Cowboy Church Beliefs and Practices

What Do Cowboy Churches Believe and Teach?

Cowboy Church Beliefs
Cowboy Church Baptism. Jeff T. Green / Getty Images

Since its founding in the 1970s, the Cowboy Church movement has grown to more than 1,000 churches and ministries throughout the United States and other countries.

However, it would be a mistake to assume all cowboy churches hold exactly the same beliefs.  Originally the churches were independent and nondenominational, but that changed around 2000 when the Southern Baptist denomination entered the movement in Texas.  Other cowboy churches are affiliated with Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, and United Methodists.

From the start, traditionally educated ministers within the movement held to standard Christian beliefs, and while the attendees' attire, church decor, and music may be western in nature, the sermons and practices tend to be conservative and Bible-based.

Cowboy Church Beliefs

God - Cowboy churches believe in the Trinity:  One God in three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  God has always existed and always will.  The American Fellowship of Cowboy Churches (AFCC) says, "He is Father to the fatherless and the One to whom we pray."  

Jesus Christ - Christ created all things.  He came to Earth as Redeemer, and through his sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection, paid the debt for the sins of those who believe in him as Savior.

Holy Spirit – "The Holy Spirit draws all people to Jesus Christ, resides in all who receive Christ as their Savior and guides children of God through life’s journey to Heaven," says the AFCC.

The Bible - Cowboy churches believe the Bible is the written Word of God, an instruction book for life, and that it is true and reliable.  It provides the basis for the Christian faith. 

Salvation – Sin separates humans from God, but Jesus Christ died on the cross for the world's salvationWhoever believes in him will be saved.  Salvation is a free gift, received by faith in Christ alone.

Kingdom of God - Believers in Jesus Christ enter God's kingdom on this earth, but this is not our permanent home.  The kingdom continues in heaven and with Jesus' second coming at the end of this age.

Eternal Security - Cowboy churches believe that once a person is saved, they cannot lose their salvation.  God's gift is for eternity; nothing can remove it.

End Times - The Baptist Faith and Message, followed by many cowboy churches, says "God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord."

Cowboy Church Practices

BaptismBaptism in most cowboy churches is done through immersion, often in a horse trough, creek or river.  It is a church ordinance that symbolizes the believer's death to sin, burial of the old life, and resurrection in a new life marked by walking in Jesus Christ.

The Lord's Supper - In the Cowboy Church Network's Baptist Faith and Message, "The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming."

Worship Service – Without exception, worship services in cowboy churches are informal, with a "come-as-you-are" rule.  These churches are seeker oriented and remove barriers that might prevent the unchurched from attending.  Sermons are short and avoid "churchy" language.  People wear hats during service, which they remove only during prayer.  Music is usually provided by a country, western, or bluegrass band which typically does most of the singing.  There is no altar call nor is a collection plate passed.  Donations may be dropped in a boot or box by the door.  In many cowboy churches, visitors' anonymity is respected and no one is expected to fill out cards.

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.