Jeans & Jesus: New ‘Cowboy Church’ offers alternative for worship
Published 3:00 am Wednesday, October 29, 2014
For nearly a half-century, cowboy churches have been extremely popular in the western states. In recent years, cowboy churches have found their way into southern states.
The movement now has reached Pike County.
The Pike Cattlemen’s Association, Bush Memorial Baptist Church in Troy, the American Association of Cowboy Churches and the Alabama State Board of Missions have joined together in the organization of the Burning Bush Cowboy Church for the local cowboy culture.
“Some people don’t feel comfortable in a formal church setting,” said Alvie Walker, who will pastor the Burning Bush Cowboy Church. “In Pike County and the surrounding area, we have a cowboy culture and a lot of people are interested in this kind of church.”
Walker said cowboy churches are not new to the area.
“Cowboy churches are held at most all weekend rodeo events,” Walker said. “The churches are held so that rodeo competitors and fans can attend a worship service, usually at the arena.”
Cowboy church has become a tradition for rodeos at Cattleman Park and the Burning Bush Cowboy Church will be an extension of that church.
Walker said the idea of cowboy church originated with a mission trip to Idaho in which he and Bush Memorial pastor, Dwayne Norman participated.
“As we preached in cowboy churches in Idaho, I thought this is so cool,” Norman said. “People came in their jeans and cowboy boots. The atmosphere was very informal and laid back. The churches were very comfortable places to be.”
Walker and Norman discussed the purpose behind cowboy church and its potential for reaching the cowboy culture in Alabama as well as in Idaho.
Walker felt a calling to the cowboy church ministry and considered moving to Idaho. But, he soon realized the potential in his own backyard. Alabama has a growing number of cowboy churches, mainly in North Alabama and a cowboy church in the Auburn-Opelika area continues to grow.
“We saw the need for a cowboy church in Pike County, so I realized that my calling was to help plant a cowboy church here,” Walker said.
Things began to fall into place.
Troy University no longer had a rodeo team, so the team’s facilities at Cattleman Park had been vacated. The Pike County Cattlemen made the mobile home available for church services.
With a place and a pastor, the Burning Bush Cowboy Church can now begin to make plans to open its doors.
For Bush Memorial, that means a vote of official approval of support of the church.
“We’ll vote Wednesday night,” Norman said. “But we’ve already had volunteers who have helped with the cleaning up of the area. And the cowboy church has our prayer support.”
Walker said Burning Bush Cowboy Church is not ready to hold church services yet.
“In November and December, we’ll have Bible study once or twice a month,” he said. “Then, on January 24, we’ll have a horse whisperer and, beginning January 25, we’ll have Sunday morning worship services. The music for the worship services will be cowboy music, country and gospel. We’ll have four main events, including the horse whisperer, during the year – barrel racing, cow roping and a car show. We are planning four main events every year. Cowboy church will be a real asset to Pike County.”
Norman said Burning Bush Cowboy Church is much bigger than Bush Memorial.
“Cowboy church will be the collaborative effort of other churches and like-minded people,” he said. “We are multiplying ourselves and we will plant a whole other church. It is bigger than Bush but it’s not bigger than God.”