CUBA — Easter Sunday, April 8, a man heads for church in a tractor pulling a manure spreader.
It’s no big deal for Deer Creek Church. When you meet under a tent at an RV park out in the country, you are flexible. You make folks feel welcome.
Straight from fertilizing his field, the man is ready to worship.
“Come as you are,” says Caren Meade, one of the core group members.
Now it is April 29. Worship Leader Arin Hoekstra is sounding like deep-voiced country singer Josh Turner on “Long Black Train.” Posted on one edge of the platform is a simple American flag with no yellow fringe.
The devil is driving the long, black train. His freight is sin. Young Deer Creek, one month old on May 8, is a church plant that is telling men to just skip the train. Deer Creek and Turner both are proclaiming that there is victory in the Lord. Cling to the Father and YHWH, His holy name.
“We’re looking at a lot of outreach—maybe archery, hunting, fishing for kids, whatever it takes to bring people together,” says Norm Warmbrodt, another Deer Creek core group member who is serving as a greeter outside the tent. “We’re trying to reach the men of the family first. If the man comes, they’re all going to come. If the woman comes, you don’t necessarily get the man.
“The man’s supposed to be the spiritual leader of the home. We’ve fallen away from that. Our existing churches don’t seem to be working—they’re losing people. We’re trying to go back to the basics and get people involved again.”
Deer Creek is running around 50 people. Every single member of the core group, which started out in 2010 as a home Bible study, is united in its vision to reach men. That has created a church plant that is reaching out to northern Crawford County with “rugged” music, a direct order of service, and a respect for all things masculine.
“I call it a rural/outdoor church,” says its pastor, David Kenyon, a 41-year-old team roper and calf roper who drives around 100 miles every week from his farm in High Point where he has cattle and horses.
Spencer Hutson is no cowboy. He is a team leader for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board staff. For 21 years he and his wife, Valerie, served at First Baptist Church, Cuba. Now he helps build men at Deer Creek.
“Everybody’s doing children’s ministry and feminine-type stuff, so we’ll let them do that,” he says. “We’re zeroing in on men.”
He talks about the impact a mission team from Alabama had last June when it came to do a backyard Bible club.
“During that week, one of the young men took some of our leaflets home,” he says. “We’d already come up with the name and logo. He took it back home to his Dad, who is a truck driver, motorcycle rider—just a real man’s man—and his Dad picked it up and said, ‘Deer Creek Church? That sounds like something I’d go to. I wonder if they’d let me wear my camouflage?’ And so he’s been coming.”
Valerie Hutson, who supports her husband wholeheartedly in his discipleship of men, talks about the role she plays in organizing lunch on the grounds of the Ladybug RV Park after every church service.
“I call them, or email them, or text them to give them an idea of what they can bring,” she says. “I really think a lot of folks have kept coming because of the fellowship that we have at the meal. They get to know people, where before they just come to worship and then they leave.”
The Hutsons are cleaning the community center building long after the April 29 service is done and the people have gone home. So are Frank and Caren Meade.
“It’s like family,” Frank Meade says.
The 8-12 people who were faithful to attend the early Bible studies continue to step into a counter-cultural experience where new faces are the norm.
“We want to reach people,” Spencer Hutson says. “A Great Commission church is what we’re trying to be. That’s why we’re doing it.”