Then Hough called his dog's name: "Prophet!"
The dog moved on command.
Drawing one analogy after another from his precision-honed relationship with his champion Labradors, Hough explained to a Friday night gathering in Fort Worth, Texas, at Birchman Baptist Church, that those who are not of God do not hear the Word of God with any special regard.
"But the Word of God says, 'My sheep will know My voice. I will know them and they will know Me.' I want to know that I'm His," Hough told the men. "Because the Word of God says, '... you cannot pluck from My hand one that is Mine.'"
During an hour-long presentation with two of his champion Labs, Prophet and Bandera, along with a Bible, a handful of retriever props, and a healthy dose of humor laced with straight talk about God, men, responsibility, obedience and sinful diversions, Hough managed to weave together the truth: God's will is a love relationship with men -- if they will put aside their own ambitions to follow the Master's voice alone.
Eighteen people in a group that numbered more than 100 registered decisions to follow Christ in salvation that night -- a frequent result since Hough began his Kingdom Dog Ministries from his home in Houston, and one he is still awed by.
A witnessing opportunity with a neighbor in 2003 provided Hough with an opportunity to do a youth group presentation and led from there to other church and civic groups. A challenge from his son, home from college, set the course.
"Dad, if you don't see God in everything, you will see Him in nothing." At that, Hough looked down at a chocolate Lab pup and asked, "If that's true, then how would God glorify Himself through this new puppy?"
Before long the question was answered and a ministry was born.
Hough, whose work among Southern Baptists has taken off in the last three years, has been featured in numerous magazine and television interviews.
Since September 2009, he has given more than 180 presentations at churches, schools and civic groups, with more than 3,600 people registering decisions to follow Christ in salvation. In schools, he is prevented from sharing an outright biblical message, but he said the principles are laid bare by the dog's relationship to his master.
A promotional video at www.kingdomdog.com has garnered thousands of hits.
"I'm a nobody God is using with the simplicity of the Gospel message," Hough said. "To see tears running down grown men's faces because of a simple, lovable, but devoted animal is humbling."
Hough has traveled to seven or eight states this year, but he said he hopes to do more work in Texas and the surrounding area, and his long-term plans call for several other dog lovers to catch his vision and learn the ropes of the ministry.
"Part of why it attracts so many men is that they are relaxed when they come in; they are coming to a dog show, not a church service per se," Hough said. "Also, I am not talking to them directly, I'm talking to my dog. But the truth about a dog has eternal lessons for us. It's impossible to ignore. It catches them off-guard, but the truth can't be denied."
Hough said the vision of Kingdom Dog Ministries is for God to awaken men for the sake of families and a country waging a spiritual war.
Diversions abound from the one thing that brings peace, he told the group of men in Fort Worth.
"You can be successful, but you cannot be satisfied until you fulfill what you were made for."
Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, on the Web at texanonline.net.
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