How to preach on guns to your congregation.

You probably can’t.

If you pastor a church that is far to the left (liberal) and you know everyone is for gun control, you can do it and live to tell about it.

If your church is far to the right (conservative) to the point that everyone owns guns and has stickers lauding the Second Amendment adorning their bumpers, you can do it, so long as you take the accepted position.

If however, your congregation is like the other 70 percent of Christian churches across this land and made up of believers of all stripes and varieties, once you introduce a hot-button issue like gun control and bring a full-blown sermon on it, you are going to stir up more strife than you are prepared to deal with.

The grief you cause will not be worth the benefit you derive.

Case in point.

I did a little experiment on Facebook this morning just to make a point. My “post” went something like this:

I once had  a nervous custodian who asked if it would be all right if he carried a pistol when he worked late at the church. I said, “Absolutely not.”  I thought of all those times when I would arrive back in town around midnight from speaking somewhere the previous evening, and  would run by the church for something before heading home. If Gary had been there and armed, I would have been a dead man.  — When I hear people talking about arming schoolteachers, that comes to mind. Every teacher packing guns must be the worst idea in the history of modern education.

The gun-lovers among my friends swarmed all over this like flies on a carcass.

Within three hours, I had a hundred comments. Some were thoughtful and well-reasoned (on both sides of the issue). Others were all over the place. Some attacked me for thinking more of my own security than the custodian’s, and others cited instances where a gun-toting principal had stopped a terrorist and saved lives.

I read them just now, then deleted the entire thread. All of this was to make a point for our readers here: In the current climate, it probably can’t be done. What I had thought was “introducing a bit of sanity into the discussion,” a close friend suggested I was implying that anyone who disagreed was insane.

That’s the problem. This is a minefield, pastor. Proceed at your own risk.

Here are seven considerations on the subject of preaching on guns:

1) This is called a “hot-button” issue for good reason: Many on both sides of this issue are entrenched in their beliefs, rabid about their points-of-view, and deaf to any voice that suggests they might be in error. Try to take a middle-of-the-road stance and you will be shot at from both sides.

2) Such a subject, therefore, is not suitable for a sermon at any time.  If you just “have” to do something, consider leading small groups. Furthermore, at first you should hand-pick the members of a test-group, to see if such a discussion has any chance at succeeding at all. If the cell group turns into a hockey game (old joke), then drop it right there.

3) I hate admitting some subjects are off limits to the pulpit.  If there is any place on earth where Truth should be prized and sought and heard and obeyed, the church should be the place. Sad to say, that is not always the case.

4) If this were a scriptural issue–something the Bible addressed specifically–then we would have no choice but to deal with it in one way or the other. It doesn’t.

5) On the other hand, a careful pastor might choose to preach right up to the edge of this subject and give it a glancing blow.

Let’s say the preacher takes as his text Acts  7:57 where the crowd who heard Stephen’s testimony “stopped their ears” and determined to do anything possible to silence his voice. (They stoned him to death.) The preacher raises the questions: “When do you stop listening? What subjects set you off? What kind of speaker is most likely to enrage you, to make you angry?”

Our answer tells volumes about us, of course. Depending on the congregation, the answers might range from abortion to unionism and global warming, from blind-patriotism to Obamacare, and from atheism and cultism to gun control.

Such a sermon might then call on God’s people to be open to the Holy Spirit and not put restrictions on Him. (Similarly, in Acts 17:32 the Athenians quit listening to Paul the moment he mentioned the resurrection. The subject was not open for discussion and their passions became unleashed against the preacher.)

6) Such a sermon (one that lumped gun ownership rights/control in with other hot-button issues) could analyze why we are so rabid on some subjects and so careless on others.

In the early 1970s when race relations in my state were frayed and sermons on racism were considered foolhardy, I brought a message to our people–I was on the staff of the largest church in the state, filled with key political leadership–on the subject of “blind spots,” those areas in which we are simply unable to see the other fellow’s point of view.  Racial prejudice was one of four areas I mentioned briefly. (I forget what the others were.)

Touching on that subject allowed me to introduce it from the pulpit–something I had not heard done there in my years in that church–and, I hoped, would pave the way for someone else to do so with more depth and courage the next time.

7) No one is suggesting the pastor take the cowardly, safe way. We are suggesting he take the wise way.

This is a great place for a funny story or a great quote from a child, something to lighten a heavy subject.

Sorry. I don’t have one.


4 thoughts on “How to preach on guns to your congregation.

  1. It’s such a personal topic, guns. I think the reason it’s so hot button is because no other method of protection can so easily kill- for better or worse it’s a forever thing in a split second. People want to claim other weapons kill more people but I can assure you much more effort and will are involved in the using of them.
    This is why I prefer to look at other methods of protection.

  2. Joe,

    Thanks for your thoughtful article. I appreciate your willingness to tackle such a tough topic honestly and your stressing the importance of addressing it wisely. I am a minister, counselor, avid gun owner and shooter. I have a concealed carry permit and shoot regularly with law enforcement officers and firearms instructors who are members in our church. I am a firm believer in 2nd amendment right to bear arms. Having said that, I grow frustrated when my friends in the “no more gun control” group seem to gravitate to extremes. They play out scenarios that imply that any additional gun control laws equate to the confiscation of guns, the rise of another Hitler, and the end of the world as we know it. I guess anything is “possible,” but I just don’t see these as “probable” outcomes of additional gun control laws. I think most reasonable, thoughtful people see some merit in additional gun laws. And, I think most reasonable thoughtful people realize that more gun control will make a negligible difference in gun violence. But, if it makes any difference, then I am for it, provided the new laws aren’t designed to lead toward gun confiscation from law abiding, rightly trained citizens. I wish we focused less on types of guns allowed and more on amount of training required to own guns. Maybe more gun control laws wouldn’t prevent another Sandy Hook, Columbine, Wedgwood, or Virginia Tech. Maybe more gun control laws would prevent another of those types of massacres. It’s hard to prove what “might have happened” or what “might not have happened.” But, I don’t believe that more training could be a bad thing.

    • Thank you, Tate. In today’s volatile atmosphere, it’s becoming more and more impossible for a pastor to say something as gentle as what you said here. People hear what they want to hear and react to what they thought you said, not what you said. So it quickly becomes a no-win situation. — Thanks for the note.

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