The Top 5 Christian Outdoors Clichés—and Why They Need to Go Away
Full disclosure: I’m well aware that I’ll probably shake some things up with this post. But we all need a good laugh and perhaps a good stirring every once in a while. If you’ve been around Christian sportsman circles, especially online, you will most likely admit to seeing, and possibly confess to sharing, some of these clichés.
They have the best of intentions, I’m sure, but wow! Some of them just need to be put out to pasture!
1. Some people go to church and think about fishing. Others go fishing and think about God.
When we attend a church service for the purpose of worship, we are there to worship the eternal God. He is the creator of the universe and the savior of our souls. Our service to God in that moment is to worship Him as he deserves. We get to worship him corporately with our brothers and sisters in Christ for about an hour per week; that’s all. Allowing our mind to wander and be distracted in that moment, even if it's because of a big fish we're after, certainly doesn’t promote God’s design for his people in worship. Thinking about God while fishing is never a substitute for worshiping with God’s people in the weekly church service. This one should read something more like, “Some people go to church and worship God as he deserves. Then they go fishing and think about God more.”
2. My church.
Nope. Just nope. This quote is often used by nonbelievers to give a “brush-off” to the church itself, but I’ve seen Christians use it too. It’s a cop-out and quite frankly, disobedient. Again, the intentions are good. Whether you are hiking, biking, fishing or hunting, the idea of being in a beautiful place and being free to worship God is incredible, but it isn’t the uniquely reserved experience for God’s people to gather and worship together in song, Scripture, preaching, and giving (see Heb. 10:24-25, Acts 2, and Eph. 4).
3. 20 feet closer to God.
What does it mean? By being twenty feet up in a tree stand and being in the solitude of the timber, you feel closer to the physical presence of God in your life. What’s the problem? God is omnipresent. That means he is literally everywhere, always. So you are exactly “as close” to God before you leave the ground as you are in a tree stand. That can actually be very encouraging—or extremely convicting.
4. The Baptized “Grip and Grin”
These types of photos can be very special. However, they can also be extremely antagonistic and represent very poorly the blessing of the harvest. Giving glory to God for a harvest is a very real thing when we put excellent effort into obtaining, caring for, and utilizing the game we have been blessed with. We need to be careful not to make praying over a harvest or pointing to the sky for a photo op something we use to grow our platform. I’ve shed several tears over special hunts. I get it. I’m thankful too. But I’m not sure this gesture always accomplishes it’s intended design.
5. Genesis 27:3: “Hunt Game for Me”
Oh, this verse! Possibly the most poorly used verse in all of the outdoor world. Yes, there was hunting in “Bible times.” Can we really say that it justifies and solidifies our right to hunt in the modern era? I’m not so sure. What I know is that when we apply proper contextual use, this verse is not God’s command to me to go and “kill game for him.” God doesn’t “need” me to do anything. He especially doesn’t need my meager hunting efforts to accomplish his larger plan for redemption of his people.
Scripture’s use of this verse in Genesis 27 places it in the midst of a great conspiracy. As he was dying, Isaac planned to bless Esau. He told Esau to go out and bring some game home for him to eat because he loved it so much. You can read the rest. Isaac is not the “God” figure in this story. We are not hunting game for the pleasure of a dying, blind old man. Nor should we compare ourselves to Esau. We are not the victims of our own sin. We completely deserve to be left behind. Hunting in our time is a blessing from God that extends from his command to “have dominion” over all the creatures of the earth. I’ve never been comfortable with being on “God’s hunting team,” because I can’t prove that “team” exists.
Now that you’re mad at me…
I’ll say it! I’m totally guilty of sharing these ideas. Even believing them. But that’s the blessing of discernment. As we grow through God’s word, we will be able to see these inconsistencies. While these examples are actually quite comical in their poor theology, the real trouble is how they actually represent God in our world. And representing our heavenly Father accurately is our duty—and joy—as his children in Christ.
Jim Richman is an author, speaker, and outdoorsman. He is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of a Christian Sportsman, a blog for Christian outdoorsmen from around the world. To find out more about Jim, you can see his full bio here.
This article is adapted from "The Top Five Christian Sportsman Clichés... and Why They Need to Go Away" in the Journal of a Christian Sportsman blog.
Related Article: Drawing the Line Between the Outdoors and Idolatry
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