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Nov 25, 2012 No Comments ›› Chuck Biscuits

Excerpted from The Daily: — Salvation isn’t automatic — but it might be semiautomatic.

In an effort to increase membership, a number of U.S. churches — including the Church of Christ congregation in this rural village 30 miles north of Columbus — are offering an unconventional public service: Concealed weapons training.

“Church has done a good job with coffee klatsches or whatever, but we haven’t really reached out to guys,” said Jeff Copley, a preacher at the church. “And guys in Morrow Country, they shoot and they hunt.”

Hundreds of students have enrolled in the 10-hour course, which meets the state requirements for earning a concealed weapons permit. The training includes two hours on a church member’s private shooting range.

“I grew up going to church, but hadn’t attended in a number of years,” said David Freeman, 52, a local engineering manager who attended a firearm safety class at the church. “Always considered myself a Christian. I came for the gun classes and have been coming back for two years.”

The Marengo church launched its program several years ago and was likely among the first in the country to offer concealed weapons training. But from Texas to North Carolina, a smattering of congregations have recently followed suit, as ministers seek to capitalize on local enthusiasm for gun culture and demand for carry permit classes to expand their flocks.

Central Baptist Church in Lexington, N.C., held its first concealed weapons classes in March, in what the Rev. Ryan Bennett described as just “another avenue to reach people.”

“We want to draw people in to our campus,” Bennett told a local newspaper at the time. “And we’re going to try anything that we can to do that.”

While conceding that he carries a 9mm pistol with him at all times, he said he doesn’t want his congregation to be labeled “gun-toting.”

“We promote responsibility. We don’t endorse violence,” he said. “It’s just another way to draw people in.”

In Texas, where it’s legal to carry guns into any church without a specific no-firearms policy, Heights Baptist in remote San Angelo began offering concealed carry classes in June. The class was a response to security concerns among congregants.

“We’re about 150 miles from the border with Mexico and we’re very unsure about our insecure borders — about what’s coming into our cities,” Pastor James Miller told NRA News. “Personally, I feel more secure that should our worship time be interrupted by a life-threatening intrusion, that we would at least stand some kind of a chance in stopping either a mass killing or terrorizing experience.”

Preacher Jeff, as Marengo Christian’s Copley is called by his flock, likewise emphasizes the spiritual importance of being able to defend oneself.

“Jesus advises his disciples to sell their cloak and buy a sword,” he told The Daily. “He instructed his people to be prepared to defend themselves. It’s really hard to find someone in our congregation that doesn’t shoot somehow.”

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