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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Part III: Christian Cowboy Outreach

Recently a cowboy church was started in Brenham, Texas and the numbers grew exponentially. The perceived mass of modern Christians turning away from the “mainstream” church prompted Charles Lynn to reassure everyone that mainstream is a relative term, "Mainstream is never mainstream." Cowboy churches are already courting if not relishing in the mainstream.

Whatever is accepted as the popular thing is almost always something itself in flux and either on the way in or on the way out. As we talk of the cowboy church as outside that golden place we all think is reserved for some other entity, it may well be already nestling into the main stream of Christian life. The “mainstream” church is losing people at such a rate, and the cowboy church movement is growing at such a rate, it is quite possible at some juncture in the near future, without any announcement, the cowboy churches will reach a critical mass and one day be “the thing,” or at least be accepted as solid partners in the evangelical movement.

Stacey Nobles offered that at this stage, as fast as things are happening, word of mouth is going to carry the momentum, and advertising programs fall behind the flow as the word spreads like wildfire.

Singer songwriter George Ensle, who regularly performs for cowboy churches throughout central Texas, offered that he has more and more learned to trust the Lord to inspire the music, and give him the songs that relate to the day’s message. He also believes that humor and being real are essential to effective outreach. He proposed that any “real Christianity” will include an emphasis given to reaching our kids. “We treat our children like second-class citizens.” Yet Jesus said we had to be like them to ever enter the Kingdom! Ensle seemed to be suggesting that any correct strategy will include making the kids, and outreach to them, top priority.

As that strategy took on refinement, and it was agreed that Fathers were the essential building block to bringing in the whole family, and truly impacting kids, Barry Chinn offered some perspective about the place of fathers. After years of ministry in the penal system, prison ministers found one haunting fact: Almost every man on death row was known to hate his own father. Our job is to model Christ, as He is the ultimate surrogate father for kids with no fathers or ones whose fathers have failed to be good fathers.

Singer-songwriter Kyle Hutton of Magnolia was asked to give some words before he had to leave. He is the founder and host of “Real Life, Real Music,” ministry. He seemed to be optimistic that even if fathers and preachers fail, God will find his own. “Even when there is no leader, people will find a way.” Hutton said he and his fellowship were finding that they must see everyone that crosses their path as the target of their ministry. It might be the folks that come, or it might be the musicians they have recruited that day. He warned that we must be discerning between the legitimate hunger that Lynn spoke of, and downright disobedience. In other words, some of the folks that we meet in this movement are restless for the wrong reasons. Some are running from accountability or nurturing a personal rebellion against God, and not just the mainstream religions.

Chuck Walker of Cedar Park explained how God has led him into a rewarding radio ministry. It is called the Jesus Country Show.

Comedian Chuck Montgomery broke everybody up with his impish smile and off the wall approach. He reminded us that nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. If the cowboy church has become the vanguard of outreach, then the mainstream church unfortunately has become the “Pharisees,” standing in the way. “And no Pharisee ever won anybody to Christ!” To be successful we must abandon old judgmental paradigms, look hard for our commonalities, and forever bury old divisive attitudes. We need to find common ground with people and doing that proves we care. He echoed George Ensle’s idea that church needs to be fun. Humor trumps almost all opposition. And that’s where he comes in.

Then he offered something almost profound… “We need to clean out our own houses…” and just accept and love people where they are, and not try so much to clean out their houses.

I offer at this point that it is this overwhelming need for “housecleaning” in American Christianity that has opened the opportunity for cowboy churches to take off like a rocket. People are just choosing to walk away rather than fight the fight inside the so-called mainstream churches. When a great river runs into an obstacle, if it cannot move it, it floods around it.

Next : We will sit in on an intimate circle between several young cowboy pastors and Michael Martin Murphy.

Note: This is a part of a popular series on Cowboy churches. You can find and read all of them by going back to the main page, and use the search button at the top right to search: CHRISTIAN COWBOYS.

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