Conference targets sportsmen seeking spiritual guidance

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Jesus told some of his disciples he would make them fishers of men if they followed him and helped spread the gospel message.

More than 2,000 years later, fishermen, hunters and other outdoors enthusiasts are coming together Saturday to contemplate merging about 15 ministries throughout northeastern North Carolina that target them. Connell “Pop” Purvis, a member of Washington’s First Baptist Church and one of the event organizers, said the loose alliance of the 15 ministries has no formal name, no formal leadership structure. It does have a goal. That goal: spreading the gospel message as these people enjoy the outdoors.

Attendance at the Camo Conference being held at Brent’s Barn, 1834 Holly Springs Church Road, Williamston, is by invitation only and not open to the public. The conference is a precursor to a larger, similar event planned for next year at the Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center just outside Williamston. Groups from Belhaven, Elizabeth City, Rocky Mount and throughout the northeast corner of the state are expected to be represented at the conference.

The conference’s feature speaker is the Rev. Dr. Bill Brown, an online professor at Liberty University and who is associated with God’s Great Outdoors.

“It’s a God story. There’s revival. You can call it a phenomenon. You can call it a movement of God. You can call it God pulling the kingdom church together in the last days. I think all of these apply,” Purvis said. “I have heard more testimonies in the past seven years than I have in the previous 50 years.

The meeting Saturday has connections to several mission programs aimed at golfers, hunters, fishermen and others who spend significant time outdoors. One of those connections is Brothers in the Field, a hunting and fishing Bible ministry that started about seven years ago after Kevin Mitchell, his brother Keith Mitchell and a friend were on a duck hunt in Virginia. Kevin Mitchell approached Purvis, his spiritual mentor. Purvis’ advice on hunting: God wants people to enjoy the creation he provided and wants to be a part of that enjoyment.

The group started with seven men from various denominations and who shared a love for hunting and fishing. Brothers in the Field members soon discovered other men in other areas shared their commonality, according to Purvis. Those groups began talking about forming an association, creating the impetus for Saturday’s meeting, Purvis said.

“Most of these men meet in barns. It’s outside the church,” Purvis said, adding that most of the 15 groups meet monthly for Bible study. Those groups break into smaller groups that meet weekly, he noted. “It’s gone from the hundreds (of members) to the thousands.”

Kevin Mitchell, asked what he wants the conference to accomplish, said, “We want to see it bring men together and help them build a closer relationship with God in their daily walks.”

Mitchell believes Brothers in the Field can play a key role in uniting the 15 groups. “I think Brothers in the Field will continue to be involved in any way it can. We’re here to help men become disciples and go down this journey with them.”

Purvis said he’s encouraged to see these men meeting regularly to study the Bible.

“Thank God for women. Women have taken the lead role in traditional church. You got to any Wednesday night prayer meeting in eastern North Carolina this week — it doesn’t matter the denomination, whether it’s a black or white church — you go to any Wednesday night prayer meeting, it will be predominantly women,” Purvis said. “There’s been a gender gap in traditional church for years, and that gap is steadily growing. That’s always bothered me. I think, spiritually, that part of the reason for this movement is that God is calling men to become the spiritual heads of their families, and I think he’s calling men to take their place in the church, where they have failed to do so.”

If the father of the household accepts Jesus, there’s a 94-percent probability the entire family will follow him. Purvis said. That probability falls to 17 percent if the mother in the household accepts Jesus, with that probability falling to 4 percent if a child in the family accepts Jesus, according to Purvis.

Purvis said Saturday’s conference is just a springboard for these ministries to expand and enhance their missions. “To do evangelism, have a big event and have a person experience God at this event and not follow that up with discipleship is cruel,” Purvis said. To that end, these groups will provide “guides” and “outfitters” to help lead their members as they seek to improve their relationships with God, Purvis said.

“Hunters know a guide will stick right with you until you get the job done and you’re able to (get) game. We want to be able to pursue Jesus with the same energy that we pursue our game,” he said. “These groups are going to be the outfitters. … That outfitter’s going to provide you with everything you need in your pursuit for Christ.”

Perhaps the motto of Brothers in the Field best sums up the mission of these 15 groups: “Fishing for faith, shooting for heaven.”

Anyone interested in such a ministry or seeking more information should contact Kevin Mitchell at 252-945-4550.




About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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