The pastor of Denton's largest church says he thought about canceling Christmas Eve services after his church received a bomb threat in the mail earlier this week.
About 5,000 people are expected to attend Christmas Eve services Thursday at Denton Bible Church.
They'll all be there to listen to Senior Pastor Tommy Nelson deliver his Christmas Eve message of God's love and the miracle of Christ's birth. Still, there's the lingering issue over that anonymous bomb threat.
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"It's the 500-pound gorilla in the room," Nelson told NBC 5. "You have to address that in the first 20 seconds – that we know this happened and this is a bad thing."
Nelson said one of his administrators called him Monday and told him about the mailed-in bomb threat.
"It's hard to believe that in America, someone would say to you, 'We will do you great harm if you proclaim the name of Christ on Christmas Eve.' That's hard to believe. But I simply say we will go on with our duty," Nelson said.
Nelson says in 40 years of preaching the Gospel, he's never before had a bomb threat. He thought briefly about canceling services, but ultimately decided against it.
"You don't back down in the face of evil. So, yeah, it crossed my mind, but then I said there's no way we're going to do that," he said. "You can't as a society – you can't as a man – have evil dictate what you're going to do."
There will be a large Denton police presence Thursday afternoon. The church is also beefing up its own security.
"We will have policemen there. We will have people in our congregation. We have a number of men in our congregation that are trained, and they'll simply have eyes and they know what they're looking for during services," Nelson said.
Nelson said before the doors open at 4:30 p.m. there will be a security sweep of the entire building.
"You make sure the building is OK first. Then you just watch who comes in. And you keep your eyes out," Nelson said. "It's kind of like you don't expect anything to happen, but you always prepare for the worst-case scenario."
This week, Denton Bible Church and nearby Saint Andrews received mailed threats if Christmas Eve services weren't canceled.
Neither congregation is backing down.
Nelson said he wants authorities to find and arrest the person responsible, then he wants to meet him.
"I'd like to sit down and look him in the eye, as one man to another man, and say you can do a whole lot better," he said. "As a human being you can't live your life like this."
NBC 5 asked the pastor what he would tell a family who is trying to decide whether to attend services Thursday.
"We're not going to let evil commander our lives. We're going to stand in the face of it. If we die, then we die, but we don't go on in our lives cowering in the threat of evil. That's what I would tell my kids," Nelson said.
Christmas Eve services at Denton Bible Church begin at 6 p.m.