Well, its spring turkey season and around my house that means early mornings, late breakfasts, and taking advantage of any free time to go to the woods. The focus around here is on putting turkey breasts in the freezer and beards and spurs on the mantle. We love to turkey hunt.
Turkey hunting, although enjoyed all over the US, is pretty much a Southern tradition. By default, most of the wild turkeys are in the southern US so therefore most of the turkey hunters are as well.
It’s enjoyed by young and old, male and female, and is a long generous season in one of the most beautiful and pleasant times of the year (late March, April, and early May).
It is an exciting sport for a tasty quarry. There’s a chess game of sort that takes place each spring morning in which the hunter loses most of the time to a bird. The hunter locates a gobbling turkey, tries to place himself near the bird without spooking the wary fowl, and attempts to mimic the calls of other turkeys so as to “call” the gobbler into shotgun range which is usually less than 40 yards.
All of that sounds simple enough doesn’t it? It’s not really.
Spring is mating season for turkeys, thus the gobbling and strutting. Male turkeys called gobblers, long-beards, toms, etc., gather hens into groups and mate before the hens go sit on their nests. The idea most of the time is to mimic a hens calls to the gobbler and lure the gobbler into gun range. The problem is that the calling is kind of a catch twenty-two. It alerts the gobbler to look for a hen. If he doesn’t see one, then he quickly becomes suspicious and skedaddles. Turkeys eyes are their best defense and they spot movement and out of place colors and shapes easily from long distances. Full camouflage is a must for the hunter and so is a great amount of self-control and woodsmanship. If a gobbler spots your movement or you look out of place in the woods, he’ll be gone in a second.
Turkey hunting is prone to lots of gimmicks because of its difficult nature. There are a thousand different calls, several types of camo and clothing, and some very expensive turkey guns and loads. All of these things supposedly tilt the odds in favor of the hunter.
Its easy to become reliant on the tricks and forget about the more common sense tactics of turkey hunting because of the plethora of gimmicks, the number of close call failures, and the desire to put breasts on the grill.
I think Christians are prone to the same temptations when it comes to apologetics/evangelism so it would be a good thing to point some of us back to those basic tactics every now and then, and today I’m going to use my turkey hunting experience to do just that. Here’s a spring reminder of three basic apologetic methods.
Hunt where turkeys are.
Folks who are beginning to feel the excitement of apologetics want to use it. They’re looking for ways to unleash all of that new knowledge on unbelievers, just like turkey hunters who have bought all of the latest and best turkey hunting stuff. So where do they go? They go to church!?!
An old piece of common sense for turkey hunters that you might hear in our circles is “you can’t kill no turkeys where there ain’t none”. In common English that makes a lot of sense. You can walk your legs off trying to strike a gobbler, be the best caller in the woods, and make yourself practically invisible, but if you’re hunting in a piece of woods where there are no turkeys you’re wasting your time. It sounds simple, I know, but it’s overlooked a bunch. The first thing a successful turkey hunter does is find a place to hunt where turkeys are.
How many great apologists never attempt to give the gospel in places that skeptics are? How has our Christian “sub-culture” isolated us from the rest of the population? How can we see the success of the gospel if we don’t go to places that need the gospel and simply give the gospel?
Now that turkey hunter doesn’t look so silly does he?
The fact of the matter is many of us read lots of books about evangelism and apologetics, we buy all of the apologetic tools, but we never put any of them into real practice. If you want to be successful, if you want to be used by God, obey his command to go into the entire world preaching the gospel, baptizing and discipling, and being ready to give a defense.
If you want to kill turkeys, you have to hunt where turkeys are.
Be where the turkeys are going.
A mistake made by many turkey hunters is beginning to believe that they can coerce gobblers into giving up their normal routine and running into their call. This mistake is compounded by the fact that sometimes that actually seems to happen. Sometimes a hunter sits down, starts to call to a bird that seems to be going the other way, and the next thing he knows a big strutter is standing right in front of him. The very nature of turkey hunting leads one to believe that that is in fact what is supposed to happen. Maybe it is and maybe its not. If it is, then there’s no wonder that the success rate is so low.
I don’t actually believe that it is the way it works. Turkeys rarely break their routine to come to a sweet sounding man dressed in Mossy Oak. I believe that whether accidently or not, hunters eventually place themselves in the intended path of turkeys. This makes calling much easier. If you are sitting near an area where turkeys are going, then the call becomes a tool to move a turkey into gun range rather than into another county.
Christians make a similar mistake when they evangelize, although the dynamics of that analogy looks a little different.
Most of us forget that our arguments, however persuasive, are not what bring people to Christ. We cannot coerce people into the Kingdom. We should not try. Our words of hope, the gospel, are the means God uses to regenerate sinners to repentance and faith. People are saved by God’s grace through faith (Eph 2:8,9). Faith comes by hearing and hearing by Christ’s Word (Rom 10:17). All of that is done through preaching (Rom 10:14,15).
You are to give the gospel. You are to be ready to give a defense. You are not, you cannot change the minds of unbelievers to trust Christ. That takes a load of pressure off.
Now, you must meet them where they are going. They do not speak our language. They do not understand our lingo. Bring the gospel to bear on them in a way that they will understand. Speak to them in their language, not compromising the gospel but giving them the hope of Christ and the truth of God completely and contextually.
Just like a turkey hunter shouldn’t try to coerce turkeys from one mountain to the next, we needn’t expect unregenerate people to be “Christian” before they are saved by God’s grace. Get in front of them, be where they’re going. Don’t force them into a mold that they don’t fit. God is the only one who can do that.
Don’t overcall. (Listen to the turkey to tell how much to call)
Very few things inject adrenaline into me like the early morning gobble of an East Tennessee long-beard. When I hear one gobble, I only want to hear it more. The way to do that is to call, loud and often.
Aggressive calling fires an old tom up just like his constant gobble excites me. But the more I call and the more he gobbles the less likely it is that he will come to me. You see, gobblers gobble for a reason. They are trying to convince the hens to come to them. If a hen replies, the gobbler may assume that the hen will comply. If he does that, he’ll merely strut in the same place and keep gobbling, believing that the hens will succumb to his long-beard logic.
Unfortunately, sometimes Christians do the same thing. We pick fights with loud competitors, not because we intend to present the gospel or defend the truth, but because we want to hear them gobble. We want them to say, “You’re right, I’m wrong”. Hours spent in online debates that end with no resolution and epistemological blood spilled in front the skeptical does little for the Kingdom. So much saber rattling is all that it is. In all of the excitement of being a faithful truth bearer, we must remember that we are called to a life of holiness, peacefulness, and service.
Don’t get into calling contests with henned up turkeys. Keep your words gracious and kind. Be generous to your opponent. Never misrepresent their views. Be faithful, not fightful.
One of the hardest things to do as a turkey hunter is walking away from a gobbling turkey in search of a more compliant bird. Sometimes that’s what you have to do. Shake the dust off and move on.
The same is true for apologists. Sometimes we just give the gospel, pray it sticks, and move on. Don’t be too quick to argue. Live to fight another day.
I hope that some of these things are reminders to each of us who are excited to argue for God’s truth and present Christ to the world. It’s a simple task really. Sometimes we make it too difficult. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t strive to do it well. It’s only that doing it well includes doing it right.
Now, the only thing left is to get into the woods.