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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Part V: Who is that guy anyway?

Thanks again to Jeff Moreland for inviting me to the first meeting of the Christian Cowboys Outreach Fellowship. CCOF?. But we need a better acronym.:) Jeff invited me because I am a friend and I take decent pictures and like to blog, and I am a cowboy type person and most importantly, I have been serving in some kind of lay ministry for the past thirty years.

I was also excited to hang out with one of my youthful idols, someone who inspired a lot of my art. As a youth, I wanted to paint what Michael Murphy sang about. When they threw me out of art school at North Texas, because of my world view, his songs told me there were others like me, who loved this region and its unique heritage, so I did not give up.

But right now the question at hand is how and where to proceed as we try to understand, and with God's guidance, perfect the cowboy church movement. Jeff was thinking, or at least I think he was, that all this creativity in one room might birth some kind of cowboy unity and direction in God's Kingdom. Cowboys + Jesus + talent = great things. But it was obvious that this thing is big and random and thus unpredictable. It is a folk movement, which means it comes from the grass roots, and it will be hard to harness. It needs a trail boss.

As far as I know, there is no one outstanding cowboy preacher to be the prophet of this movement. No Billy Graham iconoclast to galvanize the cowboy people, provide a book or guide to understanding the whole thing. Actually, that is good. When you see this kind of folk movement, without that kind of direction, you almost have to assume it is... the Holy Spirit. He must be the Trail Boss! But we must be careful... falsely attributing something, even a good thing, to HIM is as dangerously close to Heresy as saying His works are that of the devil, a sin Jesus warned would never be forgiven. We must watch and pray, and let truth reveal itself. If this fledgling revival is what Greg Hunt and others believe, we dare not ignore or scoff at it. But we must also refrain from assumptions.

Paul insisted that if churches preach Christ crucified, then we have to respect them. The fact that they are an outreach to a specific cultural group is no more alarming than if we send a mission group to Ecuadorian Indians. But the cowboy church must be careful, as people are scrutinizing them closely. A friend of mine discussed a cowboy church he witnessed holding services in a public roping arena and found the whole thing pretentious. Hay bales with cow skulls, people in their best Sunday-go-to-meetin' cowboy duds, "playing church" in the dirt. He was raised on a farm and in that dirt, but not attracted to it, or people who want to "play-like." To him it was people playing cowboy and playing church, in a shallow exercise that would soon fade as people looked around at each other... like Civil War re-inacters, when they pretend to die for something they believe in, over and over again. It gets old soon because it's not real.

Several of the cowboy pastors talked about being "real." They are dead right. People are looking around for something, a church that has discarded the old pretensions of the typical American corner church; A place where you had to look and act a certain way to fit in. Hmmmmm.....

It's no good to establish another something like that, just this time with your particular favorite costume as the new pretense. A Christian brother of mine was asked to consider taking on a cowboy church project as he was the quintessential cowboy Christian man. He looked at it seriously. In his observations of other "Cowboy" churches, some of them over in East Texas where there were few horses and fewer cowboys, he saw multitudes of smiling "cowboys" and "cowgirls," excited church participants, all dressed up in hats and boots and SPURS, and wondered what kind of animal had been created here. If this thing works, and is effective, we can only imagine what other kind of special costume-oriented fellowships might be contrived to appeal to other unique social identities. Perhaps this is a good thing, so that unique cultural groups can find their own religious niche. Maybe.

But a better thing is to seek the way it will be in the future, when our Lord appears, when every knee will bow. In Heaven we are told there will be neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. Distinctions of race and gender and social class will completely fade away. That is the way it will be in His Kingdom. That is the ultimate goal. As long as cowboy preachers and their flocks understand and embrace that, it matters not what they wear or call themselves.

I'm thinkin' I want to be in Oklahoma, where they can have cowboys and Indians church! Now that would be a hoot!

So, here is the bottom line:

Keep it real.

Focus on kids. Think twice about everything you do concerning them.

Ask yourselves, does this look silly? People are watching you.

Build around fathers, but know that many fathers are MIA.

Trust the Lord to provide the glue. To go before you and clean up after you.

Never, never forget your purpose, your first love! Christ alone!

God Bless you guys and thanks for reading and sharing your insights as well.

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