Denton’s Outdoor Ministry Philosophy Influenced by Adventure Pastor

This inaugural edition of the Ashley Denton’s Adventure Pastor’s Blog Series is an excerpt from his book Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory and Practice:


“When I was twelve years old, the pastor of my church, Doug Self, invited my dad, me and another friend, Mike, to go on a backpacking trip to the base of Chair Mountain near Marble, Colorado. I could not have been more excited. Days seemed like months as I waited for our big expedition. That warm summer day finally arrived and as we clunked along the four-wheel drive road to the trailhead, I imagined facing mountain lions, dodging rock slides, and spelunking into caves to protect us from the wild splashes of lightning common at that time of the summer. I was ready for adventure!

Near sunset at the end of our first day, after clamoring thousands of feet to the doorway of Buckskin Basin, I saw a beauty I had never before imagined. At the base of cathedral cliffs that seemed to reach to heaven, an opal-blue lake sat like a jewel, quietly reflecting the canvas of the red sky above. Like an orange ball coming to rest on the distant ridge, the sun set. I sat in the quiet, and with every fresh breath of air that filled my little lungs, it was obvious to me that this wild and pristine basin had been created as a place for me to sit and gaze into the Glory of God. “Wow,” I wondered, “Did God have me in mind when he created this alpine wonderland?” It seemed possible that maybe he did. In many ways, this special place, in the seat of Chair Mountain, marked the beginning of my journey with the Lord. Buckskin Basin marks the spot on the map where the Lord imparted a vision in me to do everything I could to help other young people around the world encounter Jesus Christ in the captivating theater of his creation.

The next morning I awoke to the serenity of Buckskin Basin and soon got the lesson of a lifetime. I learned how to fish for native cutthroat trout that day. My dad pulled out a strand of fishing line and tied it to a hook for me. After finishing his cigarette, we tied the butt of that Camel to the fishing line to use it as a bobber and affixed a chunk of cheddar cheese to the hook. With the end of the line wrapped around my hand I catapulted that tangled twine out into the lake with every hope that I would catch something. The cheese barely had a chance to sink below the surface when a wild trout swallowed my bait! We caught our limit that morning with nothing more than that funky but effective little rig my dad set up for me. That was unforgettable.”

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Ashley Denton’s Adventure Pastors blog is devoted to capturing stories and wisdom from pastors who have a high WQ (Wilderness Quotient).  These are leaders who spend regular time in the outdoors for renewal, reflection, and discerning the Father’s heart and strategy for shepherding their local church.  Jesus modeled a rhythm of ministry that involved teaching his disciples to 1) work hard and 2) retreat regularly into his pristine creation for prayer and spiritual formation. Especially in societies where busyness has become a dangerous idol that threatens to shrink our souls, we have much to learn from these pastors who seek to model Jesus’ sustainable pace for long term ministry by prioritizing conversation with the Almighty God in the cathedral of his creation.