Church silence promotes violence to humans, to animals, to our
environment, to our economy, to our education, to our finances, and to our health.
By: Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman
Encouraging people who come to church to worship that it is acceptable to participate in the deaths of wild animals, and to then eat them is against all the teachings of Christ.
Telling children that it is all right to kill animals leads them to lose their sense of empathy for living beings. It creates hardness of heart that festers and expands as they grow into adulthood.
This article in a North Carolina newspaper exemplifies how the church is condoning killing and is failing to teach love, compassion and peace.
Take a taste of the wild side - at church
(Submitted to All-creatures.org by Constance Young.)
By Amy B. McCraw Times-News Correspondent, BlueRidgeNow.com
Churches are reaching out to sportsmen and their families with wild game banquets, camouflage Bibles and archery and target shooting competitions. ABOVE: June Cornett, left, and Debi Crisp label game for the 2009 Christian Sportsmen Fellowship Banquet at Living Water Baptist Church. TOP: Greg Morrow checks out a bow that Neil Anderson made by hand.
If you find the idea of digging into a plate of bear lasagna intriguing or would like to know whether a wild boar barbecue sandwich tastes the same as pork from the grocery store, church might be just the place for you.
That’s right. Some local churches now offer cuisine on the wild side to members and visitors.
A few congregations in Henderson County invite members and visitors to wild game suppers each year where bear, wild boar and deer share the menu with samples of more exotic meats such as antelope, alligator, ostrich, turtle and kangaroo.
The suppers, where much of the food is provided by members of the congregation who hunt, are one way churches in the area are trying to reach people who love the outdoors but might not worship regularly. It’s a new trend in outreach: hunting for souls.
“Some guys, their life is hunting and fishing,” says the Rev. Mike Stewart, senior pastor at Living Water Baptist Church on Sugarloaf Road. “This is the only way to connect with them on something spiritual. This is another avenue to share the gospel.”
Living Water is one of two churches in Henderson County that offer members a chance to be involved in a chapter of the Christian Sportsmen Fellowship, an Atlanta-based, non-denominational, international organization founded in 1994. It uses outdoor sports as a way to reach people who might not attend church.
Christian Sportsmen’s events combine outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing and target shooting with prayer and Christian messages from speakers. Small camouflage-covered Bibles are handed out at some events.
Wild game banquet
What better way to foster fellowship among hunters than a wild game banquet?
Living Water Baptist invited the public to a wild game banquet put on by its Christian Sportsmen chapter in the spring. Shortly before the banquet, members of Living Water’s sportsmen fellowship and their guests gathered in the church’s gravel parking lot to put the finishing touches on some of the food.
Brian Morgan, a 42-year-old Christian hunter, stood at the tailgate of his pickup truck chopping and sprinkling seasonings on sections of the wild boar he had cooked for several hours in a smoker he towed behind the truck. He bagged the 225-pound wild pig in the mountains of Upstate South Carolina. Morgan preserved the boar meat in a freezer until it was time for the banquet.
Morgan, who began hunting as a teenager, joined the sportsmen’s chapter at Living Water about three years ago.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Morgan says. “They do a lot of outreach for children and families.”
The chapter at Living Water began about eight years ago after church member Alfred Cornett met leaders of the organization at a conference. He began asking questions and liked what he heard. He spearheaded the first sportsmen’s chapter in Henderson County at Living Water.
“A Sportsman, who is out in the outdoors, knows without a doubt, that there has to be a higher being that created all in this world,” Cornett says.
“He/she sees the wonders each time they go out into the outdoors. I believe that most outdoors people believe in God, and having a CSF group is putting together people with a love for the outdoors, most of all a love of God, who want others to know our Lord and Savior Jesus.”
The group started with half a dozen people and now has about 50 members.
Stewart, who hunts small game, supported Cornett.
“I said, ‘Man, that sounds great,’ ” Stewart says.
“My first thought was, ‘What a wonderful way to reach people.’
“As we serve the Lord and church we want to be wise and discerning. You need to relate to different people to share the gospel. What a great way to do that.”
The Christian Sportsmen’s group at Living Water has handed out more than 1,000 Bibles.
“When we meet together you can feel the love of Christ within the room and know, if you were an outsider looking in, these people love each other,” Cornett says.
“They stand by the side of their fellow CSF member when times are bad and lift each other up in prayer daily.”
Although the sportsmen’s group at Living Water focuses on men, it also includes women and children in activities.
Some even hunt.
Kids can also get involved through BB gun and bow-and-arrow target shooting competitions. For special programs, state game wardens come to the church to provide hunter safety training.
Wild game buffet
At Living Water’s wild game banquet in March, many women joined their husbands and children for dinner. Some wore camouflage shirts and helped prepare the food.
Morgan’s wife, Wendy, brought one of her specialties: lasagna cooked with meat from a bear her husband killed. She placed the lasagna beside his wild boar barbecue on a table brimming with dishes made from other wild meats: deer chili, deer stew, deer cube steak, elk, rabbit and fish.
The most adventuresome guests sampled exotic game — buffalo, antelope, ostrich, kangaroo, turtle and alligator — purchased by the Christian Sportmen’s Fellowship and shipped to the event.
To hunters and their families, the wild game banquet is like manna from heaven.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Wendy Morgan says. Although she doesn’t hunt, she looks forward to the banquets.
Living Water member Debi Crisp supports her husband Ray’s membership in the Christian Sportsmen Fellowship. She occasionally joins Ray and their two teen-age sons on their hunts.
“This is a family thing,” she says.
When they weren’t chowing down on wild game, the 240 people attending the banquet perused wildlife displays set up around the church sanctuary.
A vicious-looking mounted wild boar and the head of a stag with antlers made it easy for the sportsmen to find a taxidermy business display. A Browning gun dealer showed off some of his weapons, and browsers checked out fishing poles, knives and archery equipment.
As he stood manning a booth set up for a raffle where the lucky winner would take home a muzzle loader, 39-year-old Rodney Sheehan considered his decision to join the Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship.
“I’m just at that place in my life where I realize I need to kind of share my faith and this is a way to do that,” he says. “It’s helped me get more involved. It’s helped me grow as a person.”
Money raised through Christian Sportsmen activities such as the banquet and raffle goes back into the organization to buy the camouflage Bibles, trophies and door prizes for its competitions and fundraising events.
First Baptist Church in Hendersonville sponsors a Land of Sky chapter of Christian Sportsmen Fellowship. It focuses on finding activities for parents to do with their children, says Rod Johnson, the chapter’s director.
“CSF is designed to bring families closer together in a Christian environment,” he says. “It’s the bonding part that is important.”
Johnson helped organize the chapter about two years ago after reading a magazine article.
“It is obvious in this busy world that fathers and mothers do not or cannot have the time to spend with their children,” he says. “This gives them the opportunity to really experience the outdoors together.”
The Land of Sky chapter has held fly fishing and turkey hunting clinics, taken white water rafting trips and four-wheel, all-terrain vehicle trips together.
Johnson, who also hunts with his children, says First Baptist has held wild game suppers in the past but not recently.
A traditional feed
At least two other churches in the county hold wild game suppers as a matter of tradition. They are not affiliated with Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship.
Mills River residents have been coming together to enjoy food hunted in their nearby forests for more than 50 years, Ray Bryson says.
Bryson, a member of Mills River United Methodist Church, grew up hunting with his father and brothers. In those days, Bryson’s family got together with other hunters in the community to hold wild game suppers in the winter.
“In the ’50s it was more of a community event than a church event,” he says. “In the winter they would have supper and bring their families. It was kind of a winter thing to break the cabin fever.”
During the past several years, the suppers have become a good way for the church on Old Turnpike Road to raise money for its mission projects.
Tickets to Mills River United Methodist’s wild game suppers usually sell out in a week and many people sign up on a waiting list to attend.
Last year the Mills River church’s supper raised more than $9,000. The money helped send 22 high school students to Kentucky to work on homes in a poverty-stricken area of the state.
Etowah Baptist Church on U.S. 64 West also holds a yearly wild game supper in the spring for community outreach. Last year, 400 people attended the popular event, says the Rev. John Stevenson, associate pastor.
“It has gotten larger and larger in the last few years,” he says.
Hunters in the church provide much of the wild game at the supper, and others bring dishes for people who won’t eat wild meats.
“We have deer about every way you can think to fix it,” he says. Trout and rabbit are also plentiful at the meals.
Like Living Water Baptist’s sportsmen, Etowah Baptist also buys samples of exotic game — yak, alligator and bison — for anyone willing to try a taste. An inspirational sportsmen speaker and door prizes are also part of the supper.
When asked why the wild game banquets are so popular, Stevenson says the events are a break from the routine.
“It is not like coming to a regular church service, and I think everybody likes to eat,” he says. “A lot of non-hunters come. We have friends and neighbors and people from other churches that come.”
Stewart, the pastor at Living Water, thinks many people are drawn to the wild game banquets and other outdoor activities because they are unique.
“It is just unusual — like a motorcycle ministry to reach bikers,” he says. “It is all about turning that into a focus on God. He is a part of nature. He has given us the animals.”
For some it might seem unusual to eat wild game in church.
But given Stewart’s perspective, church might be the perfect place to learn that bear meat lasagna tastes just like hamburger lasagna and that wild boar barbecue is just a little drier than the pork from the grocery store.
For more information about the Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship, visit www.christiansportsman.com.
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