3 Aspects of Discipleship I learned from Deer Hunting

Depending on the state you live in, it is nearly time to start drawing your bow, sighting in your gun, and checking tree stands. Deer season is in full swing, and it’s time to get ready. I have learned to love this time of year for many different reasons. In the small-town, deer season is like a holiday. Everybody is excited about the possibility of what is to come. I have also learned a lot about my faith during deer season. You aren’t left with too many options while sitting in a tree stand in cold temp. We do a lot of thinking and observing. As I think about the process of deer hunting, it has taught me invaluable aspects of discipleship.

Here are three:

1. Learn the lay of the land.

You have to learn where you are before you can have any success there. When it comes to deer hunting, you have to know your land and location. It is best if you study fields, crops, treelines, hills, ridges, and creeks. You have to invest time in walking the land to know the thickest weeds, bodies of water, food sources, and fruit and nut trees. When you learn what is around you, you will have better success finding your target. The same is true for helping people learn to follow Jesus. I have to know what culture and life look like before stepping in the middle of it to help people trust Jesus. If I don’t learn the tensions of the world, the stress in life, the worries that are consuming, or the temptations that are captivating, it will be hard to lead people to something different. If I just show up one day and fire religious shots, I will leave scars and wounds and help no one. I have to learn where I am before I can lead to something different.

2. Walk where the deer walk.

If I show up to hunt deer on an ocean beach, then I’m probably not going to have much luck. But, as I learn what is around me, I also begin to see what is in front of me. I begin to see where the deer are most likely going to walk. I find where they go to get food and the routes they take to get there. I find where they like to sleep and make their beds. It’s one thing to learn the landscape; it is something much deeper to learn the habits of the occupants of the land. When we are leading people to follow Jesus, it is not a one-size-fits-all. I have to know where people are before I connect with them on a deeper kingdom level. I have to understand who visits the coffee shop every morning, where someone gets their haircut, who the cashier at the grocery store is, and what sporting event is happening at the school. I have to be at the Friday night football game. I have to be at the same grocery stores. I have to be at the YMCA for pick up basketball. I have to be at the restaurants in the middle of the lunch rush because that’s where my people are. You can’t connect with people if you don’t walk where they walk. We have to stop expecting every person who needs Jesus to come sprinting through our church doors. Why would someone educate themselves on our church or Jesus if we aren’t willing to see their value in the first place?

You can’t connect with people if you don’t walk where they walk.

3. Become a part of the environment.

You can’t inject fear into the woods. I spend time deciding the proper camouflage to wear. I plan the best route into the stand to create the least amount of noise. I get up extremely early to be present and a part of the woods when the sun comes up. I chose to sit still, not wanting to create a false sense of comfort. There are plenty of reasons for people to be afraid of the church and “Christians.” Many times, it’s because we don’t take time to be a part of the world around us and create safe relationships. We walk in like we own the place, act better, and see people as projects and numbers instead of friends and neighbors. I wonder how much greater our opportunities would be if we built up our PEOPLE instead of our church walls and projects. As Jesus people, if everyone is afraid of our judgment, they will never see or hear our grace. We need to be people who remain constant in the chaos alongside our communities, without just being there to fix them. It’s one thing to attend; it means so much more to be present and relational. The church should be a group of people who weather the storms of life without giving up.

As Jesus people, if everyone is afraid of our judgment, they will never see or hear our grace.

Discipleship is not done in rows on Sunday morning. It takes work, perseverance, commitment, and a willingness to get pricked by the thorns of life sometimes. Discipleship happens when I step into the woods of the world, where I learn the lives of the people around me and sit at their dinner tables. When I discover their heart, and I sit next to them at a ball game. When I become a part of their environment, and they become a part of mine.

When I go to the same cashier every time I shop at Walmart, she eventually asks faith questions. This is when discipleship happens, and that is always the target!

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