Cowboy churches offer same gospel message in different wrapping

VENUS, Texas?Laid-back music in a dressed-down, country setting makes Shiloh Cowboy Church in Venus an anomaly in the landscape of traditional church settings.

Set in a rural area south of Dallas-Fort Worth, Shiloh draws a crowd that enjoys the atmosphere of the church, but they’re not necessarily cowboys. In fact, any given Sunday morning, a farmer might be seen sitting next to someone who’s an urban professional Monday through Friday.

At Shiloh, traditional music is mixed with culturally relevant praise and worship songs with a purposeful country music flavor thrown into the mix, Pastor Don Ricks said.

There is no one demographic target for Shiloh; the church thrives on opening its arms to folks who tend to be turned off by the typical church model. Ricks said Shiloh is a church that allows people to be themselves more than in a traditional setting.

Ricks, an admitted former “suit-and-tie” pastor, said of the new church: “In one word, the experience is ‘relaxed.’ We don’t focus on the clothes that a person wears, nor the way he or she looks. We work very hard to put people at ease, and to make them feel that we are all in this life together.

“As the pastor, I’m not any better than anyone else and we want people to know that we are all riding this trail together. The more casual?and I’m not referring to a compromise of the Word?atmosphere of the cowboy church setting allows all of us whether we are young or old, rich or poor to simply enjoy the fellowship. What do they like most? Being themselves.”

The church-building process began last August and on Oct. 2 the first service was held. For a church as young as Shiloh, in a town the size of Venus, population 1,800, its average attendance of 70 every Sunday has pleased Ricks.

The church has a casual exterior, but Shiloh doesn’t skimp on the gospel, Ricks emphasized.

“The wonderful thing about this (cowboy church) for me personally is that I have not been required to change either my style of preaching or the content of it. I try in each message to present it in such a way as to be relevant to today’s man or woman. While I won’t necessarily preach an evangelistic sermon every Sunday, I do give the gospel regardless in order to give our people an opportunity to make an informed decision. I also have found that a generous sprinkling of humor will help to get the message across. It is almost impossible for people to be closed to the message if they are involved, and that includes the well-placed humorous statement.”

Ricks contends it’s possible to change the wrapping while keeping the solid gospel message inside.

“For a long time I have felt that many of today’s people were being overlooked by the traditional church. And, as we know, there is the tendency today for people to shy away from the ‘churchy’ settings of steeples, pews and the suit and tie. Shiloh Cowboy Church is able to reach some of those people.”

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