Stupid Church Tricks: Fake Kidnapping
Youth pastor takes a lesson about persecution too far.

Are you trying to develop a more hospitable, seeker-friendly atmosphere in your church? Here's the first step: Don't kidnap people at gunpoint.

A church in Pennsylvania is under investigation for taking a lesson about persecution too far. Glad Tidings Assembly of God arranged to have two men with real (unloaded) guns raid a youth group meeting. They covered the teens' heads, loaded them into a van, and took them to the pastor's house. The pastor was covered in blood and appeared to be tortured by the kidnappers. The entire scene was a stunt to teach the teens about persecution of Christians in other parts of the world.

Because at least some of the teens were unaware that the raid was a stunt, the church is being investigated for crimes against a minor–a second-degree felony that may result in up to 10 years in prison.

"They pulled my chair out from underneath me and then they told me to get on the ground," one teen reported. "I was the first person to go into the van. I had my hands behind my back they said 'just do as I say and you won't be hurt'."

Pastor John Lanza said the lesson was a surprise "to secure the shock value of it and make it much more real."

"There are people in other countries that live under this environment on a regular daily basis," Lanza said. "They're not warned that their persecutors are coming in."

I wonder how they teach about the crucifixion?

March 29, 2012

Displaying 1–10 of 18 comments


April 10, 2012  3:54pm

Sometimes you have to listen to the small voice inside you that says you are about to do something stupid. Hopefully the church won't get sued out of ministry.

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April 05, 2012  10:29am

"The pastor could have at least forwarned them just a bit so that way they would not be in trouble that they are in right now. I don't think they are criminals. Gimme a break!! That's what other Christians in other areas are considered criminals! Did you think about that one? That time will be here in U.S. soon where Christians will be considered criminals. I am sorry if any one of you refuse to believe the hard truth..." Marcie, First, thank you for exhibiting the forgiving spirit of Y'shua, that speaks well about your sincerity. Now, I would like to address this part of your post since I feel it encapsulates your point directly. The purpose of our faith, and the purpose of Y'shua explaining suffering for his sake wasn't to establish a baseline of expectant fear in us so we know when we're plenty scared before anyone has a chance to put the fear of persecution in us. No, that was not why he told us of that. He explained that following him would have consequences...not just for ourselves, but for the communities we live in. So, his forewarning was so when it did happen, unexpectedly, we did not live in fear, but in the knowledge that we have a future. "this world is just temporary journey on our eternal walk with G-d." or "Where O'death is thy sting?" So, to the meat of the issue... This incident in Pennsylvania was, and is stupid, and herein is why...the Youth Pastor did not think [operative word here is think] through the long term implications of his actions, which, oddly enough, falls under the heading of "why people do stupid things." The common thread amongst criminals, and the association is a loose tangent of connectivity so bear with me, is that they don't think through their actions. However, the common thread amongst nice, everyday people who commit horrible crimes once in their entire lives is because... Yes, that's right, they didn't think through their actions. "I just wanted to scare him" "I wanted her to respect me and stop yelling at me" And the most common ending to all those things these otherwise normal people finish their explanations with... "I didn't think it would end this way." "I didn't mean for her to get hurt" "I can't believe I did that....wha...I don't know what happened to me or why I took it so far." Those Marcie are statements made by average, everyday people who committed crimes of passion, and they all stemmed from one, critical absence of restraint...They didn't think through their actions, they just went with them.

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April 05, 2012  12:21am

Alisha and other posters, I forgive you for being so negative against the church who simply tried their best in this matter. You said the word, 'stupid' so that's not nice at all. You should be careful in what you say..I don't think that was an unwise idea at all. It's preparation for what's coming ahead of us in our future soon. Sorry, but that's so and there's nothing you can do about it because as Jesus said something about us the Christians suffering because of His name's sake. It's in the Gospels. The time is coming, and we must be ready for that. Yes,. even in U.S. because our government, let's say that it has some issues and I know that America will be purifed after the 3rd darkness covering it which George Washington saw in his vision. He said that it was terrible or was it horrible which means that the 3rd is the worst of all. So I believe we are in the beginning of that 3rd darkness now but not sure. However, there are also other ways that we can be gentle which would be reading material from the 'The Voice of the Marytrs' which does have a website, just google it and then there's some movies that does sound like a good idea, actually. The pastor could have at least forwarned them just a bit so that way they would not be in trouble that they are in right now. I don't think they are criminals. Gimme a break!! That's what other Christians in other areas are considered criminals! Did you think about that one? That time will be here in U.S. soon where Christians will be considered criminals. I am sorry if any one of you refuse to believe the hard truth...However, there's hope for everyone as well. Jesus is coming back soon than what we would have thought so be prepared for that..God and Jesus is not angry with you just with sin, that's all.

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April 04, 2012  4:32pm

Thanks, sheerahkahn, especially for the reference to the study. To clarify: in my example the police department, the firefighters, and paramedics all knew it was only a mock disaster, as well as the deparment heads of the institute. None of the chrildren knew it was a "mock" disaster, nor did the rest of the staff. The vast majority of those involved believed the disaster to be real. That said, I didn't stop to think last night that the laws would naturally be different in the US, including what would be considered criminal as opposed to "merely" civil. Regardless of where the fiasco took place, stupid is stupid anywhere.

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April 04, 2012  12:03pm

Paul, I think you may have misread a prior post. No policemen involved.

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April 04, 2012  9:52am

"I don't see how this church (as stupid as their stunt was) could be held criminally responsible..." A couple of things you need to know about criminal law...first of which it is there not for the perpetrator, it is there for the victim. Criminal law is about retribution against the offending party, or, in the parlance of the Police work, "a negative response to deviant behavior." The "alleged" balance to that is that the perpetrator is consider innocent till proven guilty...but the reality is "you're going no where till we ascertain whether you are guilty or not." The examples you cited, and they are valid examples for comparison to this episode is that the children involved knew forehand "this is a mock drill" and so the "intensity of the moment" is understood more as "wooohooo, this is interesting/fun/cool." Now, take that same scenario exercise, except this time, you, your children, and your spouse are sitting in a restaraunt having a quiet dinner after work, and in comes three hooded men brandishing firearms of varying sorts; and then you hear sirens, and you have time to look out the window to see the police lining up, aiming guns into the restaruant. You and your family are tied up, threatened with your lives, your children crying, your husband visibly worried that he may see one of his loved ones get shot, point-blank, and there isn't a damn thing he can do about it. Think about the terror, as you see SWAT team snipers, and a assault team bust in, and gun fire ripping through your ear drums. And just when you think, "This is it, this is where I see the end of my life's efforts." Everything stops, and your City Police chief comes in, and thanks you all for being "unknowing" participants in a Police Hostage Rescue exercise, and have a nice night. Tell me, honestly, would you be "oh, that's okay, no foul, no harm done." ? So, I think it's always a good thing for people in general to understand the nature of the human mind in stressful situations, even when they're known as "mock" before hand. I recommend all of you, including the editors of Out of UR, familiarize yourself with this study. It's called the Stanford Prison Experiment, and it was run by students as wardens, and as prisoners. I think you will all find this quite interesting. Ignorance is bad, but what is worse than that are the results of our actions born from our ignorance.

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April 03, 2012  10:59pm

This is unbelievable! Those poor kids are going to suffer the psychological consequences of this traumatic experience for years to come. Just because it wasn't 'real' doesn't matter, this trauma will still have lasting effects on those kids' sense of safety and truth. Despicable.

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Paul Russsell

April 03, 2012  10:37pm

There was a policeman involved? And he apparently didn't know any better? Unbelievable!

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Alisha (again)

April 03, 2012  8:28pm

I actually remember "playing" a "game" in college called "The Persecuted Church." Everyone involved knew that it wasn't "for real." We had an organizational meeting prior to the game and a debriefing session after. Essentially we were divided into two groups: persecuted and persecutors. Upon being divided the "church group" had to plan where their church was, where the "pastor" lived and where they wanted to have the "service." The persecutors dressed in military gear and had fake guns, had to set up a "detention centre," and tried to catch all the Christians they could. It sounds a lot like capture the flag: lots of fun, right? It certainly didn't feel like capture the flag. Because we knew that this kind of stuff was reality for many believers we didn't take it lightly. Though we all knew it was a game, because we believed in Christ we were allowing ourselves to become emotionally wrapped up in the action. Some Christians cried, some persecutors felt guilty. It wasn't "fun." But it was good. Very good. The debriefing session, during which we talked about our experiences and prayed was much more powerful than any of us had expected. I've often wished to do such a thing again... With the full knowledge of what we were doing. As for the pastor wanting it to feel "real," even the persecuted church knows that they can possibly get caught, so the "shock" factor wasn't absolutely necessary to get the point across.

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April 03, 2012  8:13pm

That the church got criminal charges against them for this sort of thing is absolutely ridiculous. I have participated in "mock disasters" that are organized by emergency workers (police, fire, and ambulance workers). They willing let the vast majority of people involved (many of them children as young as nine) to experience it as a "real" disaster. They got some of the staff to "play dead" or injured complete with make-up and props to appear to have head wounds and broken bones. They used smoke machines in an upper hallway, so by the time the kids had been evacuated they could see smoke coming out the windows. I don't see how this church (as stupid as their stunt was) could be held criminally responsible for having an event that in many ways would evoke the same feelings and responses as the mock disasters practiced by emergency workers.

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