By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor
ROBERT – Crossgate Baptist Church has a long-term vision to plant 10 cowboy churches.
They’re now on number three and two more are already in the early stages.
The vision has resulted in God calling out men from the church to lead as pastors or lay preachers, and in spreading the gospel far beyond the city limits of Robert, located between Baton Rouge and Covington.
Leaders are looking for country folks – “people in the horse culture” – who want to be part of a church plant in Zachary, Washington Parish and the McComb, Miss./Kentwood, La., areas.
“We’re a non-traditional Southern Baptist church,” said Louis Husser, pastor since 1992 of the church where about 150 people participate in Sunday morning worship. Crossgate was First Baptist Church of Robert when it started 50 years ago; Husser led the church into the Louisiana Baptist Convention 15 years ago. “I saw the strength of the Cooperative Program, the magnitude of the gospel being spread world-wide,” Husser said. “I also saw the growth of church planting through the North American Mission Board, and knew God wanted us to be a part in that great work. Besides that, the fellowship of the local pastors was a personal need for me.”
As a way of getting to know more people in his rural community, Husser started barrel racing 18 years ago with his daughter, Leah Danielle; which soon led to Husser leading evangelistic services at rodeo events. Five years ago Husser started team roping (Mom, Charlotte, just looks good on a horse, but doesn’t compete), and Crossgate started Cross Brand Baptist Church in Loranger, with Randy Smith – ordained out of Crossgate – as pastor.
Cross Brand, which recently completed its second building debt-free, owns about $30,000 in rodeo stock – bucking bulls, steers, goats, and horses. About 100 people participate at 4 p.m. Sundays at Cross Brand, with buck-outs with bulls at the church at 2:30 p.m. Sundays, and a youth rodeo drill team after church. In addition, Cross Brand hosts a full-blown youth rodeo competition, with awards – trophy saddles and buckles – at the end of rodeo season.
Crossgate led in the planting of a cowboy church in January in Iowa, with New Bridges Baptist Church in Winterset, Iowa, as the local sponsor. (Trivia: John Wayne was born in Winterset.) Mike Stanley is lay preacher of the Right Turn Cowboy Church in DeSota, Iowa, near Des Moines. Why Iowa? Leah Danielle’s last name now is Reid; she married a man from Iowa.
Cross Creek Cowboy Church started in March in Zachary.
Lay-led, it meets at 4 p.m. Sundays at the 5-D Arena on North Plank Road. A core group of men rotate the preaching: Eugene Morris, osh Morris, Adam Babin and Husser.
About 30 people bring their lawn chairs and horses (if they have them) to the service.
Cross Creek also brings about a dozen horses to make sure youngsters have something to ride during the roping practice and horsemanship classes that follow the worship service.
Crossgate also has an Open Air Preaching outreach once a week during the school year at Southeastern Louisiana State University in Hammond, where two deacons share the preaching role.
Once a month in Covington, Buster Crawford of Crossgate leads a horse-riding fellowship for inner-city youth in Covington.
Crossgate allocates 12 percent of its undesignated income for missions, which does not include its church plants.
“The Louisiana Baptist Convention has been a great help with some start-up money for these cowboy church plants,” Husser said. “We pray for outside donations as well to support these church plants. We pray to God to supply the money needed, and teach the core groups to give, as leaders should.”
Cowboy churches foster a non-judgmental atmosphere and a welcome everyone no matter how a person is dressed.
Hard-hitting preaching is a given, which contrasts with the “rough and ready” rodeo lifestyle some people have learned is a pretty empty way to live.
“The cowboy church philosophy is a new approach to the old rural country church,” the pastor/church planting catalyst continued. “It’s ‘come as you are, down to earth hard preaching, love your neighbor, then see the lives get changed by the power of the gospel.”