you so much for addressing this issue Ox. I have wrestled with this very issue secretly since being ask to perform “overwatch” at our church. I have to say, your biblical approach resonates with my spirit. I have thoroughly enjoyed your training material & articles. I’ve been shooting for 30+ years and have never come close to being as good as I am now with the Alpha course! P.S. I love the name “Tactical Angels”

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 15, 2017

      It’s a tough issue, Steven…and it’s complicated by the fact that very powerful orators have lumped killing and murder together as being the same. Thanks for the feedback on 21 Day Alpha Shooter! And I have to say, I like “Tactical Angels” too 🙂

  • David

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    Another good resource abut a biblical view of self defense is:
    A Time to Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism by Greg Hopkins

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 15, 2017

      Excellent, David! I haven’t read that. Thank you.

  • Dr. Larry

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    Dear Ox, This is one of the best written, necessary but tough, conversation/articles on church related shootings, self defense, and protection of others I have read in a long time. As a Bible teacher for over 42 years now, I can whole heartedly say you are absolutely correct about the 6th Commandment being “Thou shalt not murder” rather than what most think and hear “Thou shalt not kill”. As a doctor who wants to help others, not harm others, this reminds me that to help many sometimes a few must be harmed and even killed. As a responsibly armed citizen this article reminds me of the duty to serve and protect those I love and care about – extending to the little ones, the weak, the oppressed, the innocent, and those who cannot fend for or defend themselves. This article forces us, in a compassionate and reasonable way, to think about a tough topic and resolve to do right. Thanks for this…. and all you are doing to help the “good guys with guns”.

  • Carl

    Reply Reply December 15, 2017

    I’ve been carrying a concealed gun to church for years now. Moreover, there are at least 2 other church members carrying. My reason is simple, if anyone comes to my church and attempts to shoot our members, it is incumbent upon those of us carrying to repeal such an attack to protect our families and other members.

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