|The Open Range Cowboy Church band leads a packed worship service. About 300 people regularly attend the church, which baptized 14 people in its first month.|
Worshippers saddle up for
new life at Open Range Church
By John Hall
Texas Baptist Communications
WHITNEY–Cowboys and cowgirls are finding new lives on the open range.
Farmers, ranchers and horsemen–and those attracted to that lifestyle–are encountering Jesus at the eight-week-old country and western-driven Open Range Cowboy Church.
Nearly 180 people came to the opening service of the church. On July 18, attendance had grown to a building-packed 280. In the first month, 14 individuals were baptized in a horse trough that sits near the altar.
The church attracts worshippers because it connects with their lifestyle, said Rick Pinner, one of the church's first members.
A country-western praise band leads the service, and many church leaders set the example for the rest of the congregation with Stetsons, jeans and cowboy boots.
Ushers do not pass a plate for an offering; they let worshippers drop off an envelope at the back of the church.
The invitation at the end of the service is a preacher leading a prayer of confession of sins, asking for forgiveness and inviting Jesus into a person's life.
The church may look different, but “we're basing this on something that is very powerful and that is God's word,” Pinner said.
The congregation is a new ministry facilitated by the Baptist General Convention of Texas Church Multiplication Center and First Baptist Church in Whitney and is partially supported by funds from the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions.
Organizers said they watch people slowly become more involved in the congregation despite some initial skepticism. Visitors start out standing by the door.
After a few weeks they are sitting in the back of the church. Eventually, they are getting baptized and sitting in the middle of the congregation.
All ages are responding to the church's efforts. Babies through later generations attend the services. Many of those who were baptized are adults.
The church holds trail rides where members can get to know each other better and is looking to relocate to seven acres with a roping arena, where they can hold events. Mike and Gail Warren donated the land before the church started.
“It's getting to a particular group of people that other churches are not ministering to,” said Edwin Snelgrove, the band's drummer. “It's like it says–this is a cowboy church. We just want to get you in. We'll let the Lord clean you up.”