Cowboys of the Cross
Welcome to Cowboys of the Cross: your resource for Christian cowboys. Cowboys of the Cross has been providing cowboy church for the rodeo and cowboy community for more than 15 years. The website is your source for stories of faith and encouragement as well as devotions and news and information affecting cowboys of faith. Cowboys of the Cross leads cowboy church at rodeos and bull ridings in both Ontario, Canada and across the north and southeastern United States.
To support the mission
Cowboys of the Cross is a full time ministry shepherded by Scott Hilgendorff (His testimony can be found below). Like other missionaries, Scott relies on the generous support of private donors to carry out the work of the Great Commission within the rodeo and cowboy culture. Donations are managed through LifeSong Family Church in Lewisburg, TN. To give online, please click the button, selecton online giving and please choose Cowboys of the Cross from the dropdown menu. To give via mail, please make checks payable to LifeSongFamily Church but include a note that it is for “rodeo ministry.” Donations can be sent to LifeSong Family Chuch, 1041 S. Ellington Pkwy
Lewisburg, TN 37091
Riding for the Brand: What it Means to be a Disciple
Part Three, YOU are qualified
A special series from the Cowboys of the Cross team
Bull rider had to find his gear in a foot of mud after Kentucky floods
When it was safe to go back home, Rusty found his gear still in the trailer he rented. Most of his possessions were ruined and he had to dig his bull riding equipment out from under about a foot of mud.
He took his clothes to a nearby creek where he washed them out and took what he had to his mom’s place further back in the hollow that wasn’t affected by the floods. That’s where he’s laying his head for now until he sorts out what to do next. When we spoke last Saturday at a bull riding in Tennessee, you would have had no idea anything had happened.
His workplace is near Whitesburg, KY, one of the hardest hit areas, wasn’t affected. It wasn’t until Rusty was done operating his bulldozer at a surface mine at three o’clock that afternoon that he found out about the flooding that affected thousands of people and left at least 37 people dead. At the writing of this, more than a week later they are still trying to account for everyone and get to everyone with many roads still washed out and people cut off from power and electricity.
I’ve been able to attend events several times in these Appalachian coal towns. Many of them are literally carved out of the mountains or in hollows, as they are referred to, like bowls in the middle of the mountain ranges. This unprecedented flooding filled many of those bowls with surging rainwater from area creeks and rivers reaching places flood waters had never reached before.
Whitesburg is about three hours from where I live near Gatlinburg, TN but many of the areas affected are only a couple hours away. Historically poor, if you take a scenic back route, you will get the impression sometimes that you’re going through places where you expect to hear “you ain’t from around here.”
Last summer, I played tourist at Harlan, KY on a back way to do cowboy church at a rodeo in Virginia. It’s a community that was central to a television show I liked and while I was taking pictures in the middle of the afternoon in the mostly closed-up main street, a woman came out from one of the few shops that were still open and demanded to know what I was doing
Many of the towns are a husk of what they once were when the coal industry was thriving but they are still beautiful places away from traditional tourist routes and I love visiting them.
They may be guarded but when you get past that, these are some of the nicest people you are ever going to meet.
Rusty is one of those.
We first really met at the practice pen I get to do cowboy church at some Sundays. From day one, he always made a point of speaking when he saw me and as he has got to know me over the last few years, will also ask questions about circumstances he knows are going on in my own life.
He keeps a positive attitude, asked for prayer at cowboy church for the people affected by the flooding and focused on the bull riding. You wouldn’t have otherwise known Rusty had just been through a flood big enough to have the federal government declare his home part of a national disaster area.
Considering he lost most of his belongings, when asked what he needed, Rusty kindly said he was fine and didn’t need anything.
So much of the country has turned its back on coal but at the same time, the country has turned its backs on one of the poorest parts of the nation. But having spent some time in those parts, I honestly think most of them don’t mind being left alone.
Just like Rusty has said he doesn’t need anything, it isn’t coming from pride but from a sense of self-reliance, which is how the Appalachian people have always lived since before there were even coal mines.
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Mail: Cowboys of the Cross, 3710 Warden Branch Lane, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738
New devotions/teaching right here every other Thursday
Where to find us
September 24, Bulls Gap, TN, Bull Riders and Outlaws bull riding, cowboy church.
October 8, Blountville, TN, Bull Riders and Outlaws bull riding, cowboy church.
Triple T Practice Pen–we will lead cowboy church at this venue as Sunday practices are announced.
Scott/Cowboys of the Cross can be found at Spur’n S Rodeos with the National Cowboy Association and he serves as the Chaplain for the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association, often found at their sanctioned events. He can also be found at PBR Velocity Tour events, International Professional Rodeo Association events and others.
In all your ways...
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths — Proverbs 3:6
A Cowboy of the Cross believes God comes first and strive to follow His leading from a desire that comes from the knowledge of the cost of our salvation, paid for by Jesus Christ through is death on the cross. Through a saving and repentant faith in Jesus and the knowledge of his resurrection, we know God has forgiven our sins and will take us home to Heaven when our time here is done. Through God’s grace, we’ll get through the mistakes we make and grow more like Christ with study of Scripture, time in prayer and learning to hear God and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
How we treat our animals or handle a loss shows our hearts
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
How we treat a drive thru worker when the wait is long or the order is messed up.
How we handle a person trying to merge in front of us in heavy traffic.
What we do with our shopping cart when we leave the store.
How we treat our animals, the ones that are worth the least, or nothing.
How we spend the drive home after we’ve bucked off or missed our catch at the rodeo.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Thankfully, through repentance, seeking forgiveness from God and a saving faith in Jesus, God will no longer condemn us for the words, thoughts and actions that come from our hearts.
Once saved, God begins to change us through the Holy Spirit in us and though we’ll never be perfect, we begin to change how we handle ourselves and each other in this life.
How we respond or navigate in each of the described situations can be a good heart check as we try to work out our salvation or want to see just how far we still have to go to be more like Jesus.
TESTIMONY – Jesse McCarthy, Forsyth, MT – A broken relationship led to a real relationship with Jesus
Hello, I’m Jesse McCarthy. I competed as a bull rider for 10 years, first in a local state circuit then in the PRCA. Currently I work on a ranch in Southeastern Montana, my boss is a former elder of the church I attend and I am blessed to have the opportunity to build a cattle herd of my own. In October 2021 God blessed me with the opportunity to marry an amazing woman who has a heart for God and His Church. I grew up in Wisconsin where I was raised going to church and reading the bible on a regular basis. I was baptized at the age of 13 and though I believed in God and that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I didn’t develop a true relationship and start to mature in my faith till I was in my late 20s. Even though I believed, called myself a Christian, and went to church, I still liked to drink, pursue women in an ungodly way and do the whole rodeo after party scene. One of the events God used to show me how much I needed to trust and obey him with my life happened in my late 20’s. I was praying about getting engaged to the girl I was dating at the time and God spoke to my heart telling me not to do it. Well, not liking His answer I went ahead and got engaged. Three months later the relationship ended. I was hurt by this but what hurt more was knowing that I purposefully disobeyed God. This was a huge turning point in my life and it pushed me to get me back into reading my bible for wisdom and direction so I would be able to discern His guidance and instruction for my life. By reading the Bible more I realized I needed to be a doer and not just a hearer of the word like it says in James 1:22-25. With the help of my brother Josh McCarthy and some other fellow Christians I have grown more in my faith, and understanding of what it means to be a doer and to live that out each day. God has transformed me from a guy who hoped he didn’t reek to much like alcohol at church to someone who has asked to preach on occasion and who shares a devotion and leads the...
If someone asks at the rodeo why you’re a Christian, do you have an answer?
Meet our Teachers / Preachers and Site Contributors
Keith Miller grew up in a strict Amish home in Indiana until discovering the freedom of an independent relationship with Jesus Christ. As a bull rider, he met his wife Natalie and together, they have a daughter Gracelyn and have settled in Westport, Indiana. Keith...
Scott heads up Cowboys of the Cross, a ministry dedicated to bringing cowboy church to rodeos and bull ridings across North America but with a focus on discipleship. The ministry evolved out of Riding for Christ Ministries, the name which Scott operated under for more...
Hey everyone, my name is James Douma. I have been involved with the rodeo for the past several years. I am a full time firefighter in Ontario during the week and ride bucking horses on the weekend. I am married to an amazing woman named Jenn and together we have a...
Howdy! My name’s Josh McCarthy and I compete in saddle bronc riding in the PRCA and I’m the youngest of five from northeastern Wisconsin. I grew up in a Christian home and went to church every Sunday. I accepted Christ into my life when I was little but I didn’t...
I grew up always praying before meals and hearing that our friends that passed were in heaven. However, I never felt I knew who God was and definitely didn't have a relationship with Him. I lived my life thinking if I seemed like a good person, then I must be a good...
I was 'raised Christian.' I can't remember a time before I was 10 years old that I wasn't a church-goer, though I remember several years of my teens where my family didn't attend church. I confessed my sin and my need for Christ when I was eight years old, but I do...