Bible Class Curricula - Denominational Doctrines (Part 2) - Lesson #6 - The Cowboy Church
- History of the Cowboy Church
- What is the Cowboy Church? Each cowboy church has the following similarities in common: They generally are surrounded by a cowboy statue, along with a barn-like church building (often referred to as “the barn of the Lord”), a roping/riding arena, and a cattle tank for a baptistery. While they are ecumenical in nature, they generally are Baptist-like in doctrine. The Silverado Cowboy Church in Weatherford, Texas, which is one of the largest cowboy churches in the United States, has a statement of faith that says, “Our statement is ‘Silverado Cowboy Church where Jesus is the King of Cowboys and everyone is welcome.’” 1 The Cowboy Church Network further says, “Our Purpose is to impact the Cowboy culture with the Gospel of Jesus by planting Cowboy churches in every county.” 2
- When did this group start? The Cowboy Church began in the late 1980s.
- Where did it start? It depends on whom you ask. It started in one of two possible locales—either Billy Bob’s, Texas, or Nashville, Tennessee. 3
- Who started the Cowboy church? Once again, it depends on whom you ask. There are two possible founders—either Johnny Cash’s sister (Joanne Cash Yates, who is also an “ordained minister” at the Nashville Cowboy Church) or Jeff and Sherry Copenhaver (who, some suggest, began the first Cowboy Church in the bull-riding arena at Billy Bob’s, Texas, in January 1986). 4
- Where is their headquarters? If they had one, it would be in Nashville, Tennessee.
- What would a cowboy church be like? The [Nashville] Tennesseean (newspaper) has described the Nashville Cowboy Church as a place where
…honky-tonk and the Holy Spirit collide. Here, a live country band provides music, crooning twangy gospel tunes. The pastor dresses in a cowboy hat, boots, and string tie. And a giant neon-lit jukebox—rather than a cross—hovers behind the stage. It’s how this non-denominational church reaches out to Nashville’s tourists and entertainers, who too often are overlooked by traditional churches, said founders Harry Yates and Joanne Cash Yates, sister to country music’s Johnny Cash. 5
- What is their authority? The Bible—as long as it paints Jesus, worship, and Christianity in a cowboy-type atmosphere. Jesus is viewed as being similar to John Wayne, and the disciples are seen as those who might have been a part of the original James’ Gang.
- Examining the Cowboy Church Doctrines
- The doctrine of salvation in the Cowboy Church is much like that of the Baptists’. Those in the Cowboy Church believe that salvation comes through faith alone. The Silverado Cowboy Church says, “Salvation of man comes only from accepting Jesus as Savior and being spiritually born again (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10; John 3:16).” 6 The Cowboy church has a skewed view of the purpose of baptism, which is seen as something to which believers submit merely “to keep the commands of God.” The view of those in the Cowboy Church is, “We believe that, after accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, one needs to be obedient to scripture and be water baptized (Matthew 28:19).” 7
- There is more to salvation found in Scripture than “just belief” (Titus 3:5; Romans 5:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-10; Acts 2:38; Luke 13:3). The only passage in the Bible that mentions “faith only” (James 2:24) states specifically that it will not save us.
- Most Cowboy churches believe that Holy Ghost baptism is still available today. For example, the Nashville Cowboy Church says, “The baptism with the Holy Ghost is an experience subsequent to conversion, bringing spiritual power for Christian service (Acts 2:4).” 8
- What do the Scriptures teach about Holy Spirit Baptism (Acts 2 and Acts 10)? What was the purpose of Holy Spirit baptism? Does it exist today (1 Corinthians 13:7-10)?
- The Cowboy church is heavily influenced by “the doctrine of divine healings.” The Silverado Cowboy church says, “The gifts of the Holy Spirit for today are the same as in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12-14).” 9 The Nashville Cowboy Church also believes in “the privilege of receiving divine healing for the body in answer to believing prayer (James 5: 14-16).” 10
- We do not have the gifts of the Holy Spirit today as Christians did in the first century (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; James 1:25; Acts 2). While we do believe in the power of prayer, we do not find evidence for divine (i.e., miraculous) healing today (James 5:13-16).
- The Cowboy Church adheres to a doctrine that might be called the “health and wealth gospel.” One of their tenets of faith is “Total Prosperity (John 10:10)—Spiritual; Mental; Health; Financial.” 11
Study Questions on the Cowboy Church
- The motto of the cowboy church is to affect the cowboy culture with the gospel of Jesus. While all cultures need the gospel of Christ, is there any authority to adapt the gospel to certain cultural nuances to reach the lost?
- Isn’t it odd that this group started outside of one of the biggest honky-tonk bars in Texas? What does this suggest?
- What Country Music singer began this group?
- Do you believe that the statement where “honky-tonk and the Holy Spirit collide” is irreverent? What does that statement imply about this group?
- What does the Cowboy Church teach about salvation? Compare this with what the New Testament teaches.
- Do you see Baptist overtones in their doctrine?
- Who was the Baptism of the Holy Ghost for? What did it symbolize in Acts 2 & Acts 10?
- Do divine healings exist today? What does 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 teach about the miraculous?
- What is meant by the doctrine of Total Prosperity? Does Jesus promise us spiritual, mental, physical, and financial prosperity when we obey the gospel?
- Is it prejudice/racist to change the gospel to fit one certain race or genre of people? Who did Jesus say the gospel is for?
1 Homepage of the Silverado Cowboy Church: http://silveradocowboychurch.org/.
2 Homepage of the Cowboy Church Network: http://www.cowboycn.org/.
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