We sat down with Jason Bryant, Western Heritage Consultant and Church Starter, to talk about Cowboy Church culture in Texas. Enjoy reading what we found out!
Q: What is a Cowboy Church?
A: Cowboy Church is taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ and marrying it with cowboy culture. Cowboy Churches utilize an arena ministry to meet people on common ground. The common ground of the arena allows people apart from Christ to come and participate in events where they are comfortable in, and it allows the church the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.
Q: What's the difference between a Cowboy Church and a Country Church?
A: I work exclusively with cowboy churches, but my understanding is that country churches are often very similar to cowboy churches, but they do not utilize an arena ministry.
Q: How are Cowboy Church services different?
A: I see four differences including music, barriers, hats and “church in the dirt.”
Music: In Cowboy Church we like both kinds of music, Country and Western! Most Cowboy Churches sing hymns, maybe a bit different than you are used to, and inspirational country songs. If it sounds country and lifts up the name of Jesus you might hear it at Cowboy Church.
Barriers: Cowboy Churches try to remove as many religious barriers as possible to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we don’t think about things we do in churches as being barriers to the Gospel, but they can be. Some barriers can be physical things like the style of the building or some things we do like passing the offering plate. Yes, to people who are unchurched and apart from Christ passing the plate is a barrier. We do allow people to give at Cowboy Church and on occasion preach about the importance of stewardship, but we try not to make money a barrier. The only barrier that you cannot remove is the cross of Jesus Christ, and some people cannot get past what Jesus did for them on the cross.
Hats: When I grew up I was raised not to wear my hat or cap in the house, but many people today are not raised the same way. If you harp on men who are apart from Christ about taking their hat off they might not come back next week. So at a Cowboy Church, we do not make a big deal about wearing hats. We simply do what the culture is used to, we take our hats off out of reverence when we pray.
Church in the Dirt: Sometimes Cowboy Churches have their Sunday Gathering right in the arena for a big event. “Church in the dirt” is an opportunity to get people to come to an event and church service all wrapped up into one. Jesus told his disciples “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” If we are going to fish for souls we have to know what they are biting on, and for Cowboy Church they “bite” on arena events. It has been said in Cowboy Church, “The more hoofprints you see in the arena, the more changed lives you will see in Sunday Gathering.”
Q: What's the biggest misconception about Cowboy Churches?
A: Over 16 years into planting Cowboy Churches for Texas Baptists and people think you have to be a cowboy to attend or join Cowboy Church. The aim of Cowboy Church is to reach day working cowboys, that is the bullseye, but folks that just drive pickup trucks and listen to country music are welcome as well.
Another misconception is that Cowboy Churches are in the business of taking people from other churches. Absolutely NOT! There are some people who come to Cowboy Church from more traditional churches, but the aim of Cowboy Church ministry is to reach people who are unchurched and not plugged in to an existing church.
Q: Why is there the need for Cowboy Churches?
A: There are a lot of people in Texas who have not grown up going to church. In my 11 years in Cowboy Church ministry, starting two Cowboy Churches, I have heard hundreds of people say they never felt like they fit in other churches, but when they got to Cowboy Church they felt at home. Cowboy Church is about reaching people for Jesus Christ and giving them a church home, helping them to grow to be more like Jesus and giving them a place to serve like Jesus did.
Q: How many Cowboy Churches are affiliated with Texas Baptists?
A: Texas Baptists have helped start right at 200 Cowboy Churches since 2001. Currently there are about 10 new Cowboy Churches still under funding with Texas Baptists.