#6, of 7 Theological Truths about Hunting
Theological Truth #6 – Hunting Is Not a Substitute for Worship.
Benedictine Sister John Paul Bauer, who is a hunter, prays the Rosary in her treestand. It's a form of personal worship, but she understands that a personal act of piety is not a substitute for worshiping with others. Sister JP is only one of many hunters who think about our Creator while hunting, but making her treestand a place of worship does not make her treestand a church. Praying the Rosary is simply her way of inviting God’s blessing on the world.
Many Christian hunters make the mistake of thinking that sitting in a treestand puts them 18 feet closer to God. The truth is you're no closer to God in a treestand than you are to the Devil when you descend your treestand at the end of your hunt. Yes, a treestand can be a place of worship, but if that's the only time you connect with God you are missing many important elements of worship.
Solitary worship is good, and you don't need Rosary beads to do it, but solitary worship is no substitute for gathered corporate worship. By saying, “The woods is my church” you may acknowledge the power of God in creation, and silently praise him for his power and majesty. But several things are missing from the treestand as a place of worship. We do not hear the Word of God preached there. We do not test our inward thoughts by the scripture or the community of faith. We do not unite our voices with others to sing God's praise. And we do not participate in the Lord’s Supper. We might have a sense of peace, but it can easily be a false sense. Is the treestand a place where we submit to the work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin (John 16:8 ), or point out where we’re wrong in light of God's Word. Solitary worship can camouflage the turmoil in our hearts and give us nothing to balance our subjective impressions and test even whether we are being truthful to ourselves.
Believers are called by God to corporate worship, which benefits us in ways solitary worship can't. Corporate worship binds us with other people, some of whom might even be difficult to live with, so that we can express our common humility toward God in the presence of each other.
A church service is not a mere "religious fix," like some sort of shot of spiritual adrenaline. Neither is time in a treestand no matter how spiritual. Yes, God wants us to enjoy doing ours favorite thing, but making our favorite thing our main spiritual aim creates a self-centered religion. It's not a replacement for corporate worship. Treestand worship, by itself, allows us to make ourselves the center of our worship. It's so much easier, and maybe even more honest as well, to meet God at an appointed time as one of his "called out" people (1 Peter 2:9 . Together we are being made into a building (Ephesians 2:21, 1 Peter 2:5), where Christ is at the center. According to the New Testament, a church is not a place. It's a people. The Greek word for "church" in the New Testament is "ekklesia," and means “a called-out assembly." So "church" is never a solitary endeavor. We don't "do church" alone in a bass boat or in a treestand. We "do church" with others (Matthew 18:20).