Rednecks, Redemption, & Reality TV

Confession time: I am hooked. I blame Dave Harder and Darren Milley.

Dave Harder leads The Journey Network in Ottawa. The Journey is a bunch of people on mission working together for the common good and renewal of their city. Darren is Dave’s church planting padwan on mission in the Manotick parish.

In January I was in Ottawa for a few days with C2C when Dave, aided and abetted by Darren spoke eagerly of a phenomenon that had escaped my attention. They both enthusiastically attempted to recruit me to the fan base of…Duck Dynasty. I tuned in and I admit it – I am a fan!

The show boasts a cast of colorful characters who have built a multi-million dollar duck call empire. The family patriarch, Phil Robertson, initially produced hand made duck calls and sold them out of the back of his station wagon. The business grew and has boomed under the leadership of its entrepreneurial CEO, Willie Robertson, Phil’s son. The show features the ongoing sibling rivalry between Jase and Willie that results in various comedic competitions. Duck Dynasty offers the zaniness of wisecracking master of the one-liner Uncle Sy. Viewers are treated to cameo appearances from people like Mountain Man and Squirrel.

The backdrop is Monroe, Louisiana, where the crew’s passion for duck hunting and fishing is evident. Their love of stewed squirrel and deep fried bullfrog is also celebrated.

More Than Ducks

However something stronger than a love for the outdoors and affinity for duck hunting unites the family featured in Duck Dynasty. It is their love for and devotion to Jesus. The show portrays a family who loves each other, love God, laugh together and who are unapologetic and unembarrassed about their faith in Jesus.

Phil Robertson, the wild man of the woods, has a significant speaking ministry, appearing at men’s’ events to preach the gospel. His passion for the gospel and love for lost people is not just expressed through his speaking ministry. The Robertson home has been not only a place of hospitality; it has been a portal where people have stepped from darkness into light.

Phil was a promising athlete who decided that he would fish and hunt to provide for his family rather than pursue life in the NFL. Shortly after his marriage to Miss Kay he descended into a spiral of drunkenness and violence. At one point, Kay left the family home, with their little sons because things became so ugly. During this time, Kay came to faith in Christ and urged a preacher to share the gospel with Phil. Phil initially dismissed the preacher but in a subsequent meeting placed his trust and confidence in Jesus. Phil comments that in his whole life, up to that point, he had never heard the gospel.

Phil has taken the opportunity to share the gospel with those he has come in contact with or received into the Robertson home. He will open his Bible and share the good news about Jesus and invite his guests to repent and be baptized. Many have. Over the years, over 300 people have been dunked in the Ouachita River next to the house, day and night. At night baptisms the Robertson boys wade into the river with flashlights and shotguns to ensure that alligators or snakes don’t interrupt proceedings.

Phil’s wider speaking ministry was sparked by an event at a trade show in the Superdome in New Orleans in the early 1990s. A crowd of around 1,000 appeared for Phil’s duck call seminar. Phil grabbed his Bible and preached the gospel to the gathering of duck hunters.

He recounts:” …I thought I owed it to them to share the gospel.” And told his duck call demo crowd,” I’m standing under a sign that says, “Budweiser is the king of beers,” and everybody’s got their beers here today. But I’m here to talk about the King of Kings. I know I might look like a preacher but I’m not. Here’s how you can tell whether someone’s a preacher or not: if he gets up and says some words and passes a hat for you to put money in, that’s a preacher. This is free of charge, which proves I’m not a preacher.” [1]

Phil preached for 45 minutes and had men come and thank him for his message while others invited him to speak at their churches. His speaking ministry was birthed under the Superdome.

When I shared this anecdote with Dave Harder during a phone call, he responded with his own Duck Dynasty story. Dave informed me that the Robertson men, who all look like ZZ Top escapees, arrived unannounced at a country music festival in our nation’s capital. At one point, Jason Robertson was given the stage. When he took the microphone he did not introduce the next music act or extoll the virtues of Country music (that would be impossible). Jase took 15 or 20 minutes to proclaim the gospel to the festival crowd. Like father like son.

The Duck Dynasty posse presents us with a missional challenge

Firstly, they are unabashed and unembarrassed about Jesus. They would yell a hearty redneck amen to the apostle Paul’s declaration ”I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)

Continue reading at Grounded in the Gospel

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