PONCA CITY—Pastor Andy Taylor was having dinner at the home of some members of Ponca City, First. As he was leaving the house, a picture caught his eye. It was a picture of his dinner host, Dwayne Tackett, and Tackett’s son-in-law backpacking.
Viewing this picture started a nine-month journey, and perhaps what Taylor claims “the greatest men’s ministry I have experienced in 25 years.” Tackett and Taylor led a team of 15 men on a hiking trip to the Beartooth Mountains in Southern Montana.
“I love men’s ministry,” Taylor said. “I enjoy hanging around men who love Jesus, who want to reach men for Jesus. I believe reaching men will be a key to seeing a reverse in the most recent church trends.”
So as they were planning the trip, Taylor said he wanted the experience to be more than five days of walking up a mountain. “Been there and done that in Army Ranger School,” he said. “I wanted to see where these men were spiritually. I wanted to see men experience real biblical fellowship.”
What did this look like exactly? Taylor said he was not sure at first, but it did not take long to materialize, and most of the preparation was lay led. “Our staff didn’t do any of it,” he said.
Just a few months prior to leaving on the trip, the men took “practice hikes.” Every Tuesday and Thursday nights and a longer walk on Saturday mornings, the hikers-in-training would meet, and every walk was filled with laughing, talking and sharing tips, which led to inquiries about friends and concerns about others.
“This was turning spiritual,” Taylor said. “I saw it being shared on Facebook. These men were actually beginning to fellowship.”
About two weeks before they left, Taylor added another requirement for the trip. Each man was required to share his testimony. “We gave them an outline and told them to write it out,” he said.
Departure day arrived on Aug. 4, and two vans of men took a 20-hour drive to a cabin on the Stillwater River near Nye, Mont. “Spectacular would not begin to describe the scenery,” Taylor said about location.
After a day at the cabin, the men spent five days and four nights hiking, fishing and talking. “We ate meals together around the fire. We lugged 50-pound backpacks along the trail,” Taylor said. “Every day we had two devotions. I taught the Disciple’s Wheel, and a friend (Brad Hanna, Oklahoma Army National Guard state chaplain) taught the Word-Hand illustration.”
Taylor was surprised when he found out many of the men had never shared their testimonies. He said their stories had been closed books. “But these men poured out their lives. We had a great time, but most importantly, we met God and really met each other.”
Since the men returned home, the fellowship has continued. “On their own initiative, these men are meeting together, holding each other accountable, encouraging others to share their stories, memorizing Scripture together and, yes, hiking together,” Taylor said.
What Taylor pictured of a great time with some spiritual value was “crushed.” He said, “God had much bigger plans for these men.”
Taylor invites others to participate when they have another hiking trip. “We will do it again,” he said. “Maybe not Montana. How about Colorado? We have been invited to do a men’s conference in Connecticut. Maybe even the Wichita Mountains near Lawton. I don’t know where, but I know it will be with men. And we will expect God to do something great again.”
Those interested in starting a DiscipleHike ministry may contact Taylor at [email protected] for help with planning tools.