In the last few years, my interest in hunting has been growing exponentially. Before I moved to Bluffton, I’d been on couple of short deer hunting trips and knew very little about the activity. I’d simply gone out into the woods, hoping a deer would wander past. Even though I never came home with some venison, I very much enjoyed being in nature with the anticipation and uncertainty of encountering a deer. Since my family and I moved to Bluffton, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know some other hunters who have let me hunt on their farm and have taught me how to process and butcher a deer. I’m incredibly thankful that they would be willing to take the time to help an inexperienced hunter like myself. Lately, my newfound passion for hunting has led to reading hunting books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos on how to hunt all sorts of animals. I’m fascinated by this pastime and hope it will be a hobby that I can share with my children and, someday, grandchildren.
It’s interesting, however, how I came to develop such an interest in hunting. I didn’t grow up immersed in this hobby and if I had never been invited on my first trip, I probably never would have started. A few people introduced me to hunting and a few others helped me grow as a hunter, which apparently doesn’t happen very often considering the population of hunters in the US has been slowly decreasing. In 1991, 7.3% of the population hunted. In 2016, it had dropped to 4.4%. Hunters are largely responsible for funding conservation efforts through their purchases of permits, firearms, and ammunition. With fewer hunters, there is less money to support wildlife conservation. In response to this, hunter mentorship programs are popping up in states all over the country. Programs that not only provide mentors for youth, but also for adults who may have an interest. Experienced hunters are now taking novices under their wings in an effort to make new hunters and grow the sport they so dearly love.
Competent hunters investing in new hunters, who will hopefully become proficient hunters who will teach other new hunters. In other words, hunters who make hunters who make hunters. As I think about this concept, I can’t help but see the parallel in the church. Simply replace the first two sentences of this paragraph with the word disciples and you’ll see what I mean. Christianity is in decline in the US and Churches, full of mature disciples, should be finding ways to engage people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in an effort to make new disciples who will grow into disciple-makers. If impassioned hunters are willing to do this in an effort to save the thing they love, why is it so hard for Christians to do the same?
Rev. Timothy Wilmetti – Bluffton First & Rockport UMCs