In times past, I have regaled you readers of SBCVoices with tales of the woods and the lovely woodland creatures. Well, and then how I took the lovely woodland creatures and turned them into dinner, but they are lovely on the plate as well. In fact, the only thing that leans me toward a post-millennial view are Genesis 9:3 and Acts 10:13. That God has progressed the world from the vegetarian garden to our modern bacon cheeseburger days is the only sign of sustained progress I can find.
I have decided, however, to give up deer hunting. On average, I get 40 pounds of usable meat from a whitetail deer. The hides aren’t really big enough to make new blankets, and there’s not really a use for the parts created for less honour. It just seems like I’m not getting much for an afternoon in cold weather hunting boots and a single cartridge.
Especially when you compare the potential meat I would receive from a buffalo (or bison, for the perfectionists.) The average buffalo produces somewhere above a half-ton of meat, and you can make a huge blanket out of its hide. Overall, the meat-to-offal ration is better than the whitetail deer, and it still can just take a single, well-placed shot. Plus, Dave always calls me names when I shoot deer, and fewer people think of buffalo as “cute,” so it’ll be less emotional hassle to switch to buffalo hunting.
Now, for those of you still with me, there’s a minor problem with this, isn’t there? After the combine efforts of hunters, slaughterers, and railroad tycoons, we nearly obliterated the American buffalo population. The estimates are that the buffalo herds of North America were reduced from tens of millions in the pre-colonial era to less than a thousand when Jonathan Haralson of Alabama was President of the SBC (1890). While there have been some strides made in seeing the wild buffalo roam again, most buffalo are at least semi-domestic and used as alternates to beef. It is possible to find a ranch that allows the occasional buffalo hunt–the cost would be somewhere around $3000, assuming you already own the necessary equipment.
In short, if I switch to buffalo hunting, I’ll starve. Fortunately, I’ve never thought of actually hunting a buffalo, because there are no wild ones around here. My eyes are, truly, fixed on the lower production of hunting deer and, if necessary, squirrels. It costs less to do, though I have to hunt more often. I also have the ability to process a deer at a time, or the occasional squirrel family, and store the meat for proper use. A whole buffalo?
Not a chance. The investment in equipment to hunt, prep, store, and utilize the whole buffalo is beyond my resources. Even if I had the experience and the proper equipment, there is really a dearth of opportunity to just find a buffalo for food. Under certain conditions, in certain circumstances, you can clean up. But if you’re out there, day-to-day, needing to put meat on the table, buffalo must be your back-up hope, not your main plan.
You know that this has a point, somewhere, don’t you? There’s actually more than one.
First: time was, one could pack a church as easily as hunting the plains buffalo in 1845. Interested people were everywhere, and simply popping up among them with a church, a Bible, and a preacher drew a crowd. There was a cultural pressure to be in a church, and we were able to capitalize on that by having churches.
Yet over time, we have exhausted that opportunity. People have come to our churches seeking God and found man; they have come to our gatherings seeking fellowship and found fighting; they have come to our teaching seeking meat and found fluffernutters. We have gone claiming to carry the Gospel but attached agenda, politics, and fund-raising. Those people who are convicted by the Spirit and drawn to the Risen Lord are accustomed to hiding from us because we have been careless in the past.
Further, we must learn to hunt smaller game. Rather than being able to camp at a distance, spot a buffalo herd from afar and go get it, we must relearn how to live closer to the target. Just as a deer hunter moves carefully through the woods, always seeking his game, we must engage closer to our goals. We cannot count on swooping in only at Harvest Crusade time and then retreating. We must go about, every day looking for what that day brings.
Second: for the sake of those already within the faith, we have to reconsider our feed-by-buffalo hunt methods. Consider this: how do we encourage ministers, teachers, pastors within the Southern Baptist Convention? With an annual buffalo hunt called the Pastor’s Conference. Is this really wise? We do it at the state level, too, here in the South. Woe be unto the pastor that can’t make the Monday before a Convention, because now you’re on your own for another year.
I think we would be wise to acknowledge that, while the buffalo fest that is hearing all of those preachers is nice, we are going to continued to starve the front-line of people in ministry unless we can find some ways to do regional, multi-season opportunities for fellowship and training. It is the ounce of prevention that could save a pound of cure–or the $100 for church fitness that saves the $10000 for church resuscitation or $100000 for church planting.
I am uncertain exactly what to suggest, but we need to start thinking about regular feeding instead of occasional feeding.
Third: for the sake of your own life, do you try to live by the buffalo hunt?
You know what I mean: binge-reading of Scripture. Heavy-duty weekends of cleaning and self-discipline in exercise. A massive budgeting effort, right before a special time. We save our discipleship for conferences and our evangelism for revivals.
And we’re starving ourselves. Our churches show that: we are full of people and pastors that are starved for the day-to-day life of walking with Jesus. Rather than practicing and teaching the skills to make the small steps necessary for survival and health, we push toward the big moments. We highlight the soul-winner who led a thousand in a day without noticing the soul-winner who faithfully prepared small children to receive the Gospel. We focus on the person delivered instantly from temptations and neglect the one who fights them daily.
Along the way of history, most people who depended on buffalo hunting adapted and found other ways.
Or will we starve to death while celebrating buffalo gone by?