Hunting for souls via TV sports show
PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (BP)--Chuck McAlister is a hunter. From his boyhood days of stalking small game to hosting the "AdventureBound Outdoors" cable TV show, the former Southern Baptist pastor today pursues creative ways to tell others about Jesus.
A series of spiritual junctures led McAlister from the church where he was pastor for 17 years -- The Church at Crossgate Center in Hot Springs, Ark. -- to put his full-time efforts into the award-winning show and other avenues of outreach to outdoorsmen.
McAlister founded AdventureBound Outdoors (ABO) in 1996, pioneering a magazine-style hunting show and using it locally to re-brand The Church at Crossgate Center as one that understands men and wants to reach them with the Gospel. ABO does that using a featured "truth segment" in which viewers are told how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
"During the time when the show was nationally syndicated, we were averaging 300 men a month making salvation decisions for Christ as a result of the truth segment," said McAlister, who is a trustee of the International Mission Board.
"It's truly miraculous," he said. "The show crosses denominational and socio-economic lines. We're drawing blue-collar 'Bubba meat hunters' and white-collar professionals who'll drop 10 grand to hunt bear in Alaska. The common denominator among all of them is their love for the outdoors, and that was put there by God."
Although a significant number of people were responding to the Gospel, McAlister felt an ongoing concern for connecting new Christians to local churches. That's one reason why AdventureBound Outdoors is no longer nationally syndicated and is being offered free for churches to air on local television stations. The program content will be the same. However, the church will be featured at the beginning and end of the show. "I have a strong commitment that our evangelistic ministry be tied to a local church," he said.
"As far as the viewers are concerned, the program is a product of the church," McAlister explained. "Now when people respond, they will be responding to that church."
A handful of churches already have signed on, McAlister said, including First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla.; the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church; and Southcrest Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas.
FROM HUNTING TO EATING
Fitting hand-in-glove with the TV show are wild game dinners that McAlister uses for evangelistic outreach. "It's one of the most effective ways to reach unchurched men" who, McAlister says, aren't comfortable singing love songs to another man -- Jesus -- or holding hands with other men while praying.
Because wild game dinners focus on the manly aspects of life, unchurched men realize they can feel comfortable in church. "Church is a place where men can be men and learn that Jesus wasn't an effeminate man," McAlister said.
In addition to reaching unchurched men for Christ, McAlister said entire families eventually find salvation and a local church home via the wild game dinners.
A church in Delaware using McAlister's wild game dinner reached 80 men for Christ, but baptized more than 150 because some of their wives and children also committed their lives to Christ. An Arkansas church had similar results by initially reaching 50 men and later baptizing more than 100 other family members.
At one such dinner, "a boy named Colby came up to me and asked me to autograph his hat," McAlister recalled. Later, after McAlister shared his testimony and explained how to become a Christian, Colby committed his life to Christ. "And then his dad, and then his granddad. All three generations came to Christ that night," McAlister said.
FROM EATING TO PLANTING
Coupling the evangelistic effectiveness of wild game dinners and the hunting show, McAlister said, "We're working now on a template to use both as church planting tools by giving church planters free access to the show." For example, a wild game dinner will be advertized on the show. And those responding to the gospel at the dinner will form the core group of a new church.
McAlister already is working with officials of the Canadian National Baptist Convention to use the strategy.
Working closely with McAlister is Chuck Myers, managing partner of ABO. Myers is the go-to guy for churches and other Baptist entities interested in procuring the TV show for evangelistic and church planting purposes.
"Church planting and evangelism aren't unique," Myers said. "But using the show for those is unique and non-traditional."
Myers recently finalized an agreement with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, and is talking with interested, leading church pastors in New Mexico and Wyoming.
"There are many hunters who already believe in God, country and apple pie, they just don't know God," Myers said. "AdventureBound Outdoors is the venue to introduce them to the Creator of the creation they enjoy so much."
Not waiting on others to plant a church, McAlister has plans to launch "Encounter Church" in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., on Easter Sunday, April 4.
"On any given weekend, Pigeon Forge averages a quarter-million tourists," said McAlister, who noted the new church will not intentionally compete with other churches. "In fact, it's not going to be your typical church with age-graded ministries," he said. "Encounter Church will exist for one reason, and that will be to impact unchurched tourists, win them to Jesus Christ and connect them to churches in their hometowns."
Noting his role will be as planting pastor, McAlister said he won't be the exclusive preacher, partly because he will continue with his weekend wild game dinners and television show.
"But more importantly," he said, "we don't want a personality-driven church. We want it to impact people and reach them with the Good News of Jesus Christ. If it is personality-driven, then that person is Jesus. It won't be about a human."
McAlister said he got the idea for Encounter Church by assessing how churches and ABO could affect peoples' lives, and combined that with the strategy some secular entertainers employ in America's resort cities. "The people are coming to them," he said, mentioning Pigeon Forge and Branson, Mo. That's why McAlister envisions planting more such churches in resort areas around the United States.
"We've got to get on with the task of winning more people to Jesus Christ," McAlister said. "I have a strong desire to see God do something great in America."
For more info regarding AdventureBound Outdoors, contact Chuck Myers at www.adventureboundoutdoors.com. To learn more about hosting a wild game dinner, contact Chuck McAlister at www.promiseofhope.org.