I’ve been speaking at wild game dinner events in church settings for almost two decades now. Wild game dinner strategies are great tools of ministry for churches, but they are also one of the most abused, and often deceptive, tools a few churches use in the name of “telling people about Jesus.”
Here’s how it happens.
A church spends hundreds, even thousands of dollars, promoting and marketing this awesome event for outdoorsmen called a Wild Game Dinner. They place huge posters all over the community in grocery stores, pay for radio and print ads in local media, and some have even paid for television commercials on local news networks, doing anything they can to attract hunters.
Churches will promise hunters that they will get opportunities to win guns, treestands, and duck decoys. My gosh, I’ve even seen churches give away ATVs after I come off of the stage. They boast that they will have amazing food, and they typically do. Prizes are great, and food is wonderful.
It’s what happens next that destroys all the hard work they’ve done to get hunters on the campus and in the door.
The Deception Begins After Hunters Arrive
I love speaking at a wild game dinner. It’s one of the greatest privileges I have in ministry. I’m thankful that I can say that I don’t see deception as much as I used to; if I were to put a number on it, I'd say I only see it happen about 1 out of 8 events where I speak. Yet, I still see it every now and then, and it’s got to stop.
Once hunters arrive, they have a great dinner. Then it begins.
For some reason I’ve noticed the manipulation usually starts with music, oddly enough. A bluegrass quartet will get up there and sing a 5 song set about Victory In Jesus. I’ve seen so many Southern Gospel acts at “Wild Game Dinner” Outreach nights that I cannot count them anymore.
Tell me, why would a Southern Gospel group be at an event for hunters? Right before I speak, I’ve even seen the emcee announce “We’re going to have “special music before our brother Jason comes to deliver a word from God to us.”
Let me ask you, is this wild game dinner, that was promoted to the community as an awesome night for hunters, starting to smell to you more like a bona fide church service all of a sudden?
You bet it is.
What was promoted as a wild game dinner was really intended to be a church service in disguise all along.
That’s how churches lie to a hunter.
Wait, though, it can get worse.
Way, way worse.
This Probably Doesn't Apply To You
My guess is that the vast majority of you have never really thought of evangelism tactics as deceptive. Probably because you're not a deceiver!
In fact, most strategies are not deceptive at all. For that matter, I've been guilty of pushing people too hard at times. I'm sure you have, too.
What I'd like for you to consider is the fact that so many preachers think that because their motive is rooted in the good, the pathway to get someone there is excusable, because after all, it's about getting them to Christ. They feel that because they are doing it for God, they get a pass on how they do it.
So, the end justifies the means to achieve it, in their minds.
That's where many of us sit today, but have you ever considered how non-believers feel about manipulative techniques? Just look at what happened to me a few years ago.
My Heart Sank And My Stomach Turned.
A few years ago I was speaking at a church who was hosting their very first wild game dinner. They had an amazing turn out. Something like 400 hunters came through the doors, and for your first event that is a grand slam. I was so happy for them and they were jazzed about the victory.
Great food. Great door prizes. Great décor as they turned the auditorium into a mini-Cabelas Safari Room. Just awesome. Full of men of all ages. It was super.
After I spoke, the pastor came up.
That doesn’t usually concern me. After all, that’s somewhat expected. Having spoken at hundreds and hundreds of wild game dinners, however, I will admit it always makes me a bit nervous because preachers have this manic obsession with microphones. We feel we’ve let God down if we don’t say something to add to what was just said.
15 minutes later on what was supposed to be just a prayer and a “hey thanks for coming” had turned into something far, far different.
Backstage Preacher Life.
I have been preaching the gospel for over 23 years. I know what life is like backstage in the prophetic fraternity. So, let me pull back the curtain and give you some insider information.
Normally, if you go to a wild game dinner, and you see a preacher giving a mini-sermon after the real speaker has already spoken, that usually means one thing: the main speaker failed to share the gospel.
So, the church pastor is coming in as a clean up hitter for damage control to make sure that the gospel is shared well. That’s great. And needed. And necessary.
If, and only if, the hired speaker blew it.
I can tell you this, I may not hit a home run when I speak, but I can promise you, hunters are going to hear about how Jesus Christ changed my life. You can count on that my camo-clad friend. That’s my commitment, and one that I take seriously.
On this given night, what this preacher did was uncalled for on every level. It started out like this, and when it started, I remember literally feeling my stomach turn, because I knew what was about to happen.
After 19 minutes of preaching, after I had spoken for 35 minutes, this guy said, “Pray with me.”
Then he said, “If you asked Jesus into your heart tonight after Jason spoke, just raise your hand. That’s all I’m going to ask you to do. Nobody is looking. Just raise your hand so I’ll know to pray for you.”
I knew he was lying.
Want to know how I knew?
Because when I went to seminary we were taught by evangelism professors about a sales technique that is often referred to in the corporate sales world as the “Foot In The Door Technique.”
Ask for something small and get people to commit - then build on their already having said "yes" as you work them toward saying yes to something bigger. That’s the idea.
I knew what was coming. He said “all I’m going to ask you to do …” and that was never his intention, because what was coming next was exactly as I predicted.
After they raised their hands and he “acknowledged” them as new believers, he spoke for a few more minutes about life with Christ while everyone had their head bowed. Then he said, “You know what, since you’ve already raised your hand, just stand up. Nobody is looking. That’s all I’m asking of you.”
So they did.
By the way ... that's 2 times now that he's said, "All I'm going to ask you to do is ____." He was lying.
It was manipulation at its finest. I’d seen it so many times, and I knew what he was about to say.
He then states, “Since you’re standing, I wonder how many of you would choose not to be ashamed of God and your new relationship with Jesus? I wonder how many of you have the guts to come down here to the front of this stage and let everyone know that you’re not ashamed of Jesus?”
So they did. Of course they did. He just questioned their manhood in front of the eyes of God. He just called them out as "fake cowards ashamed of God if you don't come down here now." They were in a corner. And a preacher had put them there.
He had 21 men with a crowd of 400 staring back at them. Everyone was elated. Everyone . . . but me.
Yes, I was speechless that God had ransomed 21 souls, and I got to be a part of it. I was stunned at that. Humbled by that.
What broke my heart was in wondering how many men sitting in that crowd, how many businessmen, mechanics, HVAC technicians, bankers, NASCAR fans, and hunters were on to this preacher’s handiwork who had just lied to the crowd.
That crowd was full of lost souls, but even lost souls can spot deception.
He told them “I just want you to raise your hand so that I can pray over you. That’s all I’m going to ask you to do.”
He asked them to:
Raise their hand.
Come Forward And Be Shown.
And that was his plan from the beginning.
I have come to call it Ambush Evangelism.
Hunters throughout that county were promised a night for outdoorsmen. They were promised a banquet celebrating the outdoors. What they got was a church service in disguise.
Even non-Christian hunters know that lying is a sin.
Wild Game Dinner Strategies and Insecurity
What drives this Ambush Evangelism approach? I believe with all my heart that the reason is simple: preachers are afraid that God will punish them, no kidding, punish them, if they do not shackle the doors on a captive audience and beat them into submission for the glory of God.
It is all rooted in insecurity with God and His sovereignty. No, I’m not talking about sovereignty as in Free Will vs. Election.
I’m talking about the simple reality that preachers and churches are not content with trusting God enough to let Him do His work.
See, I’m a speaker. This is what I know: people don’t need 2 speakers back to back. If your speaker shares the story of Jesus Christ and does so in a relevant way, then let that stand. Trust God with the outcome.
Yes, have your commitment cards. Yes, give men a chance to accept Christ. In fact, PLEASE give men a chance to repent and believe . . . but don’t lie to them. Don’t manipulate them.
That night that preacher saw 21 bridges connect to Christ, but he burned 51 bridges that may be forever irreparable.
Before You Unsubscribe From Following Me Think It Through
I realize that some of you may be stunned by the content of this post in that I am taking a risk at giving the non-believing community ammunition to fuel their reasons for never attending church again. Friend, I don’t believe there’s really anything more that you or I can possibly do that hasn’t already been done to add to the mountain of reasons that non-believers already have for avoiding our faith communities.
In fact, I believe that confessing our sins to our communities may be the only thing that can work toward repairing the damage we’ve done over the last century in the name of evangelism.
In the end, people are going to create excuses to reject Christ. That’s not my fault. That’s not your fault. That’s not the fault of the Church. That’s solely and completely on the person doing the rejecting.
So, if a man wants to walk away from God, I cannot do a thing about it. However, I don’t want to shove him down the prodigal road by telling him the truth about Jesus after I’ve lied to him about the kind of event I promised to host.
Every wild game dinner is a super opportunity to tell men about the God that created them. You must seize that opportunity. Just trust God in the process.
And for the love of all that is good, right, and pure . . . don’t lie and manipulate people in the name of Jesus.
He doesn’t approve.
Jason Cruise is a published author and speaker. He's the host of Spring Chronicles on Sportsman Channel and the host of Mossberg's Rugged American Hunter.