- May 30, 2014
- By Ken Camp / Managing Editor
OKLAHOMA CITY—As a child, Brad Clay learned to love hunting and fishing before he learned to love Jesus. He still loves the outdoors, but now he uses that passion to introduce other men to Christ.
“I grew up in Reydon, a little town in western Oklahoma, where there were six kids in my kindergarten class, and we were 52 miles from the nearest WalMart. We didn’t have any place to go, and our entertainment was hunting and fishing,” he recalled.
When Clay was 6 years old, his father died, but his uncle and grandfather regularly took him on hunting and fishing trips.
“They kept that fire for the outdoors burning in me,” he said.
Later, his family moved to South Central Oklahoma, and as a high school sophomore, he made a profession of faith in Christ during a DiscipleNow weekend at First Baptist Church in Allen, Okla. The summer after he graduated from high school, he attended a youth camp at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, where he committed his life to vocational Christian service.
He served as part-time youth minister two years at First Baptist Church in Allen, Okla., while he attended college and two and a half years at Silo Baptist Church in Durant, Okla. Then he moved to Crossway First Baptist Church in Sulphur, Okla., where he served more than eight years as youth minister.
While at the Sulphur church, he realized the women in the young married Sunday school department participated in plenty of fellowship activities together, but the men lacked those opportunities. So, he launched a hunting and fishing ministry “so the guys could hang out together outside the walls of the church,” he recalled.
The men involved in the ministry starting filming their outdoor activities. When representatives of First Baptist Church in Durant learned about it, they invited Clay to package the outdoor adventures for a general audience and broadcast them as part of the church’s television ministry.
After about a year, the Pursuit Channel—a national network focused on programming that appeals to outdoor life—picked up the show, Final Descent Outdoors, named for a New Testament reference to being ready for the Second Coming of Christ.
“Our goal is to reach the good old boys who like hunting, knowing that just being a good old boy won’t get you to heaven,” Clay said. “We’re reaching men when they are the most relaxed and unguarded—sitting in a recliner in their living room, watching TV.
“The hunting is a hook. We want men to tune in and watch our show because it’s put together well, it’s good hunting, and then it’s all wrapped up with a devotion challenging men with the gospel.”
The show begins its fourth season on the Pursuit Channel June 30. It airs each week at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m. Monday and 3 p.m. Thursday, averaging about 110,000 weekly viewers—about 2.8 million over the course of the show’s 26-week season.
Initially, Clay continued to serve on staff at Crossway First Baptist Church while producing the TV show, but two years ago, he felt God leading him to “take a step of faith” and enter full-time outdoor ministry.
“I told the Lord, “God, you’re good at a whole lot of things but not math,’” he recalled. “Everyone thinks if you’re on TV, you must be rich. That isn’t the case at all. We actually pay the network to air the show.”
Clay approached his wife, April, cautiously about his sense that God wanted him to leave his church staff position to devote all his time to outdoor ministry. But she responded, “I said ‘for richer or poorer,’ and if this is the poorer, then I’m in.”
“We’ve seen God do some amazing things in providing for our needs as we’ve learned to live by faith,” Clay said. He, his wife and their two children now attend Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and God continues to meet their needs.
Even more significantly, God has worked in remarkable ways in the lives of Clay’s audience. One viewer in Indiana wrote an email saying he and his family had not attended church in eight years, but that would change the next Sunday.
A viewer in Virginia wrote to tell how he had spent two years incarcerated for a white-collar crime, lost his job, lost his wife and been involved in a messy custody battle.
“His life had crumbled. Hunting was his escape. He sent us an email saying that he had given his life to Christ after watching our show,” Clay said.
The viewer went on to explain before he saw the TV show, he had written a suicide note and had planned to take his life the next week. But the message at the end of the program gave him a reason to live and showed him the way to experience everlasting life.
“I am so humbled that God could use our ministry to reach men like this,” Clay said.