Small group Bible study where gospel is preached weekly is now having an international impact

Astride his horse in the back of an 18-foot-deep arena box, Ronnie Hill calmly watches the steer in the chute between him and his roping partner’s box. When the steer settles, his head straight, Hill nods. The chute bangs open. The steer takes off. So do the cowboys—Hill in the heading position and his partner heeling or rear position.

“We ride full throttle after the steer,” Hill said. “I rope him around the horns, roll him off, and turn him to the left, pulling him behind me, making him hop. My partner ropes his two back feet. When we turn our horses and face each other, ropes tight and steer between, the flag man drops his flag.”

When the competition timer stops, mere seconds have elapsed. 

For Hill, 55, who has been team roping since his 20s, those few thrilling seconds—and countless hours of practice—can be lucrative. He and roping partner Daniel Shehady won the event in the April 2023 USTRC National Finals Rodeo’s legends division. Hill has won with various partners, even against younger competitors in events not divided by age.

Ronnie Hill, wearing a black cowboy hat, is a champion team roping competitor.

“As exciting as that is, winning buckles, saddles, thousands of dollars, it’s nothing compared to seeing someone give their life to Christ.”

Ronnie Hill, pictured with his wife, Jennifer, and their son, Jake.

“As exciting as that is, winning buckles, saddles, thousands of dollars, it’s nothing compared to seeing someone give their life to Christ,” Hill said.

Hill is no stranger to sharing Jesus. President of the evangelistic Ronnie Hill Ministries for 35 years, he was asked to become staff evangelist at Greenwood Baptist Church in Weatherford five years ago. Hill’s ministry has taken him across the nation and beyond: to Africa, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Canada.

“We see people saved every week. We did a crusade in Fayette, Ala.—396 saved,” Hill said. 

He is on the road 30-40 weeks each year in addition to his dual role at Greenwood, where he preaches about four times annually. 

Greenwood is booming under the leadership of Senior Pastor Brian Bond, Hill said. 

“Our church is in the country … we’re running about 1,200 now, I guess. We have three services, about to go to four. We’re building a sanctuary because we’re just busting at the seams,” Hill said.

The church baptized 250 in 2023. That year saw Hill’s outreach unexpectedly attract local rodeo competitors with a Bible study that has since had international impact. 

Starting small

It all started when Lane Cooper, a Greenwood member with whom Hill had roped, asked the evangelist to start a small group. Hill initially hesitated, considering his hectic speaking schedule. Finally, he agreed on one condition: meeting days had to be flexible each week. 

“Yeah, we’ll do that,” Lane said. They gathered in the office of renowned cutting horse rider Michael Cooper, Lane’s father, an NCHA Futurity Finals reserve world champion. Most attending had ties to rodeo or horses.

It was the first small group Hill had ever led. He insists he is no expert. 

Typically, the group shares a meal from 6:30 to 7, then spends an hour reading the Bible aloud, with volunteers reading verse by verse. Hill will ask discussion questions and end by presenting the plan of salvation. The group started with 1 John, followed by James, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians.

The gospel is presented each time Ronnie Hill and his wife, Jennifer, host their small group, which meets in their home. SUBMITTED PHOTO

“We just read the Bible and I give them a chance to accept Christ,” he said. 

The group began with six, including Hill. Two were saved that first night, including Canadian Tatum Wilson, whose sister Paige was Lane Cooper’s fiancée. Lane and Paige had been encouraging Tatum to “check out this church thing,” Tatum said.

“The first time I met Ronnie that night, immediately he was preaching the Word,” Tatum recalled. “Right in that moment, it was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is something I need to look into.’ That night I gave my life to Christ.”

“Tatum got on fire,” Hill said. “She started bringing people. The next week we had 12.” Attendance climbed and the group now averages 30, mostly ages 20-25. 

Hill noted that Tatum wasn’t the only one inviting people, but with her outgoing personality, she approached folks in stores or gas stations or at the ranch where she worked training horses and asked them to come.

They outgrew Cooper’s office and moved to the home Hill shares with his wife, Jennifer, and son, Jake, closer to Weatherford.

It has been one year since they started meeting and over 90 people have trusted Christ, with 72 being baptized at Greenwood, Hill said.

“The first time I met Ronnie that night, immediately he was preaching the Word. Right in that moment, it was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is something I need to look into.’ That night I gave my life to Christ.”

International influence

The small group’s influence has stretched beyond national borders.

Hill performed Lane and Paige’s wedding at the Cooper ranch, meeting the bride’s Canadian relatives. Paige and Tatum’s older brother visited the small group, trusted Christ, and decided to stay in Texas. On a later visit, Tatum’s father and younger brother also trusted Christ after coming to small group.

Tatum continued to invite friends, including Jade, a breakaway roping competitor, who was saved. Soon Jade’s brother, her boyfriend, and parents followed suit.

The ripple effect of rodeo salvations continued.

Whole rodeo families, including those of top-ranked competitors qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, have trusted Christ and been baptized, Hill said.

“When I’m baptizing them … somebody will come up from their group and they end up getting saved and we get them baptized,” Hill said. “It’s nonstop.”

When Tatum returned to Canada for three months last September to renew her visa, Hill challenged her to start a small group there, offering to teach remotely. In October, five in Tatum’s family home near Calgary, Alberta, met with Hill via video chat. As with the original group, two were saved that evening.

The group has grown, moving locations to the home of Jenessa and Matt McNichol, whose son, Clay, was also a Weatherford rodeo student. 

Hill and Jon Hartman, Greenwood’s next gen pastor, traveled to Alberta for a week of teaching. Salvations and 15 baptisms followed. Eventually, Tatum’s mother trusted Christ.

Hill continues to teach both the Weatherford and Calgary small groups and plans a return trip to Canada this spring to follow up with the new believers.

“I’m excited to see how God is going to continue to work here,” Tatum said. “I didn’t grow up in a church home. … Now everyone in my family has been saved and baptized.”

Canadians—mostly from Tatum’s small group—were baptized by Hill during a recent trip north of the border. Hill plans a second trip to Canada this spring. SUBMITTED PHOTO

‘God is moving in our country’

“I don’t think the salvations we are seeing are anything unusual,” Hill said. “One, God is moving in our country. And it’s not just in one place: you see pockets everywhere. … I think God’s doing it [this way] because He doesn’t want any one person to get the glory for it.” 

Next, Hill said he has noticed a hunger for Scripture. “If you present the gospel, people will get saved. That’s what we are doing. We do it in our church every single service. We do it in our small group,” he said.

Relationships are important—but simple, clear explanations of the gospel are key.

“The reason why we have people saved in our small group is because … they’re bringing lost people every single week, and they know lost people. And so I’m presenting the gospel every time. I’m not waiting, I’m not letting them think about it. We’re doing it right then and there on the spot,” Hill told a friend. Baptism follows soon after.

“You hear revivals are dying,” Hill said. “We don’t see that. We see lost people saved.”

Hill’s own faith journey is remarkable. The product of a rape, he thanks his mother for choosing to give birth to him rather than seeking an abortion. Saved at age 8, he started preaching at 14 and served as a youth minister at 18. Mentored by widely known evangelist and professor Roy Fish, Hill earned a doctorate of ministry in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary. In 1997, he embarked on a new adventure when he founded his evangelistic ministry. 

As Hill’s small groups will attest, it’s been quite a ride.

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