Carthage church reaches cowboy crowd
By Kayla Rinker
CARTHAGE—This is not your Mama’s church.
However, for many Christian cowboys and cowgirls in and around Carthage, it’s home sweet home.
Since its first service in January 2007, Risen Ranch Cowboy Church (RRCC) has grown from 12 members to around 70.
“There’s a little twang in the singing and the people who come here aren’t too shiny, but we sure do preach one true Gospel,” said Steve Stafford, pastor at RRCC.
Unlike most Southern Baptist Sunday morning services, RRCC meets for weekly worship on Tuesday nights.
“A lot of the people that we are trying to reach out to have rodeos and horse shows they go to on the weekends,” Stafford said. “So, anyway, we got to thinking that we could probably better serve our culture if we offered our church on Tuesday nights instead of the traditional Sunday morning.”
He said RRCC accommodates a unique culture the same way a Hispanic church caters to its Hispanic culture or the way an Asian church serves the Asian community.
“We are our own culture mainly because a lot of the people who come to our church just don’t feel comfortable going to other (styles of) churches,” Stafford said. “It may be the way they dress or the different lifestyles, I don’t know. It is what it is, but they still need the Lord just as much as anyone else.”
Another distinctive feature of RRCC is the building where its congregation meets. They meet in an indoor arena, or as Stafford calls it, “a big ol’ barn.” He said the arena is just another way the church tries to cater to its members and prospects.
“It’s all biblical really,” Stafford said, “Jesus traveled throughout the country meeting people where they were at. He met the Samaritan woman at the well … He being the one who went to her. If you were to come to our barn on Tuesday nights you would see people dressed in jeans and cowboy hats and boots versus a coat and tie. We are trying to meet the people, in particular the cowboy community, where they are at.”
The church has also put its “cowboy slant” on other ministries and outreach events it has hosted. In particular, RRCC held its first ever Vacation Bible School (VBS) this summer, and the week-long event was far from traditional.
“We wanted to do VBS our way … on the back of a horse,” Stafford said. “We had 19 kids come out who ranged from 8 to 16 years old. We asked them to bring their horses and we taught them horsemanship and related their walk with their horse to their walk with God.”
He said they had daily chapel times where they talked about everything from the Gospel and what it means to be saved to self confidence issues and the Bible truth that everyone is perfectly and wonderfully made by God.
“Before the week even started we ranked the information we wanted to share with the group from one to ten, one being the most important,” Stafford said. “The Gospel message was number one and horses were number ten.”
Following the horse clinic Bible school, three students were saved and baptized.
“We went ahead and baptized them during our Friday night family night,” Stafford said. “In fact, just this last Tuesday we baptized another kid who also came to know the Lord as a result of VBS. Things have really been exciting.”
And like everything else RRCC does, the church’s baptisms also display its unique cowboy ways.
“We call it a cowboy dunkin’,” Stafford explained. “We’ve baptized some people in a horse trough, some in the creek and some in a pond … just wherever we’re at and what’s available to us.”
Though RRCC hasn’t been around very long, Stafford said it has already been active in mission work. The church has three different teams of volunteers that compete at weekend rodeos and afterward lead in Bible study groups. The church has also taken two mission trips to Greenlee, Colo., where it did Rodeo Bible Camps.
“The initial goal was to first establish a strong prayer ministry within the church and to then support and go on mission trips,” Stafford said. “We want to be mission-minded in everything we do.”
The people of RRCC are looking forward to the future of the church and its ministries. They are currently working on a large building project and they also have visions of expanding their small group ministries. Both, Stafford believes, will reach out to more people in their cowboy culture.
“Again, we are about meeting people where they are at and making our church fit our culture,” he said. “The town didn’t need another First Baptist Church located on First and Main. We had to get outside of that box and I think we’ve done it.”