Cowboy church isn't the punch line to a joke, it's an old tradition in the Southwest that is starting to grow on folks. Created as a way to reach out to people who might not otherwise be comfortable in Sunday worship, the movement is starting buck the trend of decreasing church attendance being seen by other styles of worship.
The Dallas Morning News reports:
"'What we say is, 'Come as you are,' ' said Ron Nolen, executive director of the Texas Fellowship of Cowboy Churches. 'We believe that we are to be fishers of men, but we don't have anything to do with cleaning the fish. God does the cleaning.'
Long a novelty, cowboy churches have in recent years become a bona fide, Texas-based movement, showing strong growth in congregations, attendance and baptisms even as much of denominational Christianity in the United States is losing ground.
Cowboy churches offer simple, Bible-based sermons and live country music – with 'Happy Trails' as a standard sendoff. Pastors further set the tone by wearing cowboy hats, doffed only for prayer. Extracurricular activities typically include trail rides, bull riding and roping contests.
People who have a problem with the traditional church – and problems in general, such as multiple divorces or substance abuse – are especially welcome."
Read the full article here.
I've heard of a few such gatherings here in Arizona, though the ones in Phoenix are mostly done for out-of-towners.