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ABOUT US: 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.   MORE ABOUT US HERE

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Down the Road

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Time with God better in church or deer stand?


Help Keep us on the road

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

      My church is out in the pasture riding my horse.

     I feel closer to God in the river, fishing by myself, away from everyone.

     I pray more in my deer stand.

      For a lot of cowboys, being out in nature is a common experience because there's often a natural tie to the outdoors from hunting and fishing, farm work, ranching, cattle-raising, hiking and more. Most who live the cowboy lifestyle are at least in part, outdoorsmen.

 So it's only logical that the Christians in the crowd see that as a chance to spend some time with God.

Part of Matthew 6:6 tells us, But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”

One of the ways we're instructed to pray is in secret. The Pharisees, the religious elite, were criticized by Jesus for making a show of their prayers, calling attention to themselves and how great they were and close to God they were.

 Instead, Jesus says to have somewhere private to pray.

Out there by yourself in a pasture or sitting for hours in a deer stand makes for a great period of alone-time with God.

But that can't be the only time we spend with God.

There are a wide range of reasons cowboys and bull riders have for not wanting to be a part of church and, if we're being honest, the idea of being closer to God out in the wilderness, becomes a justification for not being in church.

We're called to do both.

The disciples began to spread the gospel and establish churches that worshiped God after Jesus' death and resurrection and the book of Acts documents much of this. The disciples were martyred (killed) for their work in spreading the church. That didn't happen because church was just a casual thing to participate in when we feel like it. The church we have today, when it is a true Bible-following church, is set up following a number of verses that teach us about church structure, leadership from teachers to elders, how to resolve conflicts and what our responsibilities are in coming together as a body of believers to worship God.

 To me, one of the most significant verses about the church though comes from Paul's teaching about marriage and the way a husband is to treat his wife.

Ephesians 5:25-27: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

While the lesson in the verses is about marriage, the illustration is a very clear depiction of just how important the church is to Jesus. Christ loves the church, gave up his life to it and uses it to sanctify us (make us more holy and Christ-like).

Regardless of the experiences we've or other circumstances that keep us from church, those are pretty big reasons to be a part of one.

It's a both/and situation.

Out in the deer blind or standing in a river, talking to God in private? Absolutely. Do it more, do it often with the intention of spending time with God on your mind more than that buck or river trout.

Sunday morning, Tuesday night or whenever an organized church meets? Absolutely. Do it more, do it often with the intention of worshiping God on your mind more than that buck or river trout.

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

When Kris Furr made Jesus the Lord of his life last month, he had no idea God would throw a challenge and learning opportunity at him just hours later.

It made it very clear that God was working in his life.

Kris, a bull fighter from Statesville, NC, was trying to sell his camper on Craig's list when he got a call from a guy who asked if Kris would consider trading the camper for the guy's van. It would have been at a $3,000 to $4,000 loss between the difference in the value of the van versus the camper but Kris was stuck—he had just made Jesus his lord and savior hours earlier and now he was being asked to help a family.

The man had explained to Kris that he and his wife had recently become homeless and were living in that van and a tent and he wanted to trade. The camper would give them a chance to have better accommodation, especially for their two kids that they were trying to home school.

But, $3,000 is a lot of money to give up when you're trying to make your living as a bull fighter, full time, traveling the roads to work events across the country for very little pay. In order to be the best at it and be one of the few to make it to the professional level and the pay scale that goes with it, you have to sacrifice a lot.

But, $3,000. Would God really be asking Kris to give the equivalent of that much money to total strangers? Was this a test from God?

Those are the questions he had for me when we talked about the situation.

The short answer, of course, was that God could very well be asking that of Kris.

“I always knew who God was but until today, I had never given my life to Him,” said Kris as we talked about his whole experience that day, leading up to the phone call.

Now he was afraid to make the wrong decision about the camper. We talked about the difference between feeling guilty or feeling the Holy Spirit's conviction, what the Bible teaches about giving sacrificially, what it can mean to follow Christ beyond that moment of salvation, being a good steward of the resources God gives you and how to know when God is answering prayer about what to do.

We also talked about how emotions can manipulate us and can be used by others to do the same—that he had to be careful.

In prayerfully seeking wisdom from God, Kris realized that a starting point would be to at least meet with the man who called and look into the story more.

When he did, praise God, Kris determined the story was a scam but also learned straight from scripture that he was willing to be obedient to God, even when it was difficult and it meant sacrifice.

And praise God, Kris and I are working out a study plan to dig deeper into God's word since being in church often is difficult for Kris as he's on the road so much.


Center Gate Story

Praise God, Cowboys of the Cross will be back in Ontario, Canada thanks to the willingness of bronc rider James Douma to serve along with his wife Jenn and son Mason.

The family will be attending rodeos in Ontario this summer and hosting cowboy church on the rodeo grounds at their trailer, mixed with food and fellowship, representing Cowboys of the Cross and their church, Discovery Church in Bowmanville, Ontario.

James and Scott met last spring at a bronc riding school in Ohio where Scott was leading a short Sunday morning service for the students at the school.

Since first talking about the idea of him leading cowboy church in Ontario, James was a little apprehensive but over the past year, he found encouragement  from his church and clear direction that God was leading him and his wife to minister at rodeos.

James, Jenn and Mason will mostly be serving at Rawhide Rodeo events where producer BJ Prince has also been encouraging of seeing ministry return there.

We'll have announcements on Facebook and through the Cowboys of the Cross website letting everyone know where James and Scott are this summer as Scott continues to minister in the United States. Scott first led cowboy church in Ontario with Rawhide before Cowboys of the Cross became a full time ministry and he moved to the United States to operate Cowboys of the Cross under LifeSong Family Church in Lewisburg, TN. While we have church affiliations, Cowboys of the Cross depends on the generous support of our donors. As we see the ministry grow and the work God continues to do through us, we thank you for your help keeping us heading down the road.

We couldn't be more excited to have James leading cowboy church in Ontario again. Please be sure to read his testimony below.

Cowboy church back in Ontario, Canada

thanks to James and Jenn Douma

Hey everyone, my name is James Douma. I have been involved with the rodeo for the past three 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 little boy, Mason.

Growing up I figured I was your every day average Christian. I grew up in a Christian home,  read my Bible, prayed every day and attended church every week. Life was great. My family did all kinds of things together. We camped, went fishing, hiking, we built all kinds of forts and tree houses together. We even took care of the livestock and farm chores together.

When I was in my early teens my parents started experiencing difficulty in their marriage. We ended up selling the farm and moving to a small town in hopes that the lighter work load would help patch things up. That didn’t end up working and a year later they split up and my dad moved out. It was a major shock to me and my siblings. Things just started to fall apart from there.

At 17 I started going to school (we were homeschooled up until then). I started hanging out with fairly questionable peers mainly because I didn’t really have any Christian friends. Slowly my morals and values started to slip and I found myself saying and doing things I had always said I wouldn’t.

 I felt my parents really didn’t care about us anymore, even though deep down I knew they did, so I stopped caring about everyone and everything else but myself. My relationship with God at this point was limited to a quick prayer before food and bed, if I even remembered, and attending church out of obligation.

In the summer of 2009, my poor choices and actions finally caught up with me and ended up  nearly costing me the only thing that mattered to me, my relationship with my girlfriend, Jenn.

To my absolute disbelief she forgave me for my indiscretions and together we decided to try and make things work. The only problem was we had no idea where to start. It was at this point in our discussion that my brother, who I hadn’t talked to in weeks, called me up and invited us out to his church. Reluctantly we agreed to come out Sunday.

I found that the people in this church accepted me for who I was, even though many knew of my history and the way I had been treating others. Their support along with actually hearing and applying the sermons to my life helped me want to change. I started praying and reading my bible more regularly and started to make friends who would build me up instead of tearing me down.

 It wasn’t long before Jenn and I became members of that church. For the first time in many years things started to look up.

Since recommitting our lives to God and His plan for our lives we have had many ups and  downs, struggles, temptations and joys. Living for God and trusting in His promises has given me joy and peace like I have never experienced before. Even though I continually let God down, He forgives me and blesses me so richly. I have found committing my life to God is tough, but following my own will and trying to do things on my own is a whole lot harder.

James Douma


Jim Liles is a retired bareback rider and the former owner of Lazy J Rodeo Safety Equipment. He recently completed an amazing bareback riding exhibit collecting pieces from across the country that records decades of the history of the roughtstock sport. This is his story about his year-long fight with inoperable cancer and his belief in the role prayer played in bringing about his cancer-free diagnosis.

In December of 2015 my wife and I made the decision to move back to Arizona. after being gone for some 27 years living in the Northwest.  Something just told us that it was time to move back to our home where we were both raised and where we had family.  Sometimes the Lord works in ways we may not always understand and we soon found out why we had, for some reason, been called back to Arizona.

On June 17, 2015 I had tremendous pain in my chest.  We went to the VA center in Prescott Az. where they immediately sent me to Phoenix by ambulance.  The doctors there told me I had stage three lung cancer and had about a 30% chance of any successful treatment. The tumor was wrapped around a main artery and was not operable.

That day I was set up on a regime of chemo and radiation that brought me close to death a couple of times.  We began to pray, and our many many friends from around the world began to pray for us.  Friends we had not talked to in 50 years came forward not only with prayers, but with suggestions for proven homeopathic cures that they had used.  I don't believe that we will all be given a miracle, but I do believe that the power of prayer gives us the power to improve our situation.  

The power to raise up with faith and get guidance,  whether that be in the folks around us that can help, learning about disease, or in the way of a miracle.

We will never know why one year later I stand cancer free,  and in great health.  I feel great and I have gained all my weight back.  Maybe He feels we have more to do before we join Him.  Maybe He feels that if I can pass these words of prayer and faith on to others that it will help others.  I will never know, but because of the prayers and the Grace Of God,  I offer this testimony.


Jim Liles

Prayer and a cancer-free diagnosis