WHY I WORSHIP (Part 5) “COWBOY CHURCH”

WHEN I WORSHIP (Part 5)—“COWBOY CHURCH

A little over a year ago, Bishop Mike Rinehart made mention of the “Cowboy Church” up in Montgomery County up the highway a piece from Grace LC where he served prior to being elected bishop.  I wasn’t exactly sure about all the details…I noticed a short story about Cowboy Church earlier this year about the time of the Houston Rodeo… not sure still what that meant and I’ve lived in Texas long enough to know about Kicker Cowboys, Drugstore Cowboys, Rind stone Cowboys and even Cosmic Cowboys…curiosity lingering in the recessions of my brain…who is the target audience here and is a pick-up truck required for admittance?  Do I need to own a horse or just know someone who does?????

This past Summer I saw two venues for “Cowboy Church” …one just up the road from Camp Lutherhill in LaGrange and the other over on FM1604 Anderson Loop in metro San Antonio.  After a quick GOOGLE search, it turns out the Cowboy Church may be a new striving to be mainline church as there are quite a few here and there in Texas, the South and even in Australia…  So, I took a drive…and found my way to Cowboy Church…

As I headed toward the building…which was a huge hall and not a sanctuary looking kind of place….there were about 6 boys in the yard…and all seemed to be eating ice cream… the music was pretty loud and could be heard in the parking lot…perhaps that was the intent…and the song didn’t sound like any church song I heard before…in fact it sounded like and old Buck Owens song that I used to hear on the TV show, “Hee Haw,” and sure enough it was…

There wasn’t anyone in what I call the narthex welcoming people as they came in the door…and the sign said, “come as you are…” so I did with a Hawaiian shirt, shorts and my soon to be replaced almost worn out pair of “crocks.”  I got a couple of good stares from the people who were standing near the back and most people seemed to be preoccupied with the food…which there was… a cowboy smorgasbord of sorts that I guess you only knew about if you were an ‘insider’…there was an older gentleman sitting at a round table and I asked, “is anyone sitting here?” And he just shook his head in a negative motion…so I sat and took a good look around…

Over on the one side was about 10 ladies…line dancing to the music… and they looked like this was not their first rodeo show…and I thought…if my mother were here…she would feel like she had died and gone to heaven… which I quickly retracted quietly as my mother already has died and gone to heaven…but what I meant was she would fit right in to this kind of place and this kind of setting… country music, good food and ladies her age to do some holy ‘boot-scootin’ gospel boogie…and upon further review I realized that I was about the 3rd youngest person in the room…and I had the feeling more like being at “The Oak,” a favorite bar in downtown Seguin, TX only without the smoke and the smell of stale beer on the hardwood floor.  Behind the band were silhouettes of Roy Rogers on the left and John Wayne on the right and I wondered for just a brief moment…”Is this was Jesus had in mind when he said…”Go, tell, preach, teach, baptize and make disciples…” and I sincerely wanted an answer…

The house band included acoustic and electric guitars, a bass, drums, a fiddler and some pedal steel…which made the music presentation very tight (and that’s good) by my personal standards.  Little did I realize that the house band was actually the back up band for a different guest artist each week… so as I tried to draw my spirit to a time of worship….like using the words… “here I am to worship…here I am to bow down…here I am to say you are my God….” Etc…I found myself interrupted with a song I’ve heard many times before…just not in a church as the band chirped out Bob Wills and Texas Playboys’ famous hit, “Waltz Across Texas (With You in My Arms)” which was done quite well but I remained a bit confused if I was supposed to waltz Jesus across Texas or if HE was suppose to waltz me…? 

Either way that thought ended quickly as the pastor stood up at the microphone to welcome everyone and began with an opening prayer….ahhhh…God is really gonna show up now…this was just the warm up to get people to come…kind of like singing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Stones…just before the Rite of Confession of Sins… and after the welcome the band played the “Welcome to Cowboy Church” song and all were asked to get up a go around the room and meet someone they didn’t know…sounded good… except… well you guessed it… being the fresh face in the crowd just about everyone walked right passed me to greet their old friends first…most likely people they walked in the door with or hadn’t seen since last Sunday…not even the old codger at the table with me stood up or said hello…until one young man…about 19 or 20 came to me, shook my hand and welcomed me to Cowboy Church.  Turned out he wasn’t from around there either and was visiting, too… Note to self.  Preach “hospitality” Fall 2010…

Then when we sat down the band commenced to playing some more…and they were a very talented group of men…and everyone began to sing along as we heard those great hymns of the church…

  • Wille Nelson’s ‘My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”
  • “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (maybe the saddest of songs ever written)
  • And just before the offering, “Blue Suede Shoes” done with an Elvis-style twang…

And for a moment I thought the preacher might be able to combine the songs lyrics into a message of “people will let you down”…“moving beyond grief and pain” by remembering “beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news…” no matter what color shoes you have on….but no such luck.  Instead, there was a message about “how far off God seems sometimes in our lives…” which was odd because the average age of those in attendance had to be in their 70’s and people I know that age normally have a deep and abiding faith and don’t consider God far off at all… and certainly have a more dependable faith than those half my age who actually do believe that “God has left the building…”

And then as a good worshiper should do…I stopped being critical and asked the simple question… “why is the preacher speaking this message when I’m here and the preacher had no idea I was planning on being present here tonight…? “ Asked and answered.  God is faithful.  God is trustworthy.  God IS near.  Thanks be to God. 

Last word…

 While the church service does have Holy Communion on the first Sunday of each month…I was there on the 5th Sunday…so I missed out on the sacrament again… and realize now that I have not been to the Lord’s Table since August 8th  … so for the next Sunday…I’ll need to figure that out in advance… but the other thing worth mentioning was the slogan used to advertize this worship venue… “NOT JUST ANOTHER WORSHIP SERVICE” … which I believe they accomplished even though the people there didn’t look (or act) any different than the good folks at New Life…

My mother truly would have loved being there, but I left to return home as if I had been to a concert in a tavern by the band on the stage and the message could have replaced with an announcement for taking up a special offering to defray the costs for the Pearland Little League expenses to Williamsport for the LL World Series… and perhaps that’s the lesson learned for me as preacher and worship leader… and a question we must ask ourselves as the church in mission Sunday after Sunday… “is this worship experience filled with the goodness of God to send a person home empowered to be God’s child at work in the world and at the same time wanting to return the next Sunday to get more of the same?”

 I’m interested now in what you say?  Can you write a short reply about your worship posture for others to learn from?  Anybody else been to Cowboy Church?

     Brian

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About briangigee

Loves life; lives love! Bud and Doris' eldest son. Descendant of 'refiners' and 'reformers.' Husband to Margo. Father of 5. Grandfather to 2. Brother, uncle, friend and colleague. Working parish pastor. Became a naturalized Texan in February 2013.
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9 Responses to WHY I WORSHIP (Part 5) “COWBOY CHURCH”

  1. Bart Mills says:

    First, I’ve never been to a Cowboy Church but I have friends who say it is the best spiritual experience of their life and they love the service. Secondly, My wife and I visited a church in Humble that we attended when we lived there approx. 6 yrs ago. The message was how God spoke to the pastor the other night and told him that “since God’s people have turned their back on him” he is withdrawing from us. That’s why this United States (and the World I guess he was including) is the shape it is. Unless we repent immediately, the pastor said “I really believe” the end is near. Now, I must say I have not heard any of his sermons in quite some time, but this was the message on this particular day. I really missed the routine of our service at Newlife.

    • briangigee says:

      Bart, thanks for your comments. I’m not convinced that all preachers speak for God (me included)…but God’s Word in Jesus has been spoken. And I am reluctant to buy lock, stock and barrel an OT verse being quoted about America is in the shapes it’s in because we’ve turned our back on God and now God has turned his back on us… Is this the message of Jesus? Follow me or else? Or was Jesus call a simple command…”follow me…”?

      It’s not appropriate to lump everyone in a comparative spiritual / physical / economic imagry as people and cultures live at different levels of existence. Is it right to say God has blessed America because we have a different life-style with electricity and in-door plumbing and God has not blessed the natives of the Australian outback because they live in huts and have no running water? Certainly not.

      Perhaps the cowboy church preacher should have said, “I know some people believe that life is hard…and it is… and yet, we in this country have been offered great freedoms and great liberties and as we look around there are a great many who have squandered those freedoms and liberties and have taken advantage of this blessed life and have used it for ill rather than good…” and so the onus is on US…not God… we are the problem…not God… and that’s the problem for so many…they still believe God is the problem and not themselves. And, thus, this is why the church is so important…we don’t speak FOR God…we speak OF God…because few others are…

  2. Mike Kiser says:

    I have been traveling continually, and as a result, was so “swamped” that I just now took a quiet break, and caught up reading all your blogs. What a wonderful read. For me, it is very much like being there too, since I travel so much, and have visited many types of churches in many places and times as a result.

    In particular, I was very moved by your description of the Men’s gathering you guys put together… awesome!

    It is clear this has developed into quite an experience, and I look forward to hearing the “additions” to New Life! What was it… two new songs? …and certain doses of commitment and attitude. In all it sounds like some new “tones” and “flavors” are in store for all. Knowing you, I am sure it will all be very interesting and well thought out. I look forward to whatever you bring back with you!

    Bottom line, I have a RE word for you…. get some REst too!!!

    Mike Kiser

    • briangigee says:

      Thanks Mike, I read recently that any self-respecting Lutheran pastor who is NOT blogging…is not paying attention to life in the 21st Century. In fact, the comment was pointed to ‘the church’ making an attempt to reach out to those under the age of 30…imagine that…

      I hope you are also able to ‘REst’ this Labor Day weekend…

      Brian

  3. Judy Krajca says:

    About a year or two ago I visited a Cowboy Church in Pearland. Sounded a lot like what you experienced-but the people were friendly. I Was disappointed, but that is my fault. Remember, I grew up Baptist where we wore our Sunday best, sang gospel songs and of course never would have danced. Church was always Gods house and you respected him not just with your presence but best attire. But I would attend again to give it another try.

    • briangigee says:

      Judy, you are better than most… normally someone who visits a church knows whether they might be coming back in the first 10 minutes and then the congregation’s members have about 50 minutes to either change their mind or affirm their desire to return… I’ve heard tell…most folks will tolerate ho-hum preaching but what they detest is the lack of friendliness and no confidence in the singing… pg

  4. Bill Putman says:

    Hey, First United Methodist Church has a Cowboy Church Service every
    Sunday night, and is enjoying good attendance. You should visit some Sunday
    night and see it for yourself! Hope you’re enjoying your sabbatical. God bless!
    Bill

    • briangigee says:

      Bill, miters off to you for the tip… not certain where I’ll land on Sunday morning this weekend… I’ve narrowed my choices to 3… Good health and faith to you!

  5. Carla Wilkerson says:

    I am replying a little late since I recently installed a new computer and it took me sometime to get it together!!! As Pastor Gigee knows I currently live in Hawaii on the northern most island of Kauai. There are many Hawaiian traditions, customs and church services still practiced here. I have so enjoyed attending the churches that embrace much of the Hawaiian Culture. Some congregations sing songs in the Hawaiian language and many prayers are also in the ancient native language. I have felt very welcome there and have learned much from my fellow worshippers. The Hawaiian people here seem so appreciative of any “Haole” (foreigner) that shows interest in preserving and participating in the old Hawaiian ways…the old Christian Hawaiian ways that is in this case. I feel more a part of the community in which I live as a result of visiting these places of worship and I continue to be blessed every time I attend. Aloha from Cousin Carla

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