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 riding wearing spurs

Don’t be a Christian gunsel

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

In the sport of rodeo, the term gunsel gets used to describe that person who wants everyone to know hes’ a cowboy by walking around the arena an hour before the show with his chaps and spurs on or he still has his spurs on at McDonald’s after the show. But he also gets one or two-jumped when his bull or bronc leaves the chute or hold on to the gate and lets go on his way out.

For a Christian, while it still can be about calling attention to himself, it can be a little less about that and more about doing the things he thinks makes him a Christian without ever understanding what it means to have a real, life-changing relationship with Jesus.

We see him praying before the rodeo, he has a cross around his neck and a tattoo of a Bible verse on his forearm.

These things aren’t wrong when they are just part of a person who is genuinely living out his faith but there’s a problem when that’s the beginning and the end of the cowboy’s faith. He never opens his Bible to learn from it and never applies a lesson he hears at cowboy church. Nothing in his life shows that he is becoming more like Jesus, which is evidence that our salvation is real, when our life is being transformed.

James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James is teaching us how foolish it is to know what scripture teaches us and then to do nothing about it. He is stressing how important it is to actually live out what the Bible teaches.

Abortion debate: we can gloat and show judgement or we can show grace and Jesus

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

Last week, a monumental decision was made: The Supreme Court of the United States voted to overturn its 1973 decision in the Roe v. Wade case. The 1973 decision struck down a ban on abortions enacted by the state of Texas, effectively legalizing abortion in every state. In other words, abortion was made a federal issue and taken out of the hands of the states to determine how they would operate with respect to the issue. For nearly five decades since, every state has been forced not only to allow abortive procedures, but even to fund them as part of “women’s health and reproductive services.” That meant that the tax dollars collected from those who take any exception, religious or otherwise, to the procedure of abortion were being used to fund organizations that performed abortions. The federal government took away the voice of the people of each state; last week, they corrected this error.

Pro-lifers across the U.S. are celebrating this victory for the unborn while lamenting the millions of aborted lives that could have been prevented had we held the sanctity of life in higher esteem (even in the exceptional cases for which it was presented like rape, incest, etc.) 50 years ago. At the same time, pro-choice advocates are protesting the decision, concerned about women whose lives and health might be at risk due to pregnancy, wondering how they will find and afford the care they need.

The events and attention to the situation has even had the rodeo cowboy crowd speaking up about it.

Some in the greater Christian community, have asked why they aren’t seeing an outward celebration from all the pastors and church leaders they know; why aren’t they visibly happy about this decision? Some are even condemning faith-leaders who have not openly rejoiced over this monumental victory. Let me explain to you why I rejoice personally but not openly.

In our celebrations, I’ve seen people who claim the name of Christ act childishly toward all who are pro-abortion, like a school-yard bully who was held back a grade beating kids a year younger than they are in a basketball game. I’ve seen those who claim to be recipients of grace judge and condemn supporters of abortion to the fires of hell. I’ve even seen preachers being pitted against “this evil world”; you know…the one God so loved that he gave his only Son.

Will you only ever see yourself as a rodeo cowboy, bull rider or ranch hand or will you see yourself as an adopted son of God?

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

Why doesn’t everyone who calls themselves a Christian, carry out the Great Commission–the command from Jesus to tell others about him and then to go on to teach those who become follower’s of Christ? For a lot of cowboys and bull riders in the rodeo arena, it seems like their faith begins and ends with cowboy church and the prayer at the opening of the show.

So what is it that separates disciple-making Christians (those whose obvious faith in Jesus is taught to and reproduced in others) and all the rest who simply believe in God and assume they get to make heaven their eternal home but never really demonstrate much personal spiritual growth or reproduction? I used to think it was commitment – something each individual is responsible to produce for themselves; if you weren’t growing up into Christian maturity and making disciples of Jesus, it was because you weren’t committed enough. Deep down, though, I knew that even that kind of commitment was a gift from the Holy Spirit. But if that’s the case, why don’t all professing believers – those who are filled by the Holy Spirit – eventually demonstrate that life-changing commitment?

The answer to that question, I believe, is two-fold. First and most obviously, some professing believers are not really believers.

Even the demons believe in God (James 2:19), but that kind of belief – the type that denies and covets God’s sovereign kingship – won’t get a single human soul into heaven. In John 3 Nicodemus believed Jesus to be “a teacher come from God” based on the signs Jesus did, but Jesus condemned him for failing to understand that being born of the Spirit was of necessity for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven. Pilate believed Jesus to be the king of a kingdom, yet denied that there is any type of objective truth (John 18:37-38) – you know, the type of truth Jesus acknowledged when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). None of these examples believed and were saved as a result. The point is there are categories of belief that do not result in salvation. You can believe in God and never make it to Heaven.

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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Email: Scott@cowboysofthecross.com

Contact Us

 

Phone: 865_293_2668

 

Email: Scott@cowboysofthecross.com 

 

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

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?

If someone at a rodeo sees your cross necklass or the Bible verse written on your vest or someone asks you at the ranch while you’re reading a Bible as you eat your lunch, “Why are you a Christian?” are you ready to give an answer?
Is that answer going to come from thoughts and ideas you have about God or is it going to come from truths you know right from Scripture? Your answer will do one of three things: point someone to a real truth about salvation through Jesus Christ, point them completely away from Christianity altogether that leads them to eternal suffering or provide an answer about having ‘faith’ and being ‘good’ that gives them false hope that still leads to eternal suffering.
What kind of hope do you have for yourself? Is it one grounded in the truth of what Jesus did for us on the cross with a repentant heart and a secure understanding of a saving faith in Jesus? What kind if hope do you want to offer others?
1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Telling others about Jesus so they can know him should motivate you.

Meet our Teachers / Preachers and Site Contributors

Keith Miller

Keith Miller

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...

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Scott Hilgendorff

Scott Hilgendorff

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...

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James and Jenn Douma

James and Jenn Douma

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...

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Josh McCarthy

Josh McCarthy

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...

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Jim Bull

Jim Bull

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...

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Jesse Horton

Jesse Horton

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...

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