I got my first exposure to hunting when I became pastor of a church in Franklin County, Miss., that was so rural, I could walk into the woods from my back yard for five miles and never cross a road.
After a few deer hunting trips with church members, a deacon told me he’d take me hunting for squirrel. I met him that morning wearing a bright orange vest, and he quickly told me to take it off and threw a camouflage jacket to me. After a while in the woods, he came out and said, "I’m going to the house. You make too much noise." That was pretty much the end of my hunting career.
Except for the cows.
You see, our little church was surrounded by the property of a miser who let his cows roam everywhere. He never fixed his barbed wire fence, so we had a major problem with the cows coming onto the church property. We called the owner, but he wouldn’t do anything about it. Since I lived in the pastor’s trailer next to the church, I would run out and shoo the cows away, but they always came back. Once while I was gone on vacation, the cows used the breezeway between the sanctuary and educational building as a stall. Not a pretty picture. Didn’t smell good, either. So one of the deacons gave me a .22 rifle and told me to shoot the cows if they came on our church property.
It wasn’t long before I got my chance. I saw the critters in front of the church, so I grabbed my weapon and went into action. Picture this scene. I’m running out onto the church yard after these cows, shouting at the cows, and firing away at their rear ends, as they run away, apparently without harming them. All the while, my wife is standing at the door screaming, "Don’t shoot! You’ll get us sued!"
Since I was so unsuccessful, another deacon gave me a rope to capture them. There was a little spot behind the church where the fence met in a sharp angle. So I tied the rope to one side, and I figured I could chase the cows into that area, run across to the other side, tie the rope, and pen them in the triangle-shaped pen that I would create. It never worked. Every time I’d chase them, the cows would run out the other side before I could pen them in.
I finally decided that God had not called me to be a cowboy, and I gave it up, to my wife’s relief.
It all reminds me of the way some churches do evangelism. They try to lasso new members with gimmicks or with "tolerance" of lower moral standards. I heard about one church that offered to give away a new car to a lucky winner who attended their church.
Churches have to realize that we will only reach people who are looking for a life-changing relationship with Jesus. So we’d better not run around trying to please people who don’t give a hoot about God. The apostle Paul says, "If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ." (Galatians 1:10, HCSB) In another place he reminds us, "We make it our aim to be pleasing to Him [God]." (2 Corinthians 5:9, HCSB)
God called us to be faithful servants of Christ. Yes, we should be creative and communicate the gospel in interesting and attractive ways. But people are best reached with love, not gimmicks. Otherwise, we’ll look as ridiculous as a cowhunting preacher.
(Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read this column each Friday in the Herald. Visit my blog at www.bobrogers.me.)