FREDERICKTOWN – The Cooperative Program can send a ministry dollar around the world, across the country, or sometimes to a condemned restaurant in southeast Missouri.
God’s Country Cowboy Church here began when Steve Francis looked down Highway 67 from his work at Black River Electric Coop and admired the view. Across the highway and sharing the same view was an old restaurant that had been condemned after a 2008 “inland hurricane” blew in the ceiling. The building was finally repaired, but the restaurant didn’t make it back. He’d pastored in nearby Perry County for 23 years, but God called him to reach out to an overlooked people group: Cowboys.
“The Lord opened doors,” he said. “They let us lease the repaired building for six months [in early 2011] when we had four people. The Lord opened more doors by the time six months was over we were in the 40s and 50s. He’s opened doors we never dreamed of.
“It’s a beautiful location,” he said. “We sit up here on the hillside during the evenings and realize that God has put on this hill for a reason. So we can be seen and do things that draw people in.”
Francis said God’s Country Cowboy Church, and specifically its laid back, come-as-you-are-muddy-boots-and-all philosophy is drawing in people who wouldn’t set foot – boots or no boots – into a traditional Baptist church.
“They’re coming, listening and hearing God’s planted seed,” he said. “One of my cowboys this morning rounded up his horses this morning before he came to church. They put him through the mud and were making him late. He said most times, he would have just called it a day and gone inside after wrestling the ponies. But he said he knew God wanted him here and it didn’t matter how I looked.”
The church meets Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings and one Saturday a month is “Jam Night,” where anyone and everyone can come with guitar, mandolin, fiddle or banjo and make a joyful noise.
“It’s been a big draw,” Francis said. “We’ll let you sing, we’ll let you pick, or we’ll let you grin.”
They held their first Vacation Bible School this month, opening it to the entire church instead of just children. The church is also considering adding onto the front of their building so they can seat upwards of 300 people.
God’s Country recently hosted their second horse whispering event in a month. The first featured an unbroken mare that was stubborn to a fault, showing that crowd of 200 a picture of sinful man that wants his own way in God’s world. The second time around, a young colt that had been rescued from starvation wasn’t violent or stubborn, he was just mistrustful of humans that had mistreated him. He was that way toward horse whisperer and pastor of Deer Creek Church, David Kenyon, until the pastor had a chance to demonstrate he had the best interests of the horse at heart. It wasn’t as dramatic a show as the kicking and snorting mare, but it was another picture of how God can redeem a creature long forgotten, abused or neglected.
“He was willing to try, and he made great progress today,” Francis said. “He’s been given a second chance. God loves us and gives us that second chance.”
Both horse events took place in a round pen built with North American Mission Board (NAMB) funds. It will also be used in their Vacation Bible School.
“We’re very proud of it, and I think NAMB would be proud of it,” Francis said.