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Cowboy crowd gathers at Risen Ranch

CARTHAGE, Mo. (BP)–This is not your mama’s church.

“There’s a little twang in the singing and the people who come here aren’t too shiny,” said Steve Stafford, pastor of Risen Ranch Cowboy Church in Carthage, Mo. “But we sure do preach one true Gospel.”

Unlike most Southern Baptist churches, these Christian cowboys and cowgirls meet for worship on Tuesday nights.

“A lot of the people we are trying to reach out to have rodeos and horse shows they go to on the weekends,” Stafford said. “We got to thinking that we could probably better serve our culture if we offered our church on Tuesday nights instead of the traditional Sunday morning.”

Risen Ranch accommodates a unique culture the same way a Hispanic or Asian church relates to its culture, Stafford said.

“We are our own culture, mainly because a lot of the people who come to our church just don’t feel comfortable going to other [styles of] churches,” Stafford said. “It may be the way they dress or the different lifestyles, I don’t know. It is what it is, but they still need the Lord just as much as anyone else.”

Since its first service in January 2007, Risen Ranch Cowboy Church has grown from 12 members to around 70.

Another distinctive of the church is the building where it meets — an indoor arena or, as Stafford describes it, “a big ol’ barn.” It’s just another way Risen Ranch tries to connect with its members and prospects.

“It’s all biblical really. Jesus traveled throughout the country meeting people where they were at,” Stafford said, citing the Samaritan woman at the well. “If you were to come to our barn on Tuesday nights, you would see people dressed in jeans and cowboy hats and boots versus a coat and tie. We are trying to meet the people, in particular the cowboy community, where they are at.”

Risen Ranch also puts its “cowboy slant” on other ministries, such as its first-ever Vacation Bible School last summer.

“We wanted to do VBS our way … on the back of a horse,” Stafford said. “We had 19 kids come out who ranged from 8 to 16 years old. We asked them to bring their horses and we taught them horsemanship and related their walk with their horse to their walk with God.”

The daily VBS chapels focused on everything from the Gospel and what it means to be saved to the Bible truth that everyone is wonderfully made by God.

“Before the week even started, we ranked the information we wanted to share with the group from one to 10, one being the most important,” Stafford said. “The Gospel message was number one and horses were number 10.”

Following the horse clinic Bible school, three students were saved and baptized.

“We went ahead and baptized them during our Friday night family night,” Stafford said, adding that a subsequent baptism also involved one “who also came to know the Lord as a result of VBS.”

Like everything else Risen Ranch does, the baptisms display its cowboy ways.

“We’ve baptized some people in a horse trough, some in the creek and some in a pond,” Stafford said. “… just wherever we’re at and what’s available to us.”

Though Risen Ranch hasn’t been around very long, Stafford said it already has become active in missions. The church has three teams of volunteers who compete at weekend rodeos and lead Bible studies afterward. The church also has taken two mission trips to Greenlee, Colo., where it did rodeo Bible camps.

“The initial goal was to first establish a strong prayer ministry within the church and to then support and go on mission trips,” Stafford said. “We want to be mission-minded in everything we do. …

“[W]e are about meeting people where they are at and making our church fit our culture,” he said. “The town didn’t need another First Baptist Church located on First and Main. We had to get outside of that box and I think we’ve done it.”
Kayla Rinker is a contributing writer for The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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