After 26 people were killed at a massacre in a rural Texas church, pastors at a Tampa church say they're armed with more than just the Bible and a song.
Church leaders at The River at Tampa Bay Church have posted signs at all of their doors saying their church is not a gun-free zone and they will use deadly force to protect their people.
In a post on Instagram, the church's Senior Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne added a picture of the sign which reads: "Welcome to The River at Tampa Bay Church – right of admission reserved – this is private property."
"Please know this is not a gun free zone – we are heavily armed – any attempt will be dealt with deadly force – yes we are a church and will protect our people," the sign continues.
The message was signed: "The Pastors."
Those armed in the congregation include the pastors, private plainclothes guards, uniformed security guards and many of the church's 1,200 members who have concealed-carry permits.
The warning signs were reportedly posted more than a year ago, but the pro-gun messages went viral after the shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
"If you think you are going to come here and do that, this is the deterrent for you because it is everywhere, it's not like we hide these guns," said Associate Pastor Allen Hawes in an interview with FOX 13.
"I believe, if you look at the teachings of Jesus, Matthew, and different places in the scriptures, we see it will get increasingly darker – wars, rumors of wars, and people with not good intentions are going to look for a way to make a statement," Hawes said.
He explained that the church is also protecting itself in light of news about the search for a serial killer in a Tampa neighborhood.
"Someone is murdering people," Hawes said. "This stuff is happening all the time. Do you wait for another shooting to take precautions?"
Some have criticized the church for taking up arms, but Hawes said, "Would I rather ruffle a few feathers, or do I want to count bodies?"