Tuesday, February 28

Guns in Church from an Elders Prospective

Note: I received the following comments from a colleague who is an elder at a Michigan church that is currently working through the matter of how to handle church security as it relates to concealed carry. He holds a concealed pistol license, is an avid shooter and is also a freelance writer for magazines that review and report on firearms and the shooting industry. As you read his comments, keep in mind that Michigan law requires a church's presiding officials to grant or deny permission for someone to carry concealed on church property.

Below are his thoughts related to guns in church:

"I actually haven't found many articles that address this topic. On the one hand, of course, the stories such as those found on goodguyswin.org are very helpful as are the NRA's Armed Citizen reports. And the principles of those encounters usually apply in church settings. On the other hand, the reason that there's not much to read about church settings is that the notion of carrying in church is quite new, and at a surface level,seems (but isn't) inconsistent with what most regard as basic Christian principle -- trusting God, loving others, "How could we allow guns in church?", etc.

It begs more detailed study and discussion, of course, and I think the theology and facts bear out that carrying guns in church does not actually violate any biblical principles of self-defense nor Christian love. In fact, it may be a wise course of action. All that to say: Part of what [people] are looking for is found at least in having some well-developed theology of self-defense and gun ownership and use. For an excellent introduction to that I recommend Wayne Grudem's lecture. See also the essay on self-defense in the resources at the back of the ESV Study Bible.

Moreover, a study of church security incidents would be helpful to help establish that violent situations do actually occur in churches (and your web site is very informative).


With those as a foundation, this process unfolds in my mind: it seems each church's leaders should be further challenged to think through physical security measures, irrespective of concealed carry weapons for security, ushers, or in the congregation. Church leaders should consider the principles that apply to handling any incident: What are their thoughts on the use of a pocketknife, kubotan, pepper spray, etc. as tools of self-defense? Continue that line of thinking -- and the tools that might be used -- all the way to the use of firearms (by trained, responsible people). Then consider what weapons are likely to be used by lawbreakers (firearms and other lethal tools). Unfounded biases (on the part of church leaders) against firearms will show themselves quickly as each kind of tool is considered and what level of security is considered appropriate. One test: If a church locks its doors at night then they obviously see some need for physical security. That kind of thinking needs to expand to handling incidents where the congregation is in the building and something goes down that is a threat to life.


Personally, I'm not against concealed carry in church but I prefer that is occurs within the context of an organized volunteer security force that is comprised of ushers and some key people planted in various parts of a sanctuary. This of course provides a context for ushers to train in how to handle an incident -- and at least some notion of who's carrying -- but also gives church leaders the opportunity to say "no" to some requests for carrying concealed weapons in church (e.g., Michigan law requires a church's presiding officials to grant or deny permission for someone to carry concealed on church property). With this, church leaders, who have so much on their plate already, have the luxury to be able to 1) simply delegate security to a small security force and 2) be able to say "no" to those who ask because of #1 -- they already have a security team in place who are armed, trained, etc. Moreover, there's a good kind of shepherding that the people of the church can benefit from when they hear from their leaders that the ushers are trained to handle general security measures. Of course I don't recommend publicizing that some may be carrying firearms; rather, congregations should know, as a general principle, that they are cared for on a multitude of levels when they're on church property.


The matter of experience and training is important but in my opinion there are civilians who practice and practice so well that they are actually more competent and careful than those who have military or police experience. My point is not to denigrate military and police training, which is valuable and can be a great asset -- especially when it comes to awareness. My point is to emphasize the need to train and practice, regardless of one's background. Every church building is different in layout and construction; every incident that goes down is probably different as well. So this matter of security is far more than just having a gun in the congregation. It's helpful at least; but it's far more than that. A coordinated usher/security team can (we hope) spot trouble before it occurs and act accordingly. Again, this is what church leaders need to consider when it comes to security.


Bottom line is that church leaders need to be informed on these issues and pressed to organize something when it comes to security -- as a matter of the faithful shepherding of their congregations. Leaders need to lead in this area. Likewise, however, church leaders need to realize that congregants with concealed weapons are not necessarily the best people to serve on security teams. Most church leaders don't know about or think about concealed carry laws or how it applies to their congregations, which can be different, state-to-state. They also don't know about all of the many resources that help in this area (your web site, church security conferences and webinars, etc.). So all of this must start with education and awareness of the church leaders. A congregant with an interest in church security must carefully and wisely introduce the idea to a church's leadership. Not: "I'd like to carry my gun in church" as the first thing he says but "I'm interested in helping out with ushering at church" and then discerning the level of efficacy the church leaders have toward security. From there he can bring in educational materials and resources to help make the points and gain interest in enacting thoughtful security measures in a church."


  1. This is one of the better articles on the subject of Guns in Church? and the writer has given good, clear explanations and answers to the questions we so often hear as to "Why" or "Why not" allow this.

    We just posted another article covering this same subject that is worth reading to see more views.

  2. There are multiple articles at that link. Which one were you referring to? Thanks.

  3. There are multiple articles at that link. Which one were you referring to?

  4. A few years ago a pastor I knew told me that he didn't feel a need to have guns in his church. Although it was in a gang infested high crime area, he told me that if someone came into the church and killed members of his congregation, that it would be because it was God's will that they be martyred. The number one objection I've encountered from pastors about having a security team or allowing CCW permit holders to carry concealed in their church is their belief that God will protect them, so they don't need to. This is the best internet link I've found so far that refutes both arguments.