Missouri Baptists charge into adventure of horse whisperer evangelism
By Allen Palmeri
April 13, 2004
|Lew Sterrett and his horse, Spark, demonstrated the art of breaking a wild horse April 2 to a large crowd at Flickerwood Arena. Pathway photo by Allen Palmeri|
JACKSON – Lew Sterrett, a teacher from Spring Creek, Pa., who breaks wild horses as he communicates the Gospel, came to Missouri to answer one question about 14 Missouri Baptists: Do they have what it takes to be horse whisperer evangelists?
Horse whisperers are people who use commands and touches to break wild horses. Sterrett, 51, is an expert horse whisperer who injects the Gospel message into his routine.
“There will be hundreds of people doing this eventually, but they can’t do it above their horsemanship level and they can’t do it above their experience level with people as well," Sterrett said. “But this gives them a vision. They’ll get there faster than I ever did because they have a pattern to follow."
Sterrett demonstrated how it is done April 2 before a full house at Flickerwood Arena here. Energized by more than 1,400 people jammed into the stands, Sterrett took a wild, three-year-old stallion named For Sale and “worked him" so that his assistant, Nicole Larkin, could saddle and ride him.
Quoting multiple Bible verses from memory, Sterrett relied on his faithful horse, “Spark," as a Gospel foil. When the wild horse refused to cooperate, For Sale was said to be committing “trespasses against Spark," who “forgave" him. Spark’s job was to keep obeying the master, Sterrett. By modeling this type of faith, Spark prompted For Sale to ask the question, “Will you help me put my faith in the master?" Spark was there to help.
As For Sale began to learn from Spark, Sterrett began to ask for more. He wanted the wild horse’s “heart."
“He’s doing everything he’s supposed to do, but his attitude stinks," the trainer said.
Sterrett applied a series of touches on For Sale’s rear flank. His goal was to gain control of the horse’s right hip.
Noticing how the stallion was resisting on the lead rope, Sterrett talked about how the horse wanted approval and peace, but his concepts of both were “corrupted." Sterrett said that if we could ask a wild horse to define freedom and fulfillment, it probably would not use such words as confinement, restriction or discipline. But that is precisely what For Sale needed to learn.
Eventually, Sterrett and Spark worked the stallion to a place where he would accept a blanket on his back, a saddle on the blanket and the leaning of the master on his body.
“Gradually earning the right to be trusted," Sterrett said.
When the time finally came for Larkin to ride the wild horse, For Sale had come to the place where he was in a right relationship with his master.
“The breaking and training of a horse is initiated by the master and is for the purpose of reaching a greater goal and value than the horse can imagine," Sterrett said. “Our heavenly Father took the initiative to restore our lives by first bringing forth many leaders and godly messengers in ancient times to teach us about the character and love of God. He has also exposed the ways of man which are in direct opposition to God, and has shown that only by getting right with God on His terms can man ever have peace."
Sterrett ended his presentation in the arena with a simple question: “Where are you tonight with your Creator?" His “Sermon on the Mount" ministry has been asking that question around the nation since 1981.
On April 3, Sterrett turned his energy toward training 14 Missouri Baptists who want to do what he’s doing in every corner of the state. David Case, pastor, Riverton Baptist Church , Alton , said the members of the group should be able to catch on to the concept of breaking a wild horse while talking about the things of God.
“We love the Lord with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul," Case said. “So we’re in the Word, we live by the Word, and we have a love for horses also and a connection with horses. We’re going to be able to share that illustration of relationship with the people who come. I think it will work pretty well."
Besides Case, Missouri Baptists training to do this type of evangelism are: Ron Ratliff, Tenth Street Baptist Church, Trenton; Jim Matthews, Red Star Baptist Church, Cape Girardeau; Rusty Johnson, Red Star Baptist Church, Cape Girardeau; Stan Henderson, Immanuel Southern Baptist Church, Hannibal; Larry Garrett, Miner Baptist Church, Sikeston; Les Green, First Baptist Church, Iberia; Wayne Walker, First Baptist Church, Fayette; Donald Vroman, First Baptist Church, Fayette; Dan Kinsey, New Bethel Baptist Church, Jackson; David Kenyon, High Point Baptist Church, High Point; Tim Clippard, First Baptist Church, Jackson; Scott Carter, Temple Baptist Church, Caruthersville; and Billy Epperson, Springhill Baptist Church, Springfield. Case, Ratliff, Matthews and Henderson are pastors. The rest are laymen.
“The goal isn’t to replace me," Sterrett said. “The goal is to use what they (the 14) are, who they are, where they are, with the people around them."
Bob Caldwell, director of evangelism for the Missouri Baptist Convention, said the influence of Matthews, pastor, Red Star Baptist Church, Cape Girardeau, and pastor, Cape County Cowboy Church, Fruitland, helped make the event a success.
“The Lord totally blew every expectation I had out of the water," Caldwell said. “It’s greater than anything I ever imagined or envisioned. Anytime you have over 1,400 people coming together to hear the Gospel, it’s phenomenal."