A Kentucky church, Lone Oak First Baptist Church, has hit on an unconventional way of attracting nonreligious people to their services-- by offering them a free steak dinner and a chance to win a gun, reports the Courier-Journal.
Billing these events as a celebration of "faith and firearms," the church will hold the next 2nd Amendment Celebration and Dinner on March 6, 2014, with former pastor and avid hunter Chuck McAlister as the guest speaker. McAlister serves as the evangelistic leader of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, according to The Blaze.
The churches seek to draw in young "unchurched" men who are passionate about hunting and their second amendment rights. The Courier-Journal described the atmosphere at these events as a mix between a political rally and a prayer meeting.
“We have found that the number of unchurched men who will show up will be in direct proportion to the number of guns you give away,” McAlister said to the Courier-Journal. He claims that 1,678 made "professions of faith" at some 50 events last year, most of which took place in Kentucky.
Not all churches approve of this tactic for spreading Jesus' word. Rev. Joe Phelps, pastor of Louisville's independent Highland Baptist Church, commented, "How ironic to use guns to lure men in to hear a message about Jesus, who said, ‘Put away the sword.'"
Pastor Nancy Jo Kemper of New Union Church in Versailles called the events a "travesty," adding, "How terrible it would be if one of those guns given away at a church were to cause the death of an innocent victim.” She said that the giveaway verges on bribery and “makes a mockery of what evangelism, to my way of thinking, ought to be.”
McAlister defends his gun-promoting strategy as simply, "affinity evangelism," with hunting as a hook to catch Kentucky men. “So we get in there and burp and scratch and talk about the right to bear arms and that stuff," he said.
By throwing his support behind a hot-button political issue, McAlister is able to appeal to his audience on a more religious level as well.
“There is only one path to know the God who made the great outdoors, and that is through his son, Jesus Christ," he says.