Brad Clay of Sulphur loves God and loves to hunt. Clay and his friends combined those two great passions to create a Christian outdoors ministry called Final Descent Outdoors. The ministry is among several church outreach organizations and activities aimed at outdoors enthusiasts in the state. The target audience is people, especially men, who like to hunt or simply love being outdoors. "It’s just neat that there are churches that are realizing that we need to get men,” said Clay, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Sulphur. "There are so many women who get up on Sunday by themselves, get the family together and go to church without the men. There are just so many men who, for whatever reason, are not involved. This is a way we can get men in a situation with something that’s going to catch their attention and present them with the Gospel.”
Bringing the outdoors inSeveral churches have had or are planning outreach activities geared for hunters and outdoor lovers. Crossings Community Church held its first Sportsman’s Beast Feast this month. Coordinator Mike Fackler said he hopes it will become an annual event. First Baptist Church of Piedmont is set to host its fourth annual Wild Game Feast on Sept. 19. Other churches that have held similar activities include Portland Avenue Baptist Church, Freedom Church in Owasso and First Baptist Church of Durant. Fackler, pastor of middle school ministries at Crossings, said about 440 people showed up for the church’s Beast Feast on Aug. 18. He said the event was aimed at sharing Christ’s love and getting outdoors enthusiasts involved with the local church. Prizes were given away including an African safari. Jeff Danker with the "Buckventures Outdoors” TV show was guest speaker. Fackler said the event was timely because dove hunting season begins Tuesday, and deer hunting season begins Oct. 1. "We wanted to create an opportunity for people who love hunting and the outdoors to have an opportunity to meet the Creator of the outdoors,” Fackler said. Randy McCown, minister of education and administration at First Baptist of Piedmont, said Clay and two other men who helped create Final Descent Outdoors will kick off the church’s Wild Game Feast with free clinics offering basic information about waterfowl, deer and turkey hunting. He said the free meal is a potluck of sorts because most attendees will be bringing their wild game dishes to participate in a cook-off. Dishes in the past have included elk, dove, venison, turkey and catfish. About 300 to 400 people are expected to attend. "We do it as an outreach to people in the community, to try to let them know there’s more to church than just Sunday morning,” McCown said. Meanwhile, Fackler wrote a book incorporating his love of hunting and faith. "God Moments From a Deer Stand” is a 30-day devotional for deer hunters. Fackler said he is not sure whether Crossings will create a ministry geared for sportsmen and sportswomen, but the Beast Feast was an important "grass roots” step toward reaching that population.
Ministry targetClay said outreach is what these ministries are all about. He said that was the reason he and friends Landon Wood and Clayton Edgar joined forces for their Final Descent Outdoors ministry. The men are working on a DVD series that combines hunting and faith elements. They hope the series may lead to a companion devotional. Clay said First Baptist Church of Sulphur has been diligent about offering outreach activities for specific populations. Those activities have included fishing trips, rodeo events and an llinois River float trip. Whether the activities lead people to begin attending church or join the church is not a concern as long as the people are given an opportunity to establish a relationship with the Lord and those who serve Him, Clay said. "It’s not our job to play the Holy Spirit. It’s our job to get them in the place to let the Holy Spirit do the work,” Clay said. Clay said his ministry has not received any criticism from animal lovers or people opposed to hunting thus far. He said he thinks that could be attributed to the hunting tradition in Oklahoma. "We have two big traditions here: hunting and religion,” he said. "Combining those two hasn’t really shocked anyone in Oklahoma.”