Photo by Caleb Yarbrough
CONWAY, Ark. (BP) -- An Arkansas Baptist church plant, led by a pastor who could pass for a cast member on the hit reality show "Duck Dynasty," is seeking to reach people for Jesus Christ by appealing to their love of hunting and fishing.
A 2011 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 1.3 million people hunted, fished or participated in wildlife watching in 2011 -– spending nearly $2 billion on wildlife recreation in Arkansas.
The 1.3 million individuals mentioned in the survey included both residents of Arkansas and non-residents, with the vast majority being residents of the state.
All of these statistics point out that in Arkansas –- a mostly rural state with a population of just under 3 million -– easily more than half of the state's population either hunts, fishes or spends time participating in wildlife-related activities.
For Scottie Johnson, Arkansas Baptist State Convention church planter and pastor of Outdoor Church of Arkansas in Conway, the need for a church to reach one of the state's largest demographics is obvious.
Johnson, who served 23 years in student ministry prior to planting Outdoor Church, wears a bushy beard, long hair held back by a bandana, jeans and a T-shirt most days. He said he has been an outdoorsman as long as he can remember.
"I have a lot of friends and family that have never felt comfortable in a traditional church environment," he said. "So I thought if cowboy churches work in Arkansas, there is (a ratio of) 10-to-1 outdoorsmen to cowboys in Arkansas."
Johnson said one of the foundations of Outdoor Church is to build a church around reaching men. "You have over a 90 percent chance that you will reach the family if you get the dad," Johnson said.
Outdoor Church also seeks to be a place where wives of outdoorsmen, who currently don't attend church, can bring their husbands.
"I'll be the first to tell you that my wife is not an outdoorsman at all," Johnson said. "She is as far from an outdoors-type person as there is. But she absolutely loves worshipping with us. I would say that there are a lot of outdoorsmen that don't have outdoorswomen for wives. But I can promise you this, there's a lot of wives that are in churches all over our state this coming Sunday that will be praying for their husband to come to church with them," Johnson said. Read More