Truett Seminary Hosts Cowboy Churches Conference

Aug. 7, 2005

by Lori Fogleman (254) 710-6275 or cell (254) 709-5959

- Aug. 20-21 event includes workshops, worship and concert by legendary Light Crust Dough Boys -

The rural church is in the midst of a rebirth in Texas, Baptist leaders say. However, the growing membership of one of the most innovative places of worship today - the "Cowboy Church" - is more comfortable hearing the Gospel while dressed in jeans and cowboy boots than a suit and tie.

According to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, 44 Western Heritage churches have been established so far through the work of Texas Baptists, with that number expected to increase to 150 in the next five years. The explosive growth of these non-traditional congregations will be the focus of the Fellowship of Cowboy Churches Conference to be held Aug. 20-21 at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

The two-day conference, which is open to anyone interested in Cowboy Churches, will feature Saturday workshops on Cowboy student, small group and children's ministries, chuckwagon cooking, and elder and lay pastor training. The conference also will include a barbeque and concert that evening with Christian country singer Candice Myers and the legendary Light Crust Dough Boys.

On Sunday, the "Ranchhouse School of Cowboy Church Planting" will feature a morning worship service from 10:15 to 11:45 a.m. at Truett Seminary. Dr. Paul W. Powell, Truett's dean and the day's Cowboy Preacher, will speak on "Branded for the Lord," based on Galatians 6. Conference sessions will focus on such topics as "Great Western Cattle Trails," "New Century/New Strategy," "Cowboy Church Functional Structures," "Cowboy Worship, Pastor Leader," "The Spirit of Unity," "Cowboy Church Values," "Buying Land/Building Buildings" and "Discipleship (Western Style)."

The cost to attend the Fellowship of Cowboy Churches Conference at Truett Seminary is $10 per day, which is payable at the door. For more information, contact Mary Barnett at (214) 828-5378 or Truett Seminary at (254) 710-3755. An online registration form can be downloaded here.

The conference will be the sixth "Ranchhouse School" held in Texas in the past 18 months. The conference is led by Ron Nolen, well known as a "Cowboy Church" starter but officially identified as a statewide consultant for Western Heritage church planting with the BGCT's Church Multiplication Center.

In March 2001, Nolen started Cowboy Church of Ellis County, which baptized 600-plus new Christians in four years and averages 1,100 people in worship. In October 2001, Nolen started Frontier Church of Ellis County, which attracts 220 worshippers and recently moved into its new building. In March 2004, he started The Ranchhouse Cowboy Church in Maypearl and launched the Ranchhouse School.

"Cowboy Church pastors have great needs. Many are ranchers, welders, manufacturing workers. They have felt the Lord's call, but they haven't had a lot of skilled training in things like pastoral care, sermon development and biblical training," Nolen said. "We couldn't be more excited about the relationship with Truett Seminary. They will be a great resource of ongoing training for our Western Heritage pastors."

Baptist leaders say the key to the success of the Cowboy Churches has been a strong movement of God coupled with a lay-led model for the church. Christians who are immersed in the cowboy culture lead these efforts, increasing their effectiveness. It is often described as "grassroots Christianity...taking the church to the world."

"We are so urban-focused that we forget this whole culture to whom the Cowboy Church appeals," Powell said. "We are very pleased to be in partnership with this effort. God is doing great work among them, and we want to be a part of wherever God is working."

"In the cowboy world, the people believe in God. They just don't know how to know Him personally," Nolen said. "In the postmodern world, people say, 'Prove there's a God.' The field is so fertile in the Cowboy Church because there's already a witness there."

Others have patterned churches after Nolen's Cowboy Church model, and it's become one of Texas Baptists' most successful ministry ventures. His approach to church starting and lifestyle ministry has been chronicled in USA Today, Christian Century, Horse Talk Magazine and the Baptist Standard.

Before becoming a church planter, Nolen served on the staffs of First Baptist Church of Oak Cliff in Dallas, First Baptist Church in Joshua, First Baptist Church in Seminole and First Baptist Church in Waxahachie. He also was mission pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Granbury and a vocational evangelist. Nolen is a graduate of East Texas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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