God, guns and good ol' boys

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Baptist preacher has effective outreach to rednecks

 CALHOUN – Once the host of a top-rated outdoor TV show, Chuck McAlister has hunted everything from waterfowl to wild hogs.

But now, in a new role as head of evangelism for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the self-avowed redneck has set his sights on a new target – wayward men, particularly those who share his affection for the outdoors.

The wildly effective ministry revolves around God, guns, good ol’ boys and the gutsy preacher who has no reservations about giving away free guns to get unchurched men to come hear his message. His unusual approach always draws huge crowds of hunters. More than 3,000 people have made decisions to follow Christ under his ministry in the past two years alone.

“That’s a phenomenal number of souls saved under one man’s ministry by anybody’s standards,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Chuck has a unique gift that makes him especially effective in reaching out to us good ol’ boys, and he’s does it with passion.”

No longer hosting “AdventureBound Outdoors” on the Outdoor Channel, McAlister is now focusing his efforts on “affinity evangelism,” a trend toward reaching out to people who share common interests. In this case, the target is people who love guns. At other times, he might organize power lunches for hotshot businessmen in upscale locales. He fits in well there, too, considering he holds a doctorate degree, has run a multi-million dollar enterprise in the TV show, and is one of the top executives at the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Whatever the demographics, Chuck is bent on reaching people with the Gospel.

In his outreach to good ol’ boys, McAlister trades in his business suit for camouflage and a cap, which he donned last weekend at Buck Creek Baptist Church outside the western Kentucky community of Calhoun. Some 600 people gathered here for a free wild game dinner that featured an array of woodsy delicacies, including buffalo, elk, deer, pheasant, quail, rabbit, even raccoon and opossum.

Buck Creek Pastor Tom Webb said the food tends to be a big draw. But Webb said the chance to take home one of several rifles and shotguns was irresistible. The guns, ranging from Remington to Bennelli, were given away kind of like door prizes.

After all the people had eaten their fill of wild game, the fiery McAlister delivered a message blending the gospel with outdoor adventures, homespun humor and bold proclamations about the right to bear arms. Nearly 90 people made commitments to follow Christ, joining more than 1,700 others who made the same decision at similar events around the state over the past 12 months.

“God is using these events in a big way,” said Buck Creek member Ray Toor, a federal wildlife biologist, as he gazed across a gymnasium filled with camo-clad men. “It's amazing to see the results.”

McAlister, whose position is funded through contributions from Kentucky Baptist churches, has been speaking at such events for decades, though their popularity has skyrocketed in recent years.

 “One of the things we have learned, especially in the rural South where hunting is important, is that the Second Amendment also is important,” McAlister said. “Men are very strongly committed to our right to bear arms.”

Armed with that knowledge, McAlister works alongside willing churches to organize and advertise the wild game dinners and to get local businesses to donate money to buy guns to be given away. Some congregations are unwilling to take part, most often because they believe giving away guns is morally questionable.

McAlister points those churches to Acts 17: 22-23, where the Apostle Paul, sharing the Gospel at Mars Hill, references an idol in his presentation.

“You go back into the Bible you’ll see there’s nothing that God finds more abhorrent than an idol, and yet he allowed and led Paul to use an idol as a catalyst for presenting the Gospel,” McAlister said. “If Paul can use something that is as immoral as an idol to present the Gospel, then I can use something that is as amoral as a gun to present the Gospel.”

Chitwood said it’s hard to argue with a man who has been so successful in reaching the lost.

“Chuck McAlister has brought to his role a zeal for evangelism that is truly raising the bar in Kentucky,” Chitwood said. “Chuck doesn't just talk about evangelism; he is an evangelist. He is also tremendously gifted at equipping others to do the work of evangelism. The results speak for themselves.”