The Ignite Church
Get ready…there is a new church in town and it is locked and loaded. The Ignite Church in Joplin, Mo. believes when it comes to doctrine, culture, preferences, traditions, lifestyles, politics, behavior, etc., they take a closed-hand/open-hand approach.
The closed hand hangs onto the essential beliefs of Christian faith: sin is the problem, Jesus is the answer, the Bible is true, and Hell is hot.
The open hand, however, allows room for differences when it comes to secondary matters. We liberally allow freedom for conscience and wisdom to guide where the Bible is silent. The open hand fosters unity among the diversity of expressions found in the Ignite congregation: democrats and republicans, soccer moms and rockers, carnivores and vegans, construction workers and pencil pushers.
The open hand approach also allows the members and the former Lead Pastor, Heath Mooneyham to indulge in alcohol, which most traditional churches do not condone.
The Ignite Church is not inherently against alcohol consumption. During an interview this summer, Mooneyham said only half-jokingly that the church has set a late-morning start time to accommodate the arrival of members who may have been out late and had a bit too much to drink on the night before.
But at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 16, Mooneyham was stopped by Joplin police after leaving a local bar. He failed a breathalyzer test and was charged with driving while intoxicated, according to a statement made by church officials on Sunday.
Mooneyham, who has led Ignite Church since 2006, has temporarily stepped down from his post.
Chad Isaacs, a member of the church’s executive leadership board, said Monday that Mooneyham has agreed to temporarily step aside from his full-time position with the church “for a time of discipline and reflection,” which will include mandatory counseling to help Mooneyham abstain from drinking alcohol.
Here is the official apology video from Mooneyham.
“America’s Manliest Church” also has some pretty unorthodox recruiting methods.
Ignite Church also had been facing some heat after hosting a rifle giveaway over Father’s Day weekend. Some Joplin residents are stirred up about the two 15-AR sport rifles given away.
“It’s crazy because in the Bible it says ‘Thou shall not kill’ and now they’re giving out permission to give out guns and everything,” said a Joplin resident.
“I think it’s great,” said Brad Wiese, Springfield resident. “I think it’s awesome that we have the freedom to do that and that those guys now have the necessary tools to protect themselves.”
“It’s insane, it’s crazy,” said Arthur Golden, Joplin resident. “It’s not a good idea. It’s a really dumb idea. Who thought this was a good idea?”
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” said Claude Divine, Diamond resident.
Supporters say it is taking advantage of Second Amendment rights. Opponents say other prizes would have been better suited for a church giveaway. Despite all the debate that’s been sparked by the giveaway, staff members at Ignite Church say they do stand behind their decision.
“It’s just in our culture,” said Heath Mooneyham, lead pastor of Ignite Church. “The guys around here really like shooting and hunting, so we thought what better thing to give away.”
Mooneyham says the rifles were given legally, with a background check and paperwork completed. He also clarifies AR-15 guns are sport rifles, not assault rifles.
“I had some people commenting that AR stands for assault rifle, but it no more stands for assault rifle than anything,” Mooneyham said. “It stands for ArmaLite rifle.”
Mooneyham also says the giveaway was not a publicity stunt, but simply an effort to draw in people who the other churches are not reaching.
“People maybe say it was a ploy to recruit members, but first of all, our church doesn’t have membership, people just attend,” he said. “If you like us, keep attending, keep serving. If not, just don’t show up.”
Staff members at Ignite Church say they plan on doing a similar giveaway again next year.
Excerpt from a Sunday recruitment sermon
So is this some kind of crazy grass roots American gun cult masquerading as a church? It may be…but here in America, freedom of religion is protected by the constitution, so we all have the right to worship as we see fit. You have all heard of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster right? So what do you think? Are you ready to load up and bug out to Joplin?