Sharon and I have the unique honor of being part of a 5-year-old church plant that is a rooted in the cowboy church culture. I was fascinated to learn from a conference led by pastor Justin Taylor of the Bar-nun Cowboy Church in Tatum, Texas, that in the cowboy church world there are two words that mean everything.
Those two words explain the cowboy church theological underpinnings for their unique missiological strategy. Those two words encapsulate the church’s mission statement and its soteriological understanding.
In the cowboy church culture, these two words trump all other difficult words like irresistible grace, particular atonement, Arminianism or supralapsarian dispensationalism. Those concepts are important for civil theological discussion, but if we aren’t careful they have a way of driving people into divisive theological ditches.
What I’ve noted in the cowboy church culture is that things are a bit more direct. That could be because these two essential words aren’t going to get roped into a theological corner.
The two words that impact the cowboy church culture? “Whoa!” and “Go!” Sorta like repentance and faith with a cowboy twist.
Boiling down the gospel to two key concepts is not unusual. On his way to Jerusalem, Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders and restated the essence of his message in Acts 20:21 – “Solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Whoa! That means stop and stop now – we are not going that direction. “Sometimes the horse gets that quickly, sometimes they don’t,” says Jason Taylor. He tells a wonderful story about a horse that simply did not want to be ridden.
As a kid growing up in the country, I could relate to the single focus of a horse that didn’t want to be mastered by anyone or anything. It was as if the horse was deaf. You have to ask, “What good is a horse that refuses to be ridden?”
Yet, I can relate to my own stubborn heart that is bent on doing my own thing instead of surrendering to my Lord. As long as I rebel against His will and way, I miserably fail to achieve my purpose in life. My rebellion resists the word of the Lord. There are times when a simple edit to the Word of God would allow my flesh some wiggle room for my rebellion. However, our Lord says what He says for a reason. So, the sooner I repent, the better.
We live in a culture that has determined it is hard of hearing. The Word of God and the Spirit of the Lord are saying, “Whoa!” But we aren’t listening. What extreme measures must the Lord use on our culture for us to get the message? Do we not learn from the fruit of mankind’s rebellious ways in the courtroom conviction of a sexually abusive physician or an active shooter at a public institution? I don’t even want to go there.
There are plenty of broken lives waiting for someone to love them enough to lead them to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. The only way a person can know the Lord is through the doorway of repentance and the only way to walk with the Lord is on the pathway of humility. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
The other word is “Go!”
That word is not so difficult to understand. With horseback riding, that is where the fun is. Go. Go! Go!! Isn’t that the way it is with followers of Christ? It is in our going that we make disciples, and by so doing we fulfill our purpose for being here.
Listen to what Jesus had in mind when He said, “Go and make disciples in all nations.” As His children, we are called to go and to go and to go, until He says whoa.
Let me illustrate the value of this. A couple of years ago, this new church in Cuba, Mo., sent a team to upstate New York to explore the potential for a cowboy church plant. The team wasn’t exploring how much money would be available from the North American Mission Board. Neither did they ask about the median income of suburbanites in a particular zip code.
Here is what they asked: “Where are the feed stores?” That is where you go to reach this particular demographic. Fellow believers, we must cooperatively, strategically, intentionally go. We are compelled to go! go!! go!!! A mindset of going—of sharing the gospel and making disciples, must permeate everything we do.
So, when you are thinking about, praying about your walk with God or our churches on mission with God, you just need two words: Whoa and Go —“Whoa” to our own way and “Go” to engaging people in the life-changing truths of the gospel.