By Brian Blackwell, Marketing Director
COVINGTON – Matthew Smith understands the importance many men place on hunting in Louisiana.
So when his pastor, Clark Stewart, and others at New Zion Baptist Church learned in late 2011 that a church in Mississippi used the sport to reach men with an evangelistic event, they felt bringing the same to South Louisiana would be an excellent inroad to reaching them for Christ.
The result was 1,300 people – many of whom were men and young males – gathering for an evening of hunting tips, a free meal and door prizes. Not to mention 138 who received Christ as their personal Lord and Savior by the end of the evening.
The event was one of many across the state designed to draw men who don’t regularly participate in church-related activities.
Sponsored by the Northshore Baptist Association, Louisiana Baptist Convention evangelism team and six churches in Folsom and Covington, the first-ever Blessing of the Hunt drew men from as far away as Pineville, La., and Mississippi. Smith, who serves as education minister at New Zion Baptist, said the event drew some men who normally wouldn’t feel comfortable coming to a church service but were interested enough in hunting.
“It was awesome to see the folks that would never come into a church onto a Sunday morning who were willing and excited to come to an event like this,” Smith said. “That resulted in spiritual decisions and baptisms later. We had a vision for people to receive Christ and get involved in a church and we are now seeing it come to completion for some of those who came.”
Near the end of the evening those who filled out a card – which included an option for each person to check if he or she made a first-time decision or rededication for Christ – were eligible to win such prizes as deer corn, guns and an ATV.
Volunteers from the six area churches that sponsored the Blessing of the Hunt had been trained by LBC evangelism team members on how to effectively follow up with those who made a spiritual decision.
For those men who indicated they made a decision to accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, Smith said the trickle-down effect to the rest of a man’s family is valuable.
“It’s very important for the man to be the spiritual leader,” Smith said. “Even if he’s a new believer, he can contribute to his family’s growth.
“His children are looking to him,” Smith continued. “You get the father, you get the family. That’s what men’s ministry should be about – not just eating a meal but training our men to be leaders in their homes.”
Like Smith, Jeff Draughon believes men are at the heart of a strong family unit. The men’s ministry leader at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, Draughon said men are hungry for a challenge and direction in their lives.
Thus, Calvary Baptist in 2008 started the Quest, an eight-week morning Bible study that takes place in the fall and spring.
Numerous testimonies have resulted from The Quest, to include restored marriages, reuniting a dad with a son after 40 years of estrangement, addictions overcome and many life- changing decisions.
A men’s conference that drew 1,200 men and resulted in nearly 350 first-time decisions or re-dedications in 2011, and three noon-time weekly Bible studies, are other ministries that evolved from the Quest.
“Men in society aren’t being the men they should be,” Draughon said. “Men’s ministry gets them off the bench and in the game.”
Rob Tibbitts, pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Vinton, said the men’s ministry at his church was a struggle in the past. While the church tried breakfasts, rallies and conferences, Tibbits said all those methods were ineffective and not meeting men’s spiritual needs.
Then, the church recently changed its approach from asking what could they to do get men together to what were they going to do to challenge their men to engage in ministry. The new vision resulted in the formation of six new weekly men’s small groups and a two-year men’s discipleship program to equip men to connect with one another, grow in their faith and leadership skills, serve to their full potential and share their faith with other men in their sphere of influence.
“Our men have blown us away with their incredible hunger and deep desire to become all that they can be for God,” Tibbitts said. “They have moved from being ‘passive and unengaged’ in their families and in their homes to become fully engaged and active in their homes and in our church. Our ladies are so excited to see the incredible changes that have taken place in their men.”