I Don’t Go to a Normal Church

If you watch tv much, you could be forgiven for thinking the Christian church has lost its ever-loving mind. Didn’t Jesus Christ himself say the two greatest commandments were to love God and love others? Uh Houston, we have a problem.

Just remember, normal followers of Jesus rarely make the news. Sometimes they do, but usually they’re too busy doing free electrical work at somebody’s house on a Saturday. They are typically quiet, unassuming people who, in a million years, would never tell you about the electrical work. But I will. That’s what a couple of guys from Wood County Cowboy Church have done with their spare time lately. In fact, two of them are in the picture below (Wes and Ryan – blue plaid and green short sleeves).

My nutty little church bustles with Christians like that. People there use whatever they happen to be doing as a vehicle for loving God and loving people, or put another way, obeying Jesus.

For instance, on Saturday, a bunch of us got together at church and had college for dogs. Our Elder Tommy Lee is a stock dog trainer and thought it would be fun to invite a bunch of people and have a clinic.

Tommy kicked off this canine hootenanny with his best dog. He said if we were half as enthusiastic about Jesus as Border Collies are about sheep, our lives would look totally different.

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He also brought bunch of puppies along and turned them out with the sheep, just to get them thinking about their life’s work.

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This fella won a bunch of money on tv with his dog.

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And in case you’re wondering, this is how it looks when a dog listens.

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This is how it looks when he doesn’t.

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This is the pastoral peanut gallery. Mike, the guy with the dirty black hat, pastors our sister church, Cross Brand Cowboy Church, which has seen up to 2,000 people on a Sunday. A lot of people go there because it’s ok to wear a dirty hat.

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This is Marc, the W3C Arena Manager. He brought a pile of fajita meat from the local Mexican market and grilled it over the fire for everybody. Arena Manager Marc

And the wearer of these cute boots took all these pictures. She’s the fabulous Sue Ellen Lare. Yep, like Sue Ellen from Dallas. Picture 25

The point is, these people are servants – loving God, loving others and having fun doing it. What a healthy way to approach your faith.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy, but I came so that you might have and enjoy your life, have it in abundance, to the full until it overflows.” So why not pray, play with your dog, then thank God for the sunshine, eat lunch and make new friends?

Minus the dogs, that’s how Jesus did it.

He’s worth emulating, and the gospels show us how.

On Skipping Church to Honky Tonk.

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Skipping Wednesday night bible study to dance around in a Deep East Texas honky tonk as Jason Boland blows your eardrums out, is not what some people consider super holy behavior.

But for me it was perfect.

See, I’m no longer keeping Jesus in a separate, holy box and busting him out on Sundays. Nope. I’m letting him have his way with my life – all of it. Since he’s the one who made me love good songwriting and live music in the first place, I think my delight in those things pleases him.

I don’t know that I was worshiping God during the show, but I don’t know that I wasn’t either. I was just being myself and enjoying the life Jesus died to give me. Because I’m starting to understand how free I am in Christ, I can toss out the holy checklist, acknowledging that God doesn’t love me more at church, and less at a concert.

He tells me he loves me because I’m one of his kids, and that makes me love Him back. It makes me want to serve Him and do what I know pleases him. Wood County Cowboy Church is part of that equation, and that’s why I go. Church helps me, but so does live music.

So…

Let Israel rejoice in their Maker let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. For the Lord takes delight in his people. Psalm 149:2-4

mirrorJust to be clear, I’m not encouraging drunken honky tonk prowling. That’s silly. I’m advocating for joy and the freedom to become the best version of the exact person you already are.

Sometimes my joy overflows at church and sometimes when Jason Boland sings. It simmers when I’m on the tractor, making hay with Sam in the Rocky Mountains. I nearly drown in it, when a former meth addict at the LA Dream Center speaks of her restoration at the hands of Jesus.

And when I take time to sit quietly with my Lord, it wells up and spills out of me right there in my chair.

We were built for this. Where do you find it?

Church For Cowboys?

Not long after we moved to Texas, our neighbors invited us to Cowboy Church.

At the time, I was in a deep state of apostasy, not reading The Bible, and furious with the church, but I needed to make some friends. Sam just wanted to rope. So we went.

The best explanation for Cowboy Church I’ve ever heard came from our pastor Dennis, a 30-year-old beanpole with a booming voice and a heart for Jesus. He’ll baptize a grown man in a stock tank, preach in his spurs and once rode his horse across Texas carrying a stack of bibles.

“Cowboy Church is a place where men can be men,” Dennis says, because if a man gets saved, he adds, the whole family gets saved.

In the early 80’s there were about five cowboy churches in Texas. Today there are an estimated 750 nationwide. They’re all about John Wayne and Jesus and that’s why you won’t hear any churchy hymns or see men in too-tight suits struggling with their neckties in the back.

Last weekend, Wood County Cowboy Church hosted its annual fall gathering, with a pasture roping, a chuckwagon, worship and two ranch rodeos. I don’t have time to explain what all that is to the non-Texans, so here are a few pictures.

You can hardly throw a rock in Texas these days without hitting a cowboy church, but if you don’t happen to live here and want to find one, here‘s a good place to start. If you live in a town where cowboys still exist, chances are they’re meeting on Sundays at the local sale barn and would love to have you.