Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rustic ministry has ‘no barriers’

Rustic ministry has ‘no barriers’

By Rita Howell
Among Panola County’s more than 200 churches, there’s one in the Longtown community with a unique ministry to those of a horse-riding, boot-wearing persuasion.

Since it was established in 2008, the Bryant Lane Cowboy Church has seen interest grow in its gospel teaching combined with family-oriented equestrian events in the arena adjacent to its rustic church building. The BLCC is one of more than 200 churches affiliated with the American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches in 16 states.
Member Rip Copeland of Batesville provided a history of the Cowboy Church movement, which began in the 1970s as a ministry to rodeo cowboys and related workers. It  has since expanded to thousands of people who enjoy the lifestyle of the American west.

Glenn Smith, a pioneer of the movement, had competed out west as a rodeo cowboy himself and had also worked as rodeo clown. When he started his ministry in the early ‘70s, rodeo life had a well-earned reputation for being rough and rowdy. Pulling a camping trailer behind his truck, Smith began to follow the rodeo circuit, witnessing about the Christian faith to anyone who would listen. Glenn, along with his wife, Ann, conducted informal services in barns, arenas, metal buildings and on ranches.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

As a result of men like Glenn Smith, Cowboy Churches began to spring up in Texas and Oklahoma with a “no barriers, no fences” attitude held to by Smith. Cowboy churches are distinctively Western heritage in character with rustic buildings as meeting places. Many have their own rodeo arena and cowboy gospel band. Baptisms are generally done in a stock tank.

The sermons are generally short and simple. Most cowboy churches have rodeo events such as bull riding, ream roping, ranch sorting, team penning and equestrian events.

Bryant Lane Cowboy Church started as an outreach ministry by Evansville Baptist Church in 2008. Services started at Woody Key’s arena near Sarah twice a month on Thursday nights. Not long after the Bryant Lane congregation joined the AFCC.

Scott Urban was elected pastor and was ordained in April 2012. Bryant Lane Cowboy Church now has a building, a Cowboy Gospel Band and an arena. BLCC holds ranch rodeos, ranch sorting, team penning, and held the first Donkey Ranch Rodeo in 2014. It has hosted National Day of the Cowboy celebrations and presentations by renowned horse trainer and Christian counselor and speaker Dr. Lew Sterrett of Oklahoma.

Upcoming events include the kid-friendly Buckaroo Bash, a fun horse show for ages 3-18, on Oct. 17 beginning at 10 a.m. There will be pole bending, barrel races, flag races, ribbon races, stick horse races, and horseless events as well. Call 662-710-4400 for information. On Saturday, Oct. 31, the church will host its Fall Festival, with horse and rider costume contest, trail ride, campfire roast and devotion, starting at 6 p.m.

On Saturday, November 7 the church will host the annual Donna Stampley Memorial Barrel Race at 10 a.m. in the Northwest Community College Arena. The event raises scholarship funds.

Weekly services start every Sunday with a fellowship at 10 a.m. with coffee and doughnuts.

“Services get started at 10:30 with Eric Hunter and the gospel band kicking everything off with some cowboy gospel guaranteed to get your foot a tapping and your heart ready for the Word,” Copeland said.

The church is located at 548 Bryant Lane, Sarah.