Life-changing spiritual decisions may happen kneeling at an altar or sitting in a pew. In Joey Gauthier’s case, it came while standing in a swamp.
On Dec. 11, 2010, Gauthier was looking for ducks but found God instead.
“Any time I was out there hunting and I would watch the sun come up or before shooting time, I’d look up at the stars and say, ‘How does the creator of all of this know or care that I am here?’ ” he said. “It’s kind of a humbling thing.”
And it’s become a ministry.
Gauthier, 48, founded Revelation Outdoors, which targets men who are hunting enthusiasts like himself. The Covington public safety consultant started the ministry knowing that many such men either aren’t attracted to church or have otherwise missed the central message of the Christian Gospel.
“I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I grew up in a religious home sometimes,” Gauthier said. “We were what I call CEOs: We were Christmas and Easter only. My dad’s family was Catholic. My mom’s family was, I guess, Methodist. We went through the motions because that was what you did but never really made Christ the center of our home. My mom and dad are divorced and then remarried, divorced, remarried, divorced.”
Gauthier’s wife, Leslie, already was a committed Christian, and he would overhear her helping their three daughters with their Bible lessons from church. That inspired him to think about spiritual matters and to study the Bible on his own.
What he learned — that doing good and being nice was no substitute for a relationship with God that comes through faith in Jesus Christ — was eye-opening. He pondered that before that day in the swamp.
“I was saved that day because I really for the first time prayed for Jesus to change my life,” Gauthier said. “Religion is not going to do it. It doesn’t make lasting change. It may make a change on the outside, but it certainly wasn’t changing the inner man like Paul talks about in Ephesians 4 and 3. So, I was saved that day. I said I had my revelation outdoors.”
As Gauthier thought about other men in his situation, that began to sound more and more like a good name for a ministry.
Because some churches reach that same audiences with outdoors-oriented events, Gauthier began speaking at these functions. He does about 10 talks a year, and he has two “field pastors” — Lee Green, of Prairieville, and Neal Watson, in South Carolina — substitute for him.
“Man, if I could just tell other guys … my story, which is a very real story, and explain to them that you don’t have to change who you are, you don’t have to get yourself cleaned up. You can never be a good enough person anyway,” he said. “Jesus will change all that.
“Wherever you are, you’re in the perfect place to experience him if you want him. To me, that was chasing greenheads in a cold, flooded cypress brake. I said if I can just get in front of guys and tell them that story, maybe one or two of them will eventually find Christ the way I found him.”
One such event was the annual wild game supper at Lenox Baptist Church in Lenox, Georgia, where previous speakers have included Phil and Jace Robertson, of “Duck Dynasty” fame, said Chad Sumner, a deacon at the church who organizes the event. More than 1,000 men attended when Gauthier spoke.
“He did an outstanding job,” Sumner said. “He’s a great guy.”
Gauthier also has created a website and video presentations designed to get outdoorsmen thinking about deeper things. The video series, produced by Brian Dryden and titled “Passion of Pursuit,” mixes hunting shows with spiritual content, Gauthier said.
“Every episode has kind of a biblical theme that we describe with a voice-over,” he said. “It’s not heavy religion or anything else, but it’s how we see Christ and how we experience God through every single one of our pursuits.
“Our passion really isn’t shooting things and going after trophies. Our passion is the pursuit itself and how we experience God’s love and grace and sovereignty and mercy and power in every single time we go out there.”
The message doesn’t have to be arm-twisting because God speaks through creation, Gauthier said. He cites Psalm 8, verses 3 and 4: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
“I said, ‘Hold on, the guy that wrote this had to be a duck hunter,’ ” Gauthier said. “I see and feel the same thing. He’s been talking to me all along while I’ve been out here, and I wasn’t listening because I didn’t know what to listen for.”