FREDERICKTOWN – God’s Country Cowboy Church started off at a trot last January with four people, after but after a year of ministry and a horse whisperer event, they’re up to a full gallop running in the 70s in their weekly meetings.
“We do reach out to a cowboy culture, and we have a lot of activities geared that way,” said Steve Francis, pastor. “My theme is ‘just wear your muddy boots, bring your dog and come on.’ I want people to feel comfortable. It’s not necessarily what you wear; it’s where your heart’s at.”
Francis said that “come as you are” attitude is part of what draws people to God’s Country Cowboy Church, but a cowboy hat and boots are not requirements.
“We’ve reached out to people that would not be in church anywhere or feel comfortable in a ‘normal’ church setting,” he said. “It’s just like a biker church, or a sportsman’s church. It fits this group of people. But just because you come, doesn’t mean having a horse is a prerequisite.”
It has a definite cowboy flavor, however. Instead of a lone piano they have a “cowboy band” which adds four or five guitars, some mandolins, and fiddles.
The Missouri Baptist Convention church plant meets in an old renovated restaurant, meeting Sundays and Tuesdays. Through a North American Mission Board grant, the church recently constructed a small arena outside where kids practice roping before and after church. The round pen will also serve as ground zero for a Bible School in October with a cowboy theme.“So our vision of a nice little arena needed to grow,” Francis said. “We set a goal of reaching 300 people and went to work.”
“Went to work” they did. The arena held the church’s largest outreach to date, a horse whisperer event Aug. 26 that drew 227 people, some coming in from more than 100 miles away. Between some homemade seating made from railroad ties and donated bleachers from Fredericktown Raceway, every person had a close-up view of Stan Henderson, a horse whisperer out of Hannibal and an unbroken mare. He used the live demonstration to illustrate man’s natural unwillingness to work with God.
“Unfortunately, her nature consisted mostly of ‘I want it my way or I’ll run over you,’” Francis said. “Stan pointed out that we’re often that same way with God until we learn to communicate with Him and find His loving will for our lives. After a short 40 minutes of lunging, driving and desensitizing, the crowd shared a hold-your-breath moment when Stan climbed on the mare and walked her around.”
Francis said this particular horse was destined for the butcher, and was brought to God’s Country Cowboy Church as a last reprieve.
“The honesty and forcefulness of this message was not lost on the crowd,” he said.
The church is hosting a similar event Oct. 7, with David Kenyon, and Henderson will return next spring. They expect crowds topping 400