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Duck Dynasty and Pastoral Ministry

As many of you know, I have become a big fan of the TV show Duck Dynasty. This contribution to the “reality” TV genre centers on the life and times of the Robertson family, self-proclaimed rednecks who became millionaires by inventing, manufacturing, and selling their Duck Commander duck calls to hunting enthusiast around the world. Their duck calls are to duck hunters what iPods are to teenagers.

My introduction to the Robertson brothers came through my own deer-hunting, bass-fishing, muscle car-restoring brothers who turned their pastor-boy, Jacob-ish brother on to Duck Dynasty while we were spending time together over the Christmas holiday. As I watched these bearded, ZZ Top look-alikes who at the same time defy and confirm every redneck stereotype, I could not help but find myself fascinated by their quirky ways: catching bullfrogs in order to make fried frog legs, blowing stuff up, butchering the English language (especially Uncle Si), exterminating enemy beavers -- all while successfully running a multi-million dollar family business. When I discovered that this clan of camo-wearing characters are unapologetic, Bible-believing Christians, I knew I was hooked. It is incredibly refreshing to see each episode end with family patriarch Phil Robertson praying as the entire family enjoys a meal together and reflects on the lesson they have learned on that week’s show.

One episode that if found particularly relevant to my last four weeks of pastoral ministry is entitled “CEO For A Day.” In this episode Duck Commander CEO Willy Robertson gives his brother Jase a chance to assume the leadership of the family business for a day. As you would expect (remember I never said the show wasn’t predictable, just entertaining), Jase, whose actual job is overseeing the assembly of duck calls, discovers that leading an organization is much more difficult than he had imagined. Meanwhile, Willy finds out that his business school education won’t do him much good on the assembly floor. It is a classic lesson in understanding one’s gifting and role.

I found this episode relevant for two reasons. The first is that during this time while David Sunday is on sabbatical, I have at several points felt like Senior Pastor for a Day. The result has been a greater appreciations for the gift that David is to our congregation through the godly leadership that he humbly exercises. Please continue to pray for David and Kate and their family. I know that this sabbatical has already been fruitful in providing refreshment and renewed vision for ministry.

The other reason that I found this episode relevant is that it addressed, in its own offbeat way, the topic of leadership. I must admit that I am generally skeptical of the “leadership renaissance” of the last thirty years: a seemingly endless offering of books, seminars, and approaches to leadership. In fact, until recently I had not read a single book dedicated to the topic of leadership. Not until I was given a copy of Albert Mohler’s recent book The Conviction to Lead. Mohler, the suit-wearing, clean-shaven, president of a seminary may look like he is the antithesis of the camo-clad, bearded brethren of Duck Dynasty, but they share one crucial quality: the power of conviction.

Mohler asserts, “Put simply, a conviction is a belief of which we are thoroughly convinced. I don’t mean that we are merely persuaded that something is true, but rather that we are convinced this truth is essential and life-changing. We live out of this truth and are willing to die for it.” For the Robertson’s, their convictions about God, family, the enjoyment of creation, and the freedom of not taking yourself too seriously make life an adventure worth living to the fullest. For Mohler, the conviction that what one believes is absolutely foundational to how effectively one leads has defined his own life and ministry.

Mohler goes on to say:

The Bible underlines the fact that conviction is absolutely central to the faithful Christian life. When the author of the book of Hebrews sets out to define and demonstrate what authentic faith looks like, he writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). Faith is the full assurance of the facts of what God has done for us in Christ, but its roots lie even before that. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (11:3). Just a few verses later, he writes that “ without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (11:6).

In other words, there are some things we have to believe even before we believe that God saves sinners. First of all, we must be convinced that God exists and that he created this world and rules over it. Without these prior beliefs, we would have no understanding of the gospel of Christ.

But we do know these things, and these most powerful of all truths take possession of us and begin to rule in our thinking. While this is true of all Christians, the full strength of conviction is what sets the Christian leader apart. These convictions are the very essence of Christian leadership, and it has always been this way.

I have seen, and am grateful for, this same conviction in the pastors, elders, and deacons that I serve with at New Covenant. But I have also observed it in so many others: children’s ministry leaders, Sunday school teachers, CareGroup leaders, women’s Bible study leaders, worship teams, ushers and greeters -- just to name a few. Our church is characterized by men and women who understand their gifting and role in the body of Christ and pursue it with God-glorifying conviction. As we continue on in our life together, may God deepen our conviction that the gospel of Jesus Christ possesses the beauty and power to transform each of us; and may that conviction cause us all to lead those around us -- our family, friends, classmates, co-workers -- to the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ.

Led by the Savior,

Pastor Dave DeHaan