Op-Ed by Billy Mauldin
Having served in the local church and for the past sixteen years with Motor Racing Outreach, I greatly value seeing men and women, young and old, involved in the church, the body of Christ. I know for a fact that health and well-being begins and ends with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that relationship is strengthened by being in fellowship with other believers. With that understood, my practical experience as a chaplain and minister has been that fellowship and connection to the local church takes many different forms and in many different settings.
Currently under consideration is NC House Bill 640 which I support. As a resident of rural North Carolina, northeastern Cabarrus County to be exact, I live in a community where hunting is a way of life as well as “church on Sunday.” I understand and equally value both, and I do not see where either is in conflict with the other. Having read arguments both for and against, my personal experience as a chaplain and minister is we live in a state and country where our liberty is greatly valued. Whether an individual exercises that liberty to hunt or attend church, either one, it should be what they choose to do. As a chaplain serving the NASCAR community, we provide the opportunity for men and women to attend services on Friday, Saturday or Sunday of any given weekend. The key here is we provide the opportunity, and they “choose” to attend. As a chaplain and minister our experience has been you cannot, nor do you want to, insist that anyone ever attend; however, if you provide various opportunities most will as they seek to integrate church attendance with the many other demands of life on them as individuals and families.
Also, as a father of four, I greatly value the opportunity to pick and choose when and where I attend church. For my family, it never looks the same week-in and week-out. Times of the year, work, seasons, and family needs all play into the decisions we make regarding church attendance. For many in the community where I live hunting is a way to provide for their families. For some I know, the ability to hunt means the difference in the meat they will have as a family to get them through the year.
It is also a key component of strengthening the family bond that may only be fully realized by those who do hunt. I have seen firsthand where hunting has drawn fathers closer to their sons by the time spent in the woods; especially, in their teenage years where young men, and women alike, are developing their personal identities, self-confidence and skills to provide for their families in the future. For those who are intentional, there is also a tremendous opportunity to learn more about God being in the midst of His creation.
Another interesting observation is the impact this has had on small businesses in our community. For those who choose, a seventh day of hunting will allow them a much needed additional day to generate income. For example, during deer hunting season, most of the local restaurants and small businesses open earlier than usual so hunters can grab breakfast before they head out. For those of us in ministry, we should see this as an opportunity to meet with men and women who have a common interest, hunting in this case, and engage them around the breakfast table. To my minister friends who may be concerned about a drop in church attendance due to the opportunity to hunt on Sunday, I would simply encourage them to follow the model laid out in scripture and go to where the people are. It is amazing the difference in attitude and attention you experience when you go to the people versus waiting on them to come to you.
To limit hunting on Sunday simply makes no sense based upon scripture and practical experience. Taking any liberties from us as citizens, which in no way impacts the wellbeing and liberties of others, makes no sense. For the “church” and church leaders to stand in the way of the passing of NC House Bill 640, the extending of the opportunity for individuals and families in NC to hunt 7 days a week, is simply, as we say in my neck of the woods, “plowing your neighbors field crossways.” I support the passing of NC House Bill 640. And, to my fellow ministers, I encourage them to see this as a new opportunity to engage those in their community in new ways, some which may never enter their “church” doors, from a place of support and understanding of their needs and way of life.
Billy E. Mauldin, Jr.
Chaplain, President & Chief Executive Officer