- State News
- Gas Industry
Cowboy Churches Wind a Dusty Trail East—and North
By Cindy Knier
July 13, 2011
Cowboy. The simple, but powerful word conjures an image of the iconic spirit of the American male, riding the open range corralling herds of cattle while fending off predators. It’s a brutally hard lifestyle few persons seek--yet one many, both male and female, appreciate.
A growing trend to include cowboys and those who identify with the cowboy culture into the church body was established during the 80s decade by Ron Nolen. Nolen saw a need to “reach the lost,” and planted a Cowboy Church of Ellis County in Waxahachie, a suburb of Dallas, Texas.
Adding technology and the gospel to their saddlebags, modern-day cowboys understand the solitary lifestyle that rides along with the job of cowboying. Cowboy churches, promoting a “come-as-you-are” approach, are beginning to sweep north and east of Texas—including Pennsylvania.
Kevin Weatherby, founder of Campfire Cowboy Ministries and Save the Cowboy, and former pastor of the Pecos County Cowboy Church in Fort Stockton, Texas, is one of those extending a rope to the cowboy way of life and its culture.
Weatherby’s goal is to “show that Jesus’ greatest wish is that you and him ride his pastures together. He is not a Greek god waiting to zap you with a lightning bolt if you make a mistake, but rather an old friend that loves you so much that he gave his life for you,” he said.
“There are people who wear cowboy hats and boots but have never had an opportunity to work on a ranch or ride a horse every day, but they like the culture and identify with the cowboy’s characteristics of strength, integrity and work ethics. That’s the whole idea behind Campfire Cowboy Ministries and Save the Cowboy,” Weatherby said in a recent interview. The ministry encapsulates character, honesty, respect, integrity, strength, and truth; in other words—CHRIST, all characteristics that describe a cowboy, Weatherby explained.
“People have this misconception about Christianity—that’s it’s all about dressing up on Sunday. I’m not criticizing people who do that; if they feel they need to dress up in order to get closer to God, then by all means, do that. But there’s a whole group of people out there that doesn’t want to be somebody on Sunday that they’re not on Monday.”
Weatherby, who was in Williamsport last month, set aside some time from his job at McCarty Equipment on Lycoming Creek Road to baptize Keith Bodwell in the waters of the Yellow Breeches Creek in Grantham, PA.
Bodwell, the son-in-law of Richard and Janice Ogurcak of Williamsport, first learned of cowboy churches over two years ago, and began researching and connecting with cowboy pastors across the country, including amigos Weatherby and Jeff Smith of the Cowboy Church Network of North America.
Through those connections,heI learned more and felt called to plant a cowboy church, but had never known where God wanted him to plant one, Keith said via e-mail.
Last year, the puzzle pieces began to slip into place for Keith during a trip to New Hampshire. His wife, Christi had a college friend in Vermont, so the couple set aside some time to visit her.
“Christi’s friend has several horses and participates in barrel racing, and I shared the idea of cowboy church with her,” Keith said. “Over the next several weeks I felt God calling me to look into planting a cowboy church in Barre, Vermont. Through the help of Christi's friend, I made several connections there, including a large animal vet and his wife, as well as a barn owner who offered the use of her barn to hold the cowboy church.”
With four classes remaining, Bodwell is currently attending Lancaster Theological seminary before he will receive his master of divinity degree. The couple leaves their home in Lancaster next month to meet the elders of Wild Hearts Cowboy Church and begin ministering in the first cowboy church in all of New England.
“I believe that a cowboy church could work out very well in the Williamsport area.” Keith said. “I’ve just not felt God calling me to plant a church here in Pennsylvania.” Currently, there is just one cowboy church in Clarington, PA.
For additional information, visit http://campfirecowboyministries.com/