Church caters to cowboy culture
In today’s rapidly changing world, churches are turning to alternative methods to get the Word of God dispersed to the masses. Cowboy Church of Orange County is a success story that started four and a half years ago.
“We really had no idea what to expect,” said Pastor Dale Lee. “We just felt like God led us to help get a Cowboy Church started and we were obedient and left the results up to him, but it has been beyond our expectations.”
Linton Joseph “L.J.” Castille, one of the elders at the church has been with Cowboy Church since its inception. “Me and [Lee] were at First Baptist Church and some things happened and we left. The Lord put it on his heart to start a Cowboy Church,” said Castille. “ I told him I would help him, but when we got the Cowboy Church started, I was going to go back to traditional, but it never happened. I feel at home here.”
There were eight members of the start-up group and all but maybe two are still with the church. “They still come from time to time,” said Castille. “I think it’s the feel of love and openness when you walk in. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie. You can come as you are. If you’re out working cows in the morning, you can come in.”
Longtime church member Pam Scales Crew said she thinks one of the draws is there is no offering plate passed and no altar call. There are barrels at the back of the church where offerings can be deposited. They feel if you are called to service, that is between you and God and doesn’t require going to the front to profess it.
The very first service that was held in a barn had around 400 in attendance. That included a lot of friends and relatives said Lee. The initial congregation was around 175. That has swelled to over 500 on the rolls and an average of 400-450 in attendance at regular services with over 700 showing up on special occasions such as anniversaries said Lee. “We have to open the back doors and put chairs and a tent up front and speakers on the porch.”
Besides the decorative barrels in the back for offerings, other unusual décor at the non-traditional church is the use of washtubs for light fixtures and a watering trough at the front of the church used for baptisms. There is also a pond outside for baptisms.
The Cowboy Cross Band plays lively toe-tapping music on the stage. Band members fluctuate from week to week due to work schedules. The music can be heard as soon as you get out of your car.
One thing you won’t normally see in most churches is reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before the opening prayer.
“We do it every week,” said Castille. “Typically we open the two doors and a rider comes in with a horse carrying the flag.”
They also have a full size rodeo arena with events almost every weekend. Recently, they installed lights and hope to add restrooms in the near future. Last week’s event did have to be postponed due to Friday’s rain soaking the arena. They eventually hope to cover the arena so events can be held rain or shine.
“We have several things we are working on right now,” said Lee. “We want to expand our parking; build a youth building. At some point we’ll want to build a new building, but that’s down the road.”
Jared Sarver of Orangefield attended Cowboy Church with his family for the first time Sunday. “It was more than I expected. It was great. I was sad it was over,” he said. “We’ve heard a lot of people talk about it and we wanted to get back into church. I didn’t feel out of place. I could wear my boots and everybody’s okay with that. We’ll be back next Sunday.”
They also have a large children’s church group. The youth group is growing and is pastured by Lee’s son, Brannon. Silver Spurs is the organization of church seniors.
“Our church is open to anybody that wants to come,” said Lee. “Our arena activities are open to anyone. We have a lot of things lined up for the arena.
“God has blessed us here in unbelievable ways,” said Lee.
The churches main goal is to reach out to the cowboy culture, but you don’t have to wear a hat and boots to attend.
The church is located at 673 FM 1078. For more information you can contact Pastor Lee at 409-718-0269 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The church Web site is www.cowboychurchorangecounty.org