Life’s Calling – A Dog, a Gun, and a Daddy!

by Paige Patterson


Not every sportsman has encountered a mature female lion while holding a 500 Nitro rifle within ten paces of eminent death. But every sportsman can relate to the thrill and excitement of a story well told by a seasoned safari hunter who has collected over forty trophy mounts from around the world, even while brushing close to becoming prey himself.

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Upon entering Dr. Paige Patterson’s office it is very easy to relate to big game African safari hunting even if you have never visited the intriguing dark continent. The backdrop of Patterson’s safari excursions serves as just the beginning of truly understanding the inspiration that motivates the life’s passion of this seasoned sportsman. His heart’s desire is to see the young people of our current generation to understand God’s calling upon their life.

As president of one of the world’s most prestigious bible seminaries this giant of a man has come full circle in his extensive travels and academic pursuits to conclude that life is very simple to understand… every young boy needs a dog, a gun and a daddy.

Values are shaped in the early years of maturity through our personal experiences in the context of God’s love while pursuing our heart’s passion. The secular culture of our current day continues to adversely impact the morals and values of young boys who will one day become our next generation’s world leaders.

When Dr. Patterson considers his daily responsibilities as the called leader of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary located in Fort Worth, Texas, priorities become well established in addressing his life’s mission. He recruits young men and women to enlist in front line battle to influence our culture for Jesus Christ.

“God has not called young people to be wimps but rather courageous men and women who trust in his sovereign plan and purpose for their lives. Young boys are especially vulnerable to the trend toward feminism in America. My conclusion after many years of experience in academia is that every boy needs these three things in preparation for life”, states Patterson.  

But why a dog, a gun and a daddy? This may seem to be overly simplistic to some, especially coming from the past two term president of the Southern Baptist Convention and academic scholar with seven earned degrees. However, Dr. Patterson is emphatic about this three point remedy centered on the character qualities of responsibility, respect and nurture.

“Every boy needs a dog to care for, feed, groom and take to the veterinarian. He does not need a little yapper but rather a big dog as his companion in discovering outdoors adventure and the responsibility that comes from dependence on his companion.

“He also needs a gun, not a toy gun but a real firearm that allows him to appreciate our Second Amendment rights afforded by our constitution to own and bear arms. Without question, our Second Amendment rights are closely aligned with our First Amendment rights protecting free speech in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“Most importantly, every maturing boy needs a daddy to show him the way. Sons have a special bond with fathers unique to any other relationship. The heritage of a father’s life well lived can instill Christian values that cannot be learned in any other setting.” stated Patterson.

Africa Calls from the Deep

Dr. Patterson had been intrigued with African safari hunting for many years. He encourages others to hunt Africa while the opportunity still exists and the animals are so abundant. Changing political regimes along with poor management of important wildlife areas have adversely impacted several nations on the African continent. When the ethical hunter is prohibited from entering an area then poachers will inevitable reduce the game populations to dangerously low levels.  Christian sportsmen should continue to pray for enactment of strict guidelines and standards of ethical conduct or otherwise many species on the continent could be severely jeopardized. 

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Patterson reflects, “We owe our appreciation to such Christian sportsmen as David Livingstone who was not only a medical missionary but also a great hunter-conservationist who made lasting contributions to safari hunting in central Africa. The appreciation of the grandeur of what God has created on this globe that we call the earth makes one come to appreciate His creative genius then respect the enormous wisdom and power that resides within our Creator. While watching the brilliance of the abundant animal populations on the Serengeti plains I am reminded that God promises that the heavens surpass the earth in all its grandeur.”

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When asked to comment on his most memorable safari hunting trip to Africa, Dr. Patterson stated, “About three years ago I was privileged to take two leopards, a cape buffalo and a trophy lion all within a three day hunting trip. My guide asked me if I wanted to go back to sit in the truck while they tracked my wounded lion like the vast majority of their clients do.” Asked about hunting ethics, Dr. Patterson stated that he has “no regard for a wimp who would not go into the bush after a wounded animal.” He further stated, “The female lion was particularly challenging when I dropped her within ten feet of her attack on me and my PH (Professional Hunting guide).”

“I have had the privilege of leading two of my African professional hunters to faith in Christ. I remember the occasion well as we were sitting around the camp fire one evening following this very close call with a lion attack. I ask him if the lion had won that day where would he be. He did not answer the question verbally but rather just pointed to the fire. I knew what he meant. I asked him if he would be happy with that result to which he said ‘no, not particularly’. I shared with him my faith in Christ then led him to the Lord.” commented Patterson.

The passion to hunt Africa for many sportsmen can become very intense at times especially when professional guides and outfitters promote economic incentives with costs lower than a western or Alaskan big game hunt on the North America continent. Even today, Africa calls out to fathers around the globe to consider taking a son or daughter on a safari hunt guaranteed to be unique to any other place on the face of the earth. However, keep in mind that professional guide services are a necessity in order to avoid the pitfalls of government red tape and assure an enjoyable experience.

During Dr. Patterson’s mission travels around the globe he is often invited to join his host for a well planned hunting trip where the culture can be observed from the first hand vantage point among the native populations. Dr. Patterson’s son, Armour, has joined him for such memorable occasions. The reference point of a shared lifetime dream experience can last for years to come. Such recreational opportunities that are shared together with a son or daughter can serve as a wonderful platform for nurture and instruction not found in any other activity.

A Deeper Call to Grasp the Truth

While growing up on a farm in Beaumont, Texas, Patterson found much delight in the small game hunting of rabbit, squirrel, and deer. But even at an early age he knew God had a special calling upon his own life to proclaim the truth of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hunting and fishing are great avocations and even an essential part of man’s role in proper stewardship of God’s bountiful creation. God speaks to us very clearly in times of solitude and stillness.

Patterson reminisces, “I had a dog, a gun and a wonderful Dad. I also knew that I had a loving Heavenly Father thanks to the time that my dad invested in me from a very early age. Dad spent quality time with me to make sure that I understood the great Christian heritage that he wanted to pass down.” He jokes, “I am convinced, there are two kinds of kids, those who love the outdoors and those who need a doctor’s appointment!”

He reflected, “I vividly remember that my dad gave me a German Shepard named Solomon that inspired me to begin training dogs during my teenage years. I was amazed at how dogs could be trained to accomplish unbelievable feats such as retrieving and tracking game when out in the field. The responsibility of taking care of Solomon and the many other dogs that I owned in my early years taught me a lot of basic character qualities such as diligence, compassion, attentiveness, and dependence.”

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Dr. Patterson speaks of his own son, “My son Armour received his first gun, a Marlin 30.30 lever action rifle at the age of fourteen. I would only allow him to use open sights to begin with. I will never forget the first time he fired the rifle. The recoil kicked so hard it took him off his feet. He knew then that a firearm is a dangerous weapon and should be respected at all times.”

“His first hunting dog was named A.J. This uniquely bred Treeing Walker or “Walker Hound” as it is commonly known is an amazing animal. He could actually climb a tree if the limbs were within reach of the ground. This particular species of hunting dog is used for a variety of purposes such as deer drives or flushing small game. A.J. was truly a remarkable dog. He is now buried on the seminary campus where he died at the age of nine.

One of Dr. Patterson’s favorite campus mascots was a black Labrador Retriever by the name of “Noche”. The name is Spanish for the word “night” because of his dark black charcoal color. And, yes, Noche had free reign of the campus at Southwestern Seminary, even Patterson’s office and conference room where student applicants are interviewed during orientation and prior to enrollment.

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Probing deeper he expounds, “To be quite frank, I am very concerned about America. If men in the church today squander the opportunity that God has afforded us in this free country to reach men and encourage dads to become the godly influence needed to lead this nation, we may never have another opportunity. Men need to grow into the spiritual leaders that they can be by prioritizing sportsmen’s ministry in churches across the nation.”

Sportsmen’s banquets are prevalent on Patterson’s annual speaking circuit schedule. He books over forty such outreach forums each year. “Men’s ministry is not effective in at least ninety eight percent of our approximate 40,000 Southern Baptist churches across America, or any other denomination for that matter. The vast majority of men have no idea as to where to take hold. Most churches are so beaten down by political correctness and feminism that they do not believe that it is possible to have effective men’s ministry. Therefore, many church leaders do not believe that the typical unchurched outdoorsman with tattoos on his arm and wearing a camouflaged cap would be responsive to Christ. To the contrary, he is probably more receptive than a businessman in a three-piece suit and with a matching tie and hanky sticking out of his pocket.” Dr. Patterson emphatically states.

“I have chosen to invest my time and energy in speaking at sportsmen’s events and promoting CSF, International because of the great opportunity to connect in reaching men with the gospel message. Most other church activities have very few non-Christians involved. Sportsmen’s banquets attract on the average 50-70% of those in attendance who have no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My second motivation for choosing this outreach forum is that one out of every two little boys growing up in this country does not have a masculine figure in the home. Daddy is not there. This is a recipe for national chaos. Books have been written on character deficiency in our nation resulting in the formation of street gangs in our neighborhoods and cities. So, I am now on a crusade to get every little boy a masculine figure who can serve as their role model in their home and to get daddies and granddaddies to be pro-active in their lives.” Patterson continues.

“There is one thing that no little boy needs, and that is a daddy that is going to take him to hell. Most good daddies will immediately say that they may go to hell but they do not want their kid to do the same. The only problem is that regardless if you are either a good daddy or a bad daddy, your kid will greatly admire you as his father. Young boys will usually follow in the same steps of his father in nine cases out of ten.”, he comments.

Further, “I believe that outdoors ministries such as Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship are vitally needed in our current culture to provide an avenue for connecting with hundreds of thousands if not millions of men who desperately need the life change that only Jesus Christ can bring about. The Christian Sportsman magazine is also a great tool for letting outdoorsmen get to know other Christian sportsmen who serve as role models.”

Patterson once drove his pickup truck next to a group of animal rights demonstrators who were picketing a church that was advertising a sportsmen’s banquet that evening. One of the protesters was holding a sign up that read ‘What would Jesus do?’ Dr. Patterson rolled his window down then asked the young protestor what was going on. He then heard the reply that the meat of wild animals was being served at the dinner event.

“That’s interesting, my bible states in the book of Genesis that God was the first person recorded in scripture to use the skins of wild animals when he clothed the nakedness of Adam and Eve. He also commanded the Israelites to offer a lamb for sacrifice on the alter to atone for the sins of the people. And by the way, I am Dr. Paige Patterson, the speaker for tonight’s event.”  Patterson informed the young radical.

Proven statistics show that the vast majority of Christians make their decision to follow Christ before reaching the age of fifteen. Probably the most effective way to reach adult men is through identifying with their passions such as the avocations of hunting or fishing. And the great outdoors provides a wide-open mission field for connecting with this growing segment of the population. Estimates show that over 65,000,000 or almost one-half of the United States’ adult population fits into this category.

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“Above all, I encourage young people today to discover a true personal relationship with the Lord, whatever it takes and wherever you have to go to hear God’s still small voice. As the president of an evangelical bible seminary I continue to pray that every student will respond to God’s call to a life of personal devotion to Jesus Christ then share the message of Christ very boldly wherever he may take you in your daily walk. My favorite verse in the bible is Revelation 12:11 and is inscribed over our family room fireplace mantel, ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony’,” Patterson concluded.

As Dr. Patterson finished the interview for this feature magazine article in The Christian Sportsman, he was making preparations to take an airline flight to South Carolina for a speaking engagement at a Sportsmen’s Banquets and Wild Game Tasting the following day. His topic, “A dog, a gun and a daddy!”

In 2003, Dr. Patterson began serving on the International Advisory Board of Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship as an ambassador for the organization in his many travels. As a CSF Master Sportsman Dr. Patterson is available periodically for speaking engagements when his schedule allows and he is not traveling on mission trips abroad. For inquires please send an email to  In your request please briefly outline your banquet theme and ministry plan for reaching your church community through the event.