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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Part II: A collision of cultures... inside Christiandom

Last Friday I had the honor of sitting in on a unique and educational luncheon hosted by music promoter Jeff Moreland, which focused on the Cowboy Culture and the recent development of “cowboy” churches. Almost two dozen artists, entertainers and cowboy pastors were gathered in one room to share and vision together. Below are some observations and nuggets I gleaned from the conversations…

But first this plea… I’ve done my best to capture what was said. If anybody remembers it differently, please, in charity and good faith, lay it down like you remember it… I sure don’t want to misquote or misrepresent.

Pastor Stacey Nobles of Llano spoke first, and encouraged everyone that “God always takes care of those He sends.” We should not be worried about opening this new mission field. But he added that any authentic ministry had to be built on TRUST. Cowboy churches must earn the trust of their flocks, and remember that they are depending on their pastors to offer authentic programming. He added that he is bothered quite a bit by so-called “Christian” musicians looking for a gig, and he had no way to find out their religious orientation or authenticity, and that we all needed some kind of way to rate and recommend the various artists to one another. He made it clear, he did not hire musicians that appeared to be in it just for the money.

Barry Chinn, a pastor from Manchaca, testified that God had provided confirmation after confirmation that God was calling him to lead a cowboy church in Manchaca. He has seen how important FELLOWSHIP and support are critical elements to these cowboy gatherings. .. Some kind of cowboy church info network would be advantageous.

The question at hand was still, “Why are we here today?” At this point, Michael Martin Murphy, country music recording star, in a moment of comic relief, walked over to the Republic of Texas map hanging in the restaurant and, tongue in cheek, interjected, “This is why we are here… to take back all of this!” as he pointed to areas in New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming once a part of Texas. There was a howl and a round of applause. And suddenly we all understood, seriously, that our vision could grow beyond our imaginations and outside our comfort zones… as we asked God to expand our territories. Michael sat down.

Pastor Jason Taylor of Tatum spoke soon after, and rested any doubts about what the cowboy churches are about, and helped zero- in our purpose as he put the “chips” on the table. First he addressed the whole question about song leaders and musicians. “Do not call… you do not apply at our church,” he proclaimed, as he explained they had great musicians in house, and even some that went on the road. Musician credentials were not his concern on this day. He began to explain that at Bar None Cowboy Church, the word “cowboy” was equated with OUTREACH. His was an active, engaging assembly, where he flatly rejected the concept that they ever had “church.”

“We don’t have church!” Taylor declared, and he did not want to ever be accused of looking or acting or feeling like a conventional church. “We’re a bunch of rednecks!” he confessed, asserting that the mainline church would never do for his flock. They offered a variety of attractions to attract people. “At my church, we are not concerned [like others] with how to get people into our church… we are concerned with how we can be involved in people’s lives.” For Bar None that means rodeos and equestrian events that people around the area will come to. Taylor explained that they might host a PRCA rodeo, just to get a 7 minute commercial in the middle and preach a bit of the WORD to the audience. He was almost restless at this point, explaining that he was not really very at home in a nice pleasant suburban restaurant chatting with a bunch of pastors… “I need to be where the shit’s at,” he laughed sheepishly. It was obvious his ideas and choice of words were a collision with standard church work, even a veritable clash of cultures.. .

Jeff Moreland made the point here that this is why we were here… to collide… our ideas and visions. Maybe there was a long needed dialogue between mainstream religion and this amazing cowboy movement. If Michael Murphy broke the ice, then Jason Taylor had poured it down our backs...

Greg Hunt, pastor of Magnolia Cowboy Church backed him up immediately, “Folks want it real” he reasoned, saying that many of their flock were tired of the conventional, somewhat pretentious mainline church crowd. A rodeo arena keeps it real for his fellowship. It was agreed around the room that many people who come to this kind of ministry would probably never darken the door of a conventional church. So important is the rodeo atmosphere, some cowboy churches have built their event arena BEFORE their worship center. The strategy was plain and simple… and Biblical.

Hunt agreed with Barry Chinn, who had just admitted that the cowboy churches were … for men. They were going after FATHERS, developing men-friendly churches; Places where men would be attracted and feel at home. They aim at fathers, and as Hunt explained “… if you get them, the rest will follow.”

No one in the room had to be reminded that Jesus was born in a manger, a manly place, a crude outbuilding associated with animal shelters, with humble, unclean livestock herders (shepherds) as witnesses to his birth, and when he began to build his church, he gathered a bunch of redneck men, and deliberately associated himself with outcasts and working class people, mostly men, who were Gallileans (considered heathens), fishermen and such, and often used their outdoor lifestyle to draw analogies. The cowboy church is a good modern parallel. But a church aimed at men?

As far as is recorded, probably all of the writers of Holy Scripture were men. The Scriptures record precious few female prophets. All twelve of the Disciples were male. Jesus met them often in their male-dominated world, and rode in their boats and even cooked them up a catch on the beach one morning. THEY were his focus, at his last supper, and his last appearances. Churches today are often run by women, which is not bad, but the absence of men is alarming. Women were there during the First Century church for sure, but tagging along behind the men as that culture allowed. It was to the men, the Apostles and founders of the church as we know it whom Jesus commissioned the greatest Faith movement of our present culture. And not surprisingly, a predominance of the early church leaders were men. For centuries. Fishers of MEN? You bet. But still I’m thinking… this is sure to rile the Women’s Rights groups…

But I’ll tell you, these guys don’t give a cow chip.

More next time…

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