By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Foreign exchange students are getting the chance to hear the gospel and Cowboys of the Cross is getting to play a small part in that—and you can too.
One of the great cultural changes of the times we’re in; that we’re all connected more easily wherever we are in the world. at Commission in unique way.
When the disciples were first given the what we know as the Great Commission, they were tasked with sharing the gospel everywhere from the people around them to “the ends of the earth.”
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This was a command from Jesus to his disciples but it extends to you and me.
Then, travel to communicate or send a letter, it was primarily by foot. Today, there are still isolated parts of the world in which missionaries work to earn the trust of a community in order to minister to them and preach the gospel but at the same time, we can get a coded message to a missionary in China with a few taps on an app on our phone.
Technology makes it easy for Cowboys of the Cross to be partnered with cowboys from the ranch to the rodeo sides of the cowboy culture across the United States and Canada.
Jesse Horton was a North Carolina bull rider that has gone on to become the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Pink Hill, NC. He continues to work with Cowboys of the Cross contributing to The Short Go and other teaching series we put together. He is a valued ministry partner and part of what has shaped into a leadership team that works at helping each of us grow and stay accountable to God’s different callings in our lives.
The common ground our little group shares is our strong response to God’s call on all of us to share the gospel from the people around us to the ends of the Earth.
Jesse is currently getting a chance to do that as he, his wife Sarah and their children host two foreign exchange students for the next ten months.
One arrived last week from France and the other, a Buddhist from Vietnam, arrived this week.
But here’s the extra cool thing: while the program is not Christian-based, the woman seeking host families in this region of the United States, Meegan, is a Christian. Because of her belief in sharing the gospel with others, she tries to find as many Christian host families as she can.
Finding Jesse, his family and his church, was a windfall for Meegan and she expressed her excitement for it recently when she spoke with Cowboys of the Cross as a reference for Jesse. The two students will attend church with the Hortons and get to experience Christian living with a pastor. Having known Jesse for more than 15 years now, these students are going to not just be presented with the gospel in words, but they will see Jesse’s passionate desire to see others grow and be discipled in their faith, especially the extended church family God has given him to shepherd.
And not only has their first of the two students had a chance to attend a Bethel Baptist Church service, he’s also been with the Horton’s to a rodeo and seen Jesse lead cowboy church behind the chutes. It’s hard to find a better American experience than the pride-filled experience of a rodeo Saturday night and a worship service on Sunday in a 106-year-old church.
That’s where you come in.
These exchange programs are desinged to provide students from other cultures with an American experience but Education Travel & Culture (ETC) is looking for more Christian families as hosts so that they can also be presented with the gospel.
Imagine what God might do if a Buddhist student found a saving faith in Jesus and returned to Vietnam to share the gospel with family and friends there. The Great Commission was given to us by Jesus about two thousand years ago yet here it is being lived out across multiple countries through the intentional use of an exchange student program.
That’s something we can pray for together to help Jesse and Bethel Baptist Church in this mission and if you would like to learn how easy it is to host a foreign exchange student, just get in touch with us and we will share your contact information with someone at ETC who will contact you.
Part 6 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Just like bull riders will tell you that to get better, you want to be surrounded by better bull riders, we know that the Bible teaches us there are times we have to be careful who we tie ourselves to. If we spend all our time with unbelievers, we can see our own faith suffer. At the same time, we have to spend time with unbelievers in order to share the gospel with them—how to be saved from the punishment meant for our sin by a belief in Jesus Christ, repenting of our sin and asking to be forgiven.
But before we can worry about finding the balances there, we first need to become disciples.
John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus tells us that when we have truly become a Christian—a follower of Jesus—then we will ‘abide’ in his word. That means that we will live it out. Our desire to do that is the proof of our salvation.
While there is a lot to being a disciple that the average Christian seems to ignore throughout the New Testament, we know that in its simple form, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus.
In rodeo, most of us have successful cowboys and bull riders who we follow to learn their style, techniques and how they became successful.
Jesus tells us that we will live out his word but he knows we don’t immediately know or understand everything there is in the Bible.
That’s why, even though Jesus calls us disciples, we still need to be discipled.
The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 tells his disciples to go into the world and make make more disciples with clear instructions to teach others about what Jesus taught them. That means right now, there are people out there with knowledge and wisdom we haven’t achieved yet who are following, or should be following, the command to make disciples. There are people we need to have teaching us what they know from the Bible.
At the same time, we read our Bibles on our own, attend church services, learn where we can and pray in order to learn and put to practice what it means to live out our faith.
And Jesus tells us it isn’t going to be easy.
Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
There can be a cost to following Jesus and while there is much we can study on being disciples and what it means to follow Jesus, we’re focused right now on making sure we have the right people in our lives to be successful followers of Christ.
By linking with other believers who are more mature and experienced in their faith than we are, we can be discipled by them while we also begin the process of teaching others about Jesus. As we learn, we teach, regardless of how experienced we are. If I’ve just started learning how to throw a rope and you teach me a better way to guide my loop to the roping dummy’s head, it doesn’t matter whether I’ve won a rodeo or even entered one; once you’ve taught me how to do that much, I can teach someone else that much too.
(Supporting photo of the Bible provided by John-Mark Smith of Lviv, Ukraine)
Part 2 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
“If you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people.”
Quotes like this are common among the rodeo crowd and they are embraced by competitors because of that desire to succeed and get ahead.
It makes sense.
If you spend more time with competitors who are better than you, you might learn something from their attitude, skills or way of living that helps you to also succeed or become a better bull rider, barrel racer, roper or horseman.
It’s like this in Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
This is a common verse many people can quote and often not realize that it even comes from Scripture. It’s point is simple: we can help make each other more effective.
But when it’s coming from the Bible we understand it’s referring to Christians. Another Christian friend can help me be more effective in my faith and I can help him to be more effective tool.
Conversations about the Bible and living out our faith with each other help us to be ‘sharper’ believers.
And we’re encouraged throughout Scripture to spend time together as believers from when the church first started in the historical account we seen in Acts to to the letters Paul writes to different churches as he tries to encourage them or confront conflicts he has learned about within their communities.
Hebrews 10 24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Paul is telling church they need to encourage one another to show love and do good and to encourage one another as if we are near the very end. If we knew for sure these were the last days before Jesus came back, we would be rushing to make sure others knew who Jesus was. Paul is telling the people in the church to encourage each other and live as if that day was almost here.
Again, what we’re seeing is a push toward working together to do a better at living our our faith.
He tells the church at Colossae that we are to work together as well.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
We’re to teach and correct each other while worshiping God together so that the teachings of Jesus would become a big part of who we are.
Just like the Bible warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers who will wear us down and weaken our faith, we see that by being connected together with believers, our faith will be strengthened and better equipped to share that faith with others.
We seem to understand this idea outside of the Bible when it comes to wanting to be better competitors and seeking personal success. We don’t realize or overlook how much a similar teaching is is commanded through Scripture to be connected to other believers with the focus being on our becoming stronger in our faith and able to lead others to Jesus.
Part 1 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Working in rodeo, when cowboys or bull riders share advice, it’s often focused on how to be more successful at the sport. A common piece of advice I’ve seen shared among the cowboy crowd is about just that—the crowd you’re in. They advise to spend more time with better, more successful competitors otherwise you risk being brought down by others.
The Bible has something to say about that as well when it comes to growing in our faith.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
Despite being written about 2,000 years ago, this is an illustration that should be easy to understand for cowboys, whether on the rodeo or ranch side of the industries.
What happens when an ox or team of horses is yoked together but one is not as well equipped, well trained or strong as the other?
The team can’t work as a team. The stronger horse is having to pull harder. The horse working harder is going to wear down. The horse working harder is going to be held back.
Sure, there are always exceptions, but when it comes to dating, it is common to hear a Christian think he or she can maintain a healthy relationship with a non-believer. The Christian thinks he or she will win that person over to Christ and will justify staying in the relationship. He or she might even get the person to study the Bible with them a little and at the start, will get asked lots of questions. That will encourage the Christian to push harder, even seeing it as ministry or what God would have them do.
The intentions are good for sure.
As the relationship heats up, the Christian compromises and moves in. I mean, even more time together means an even bigger chance to win the person over for Jesus, right?
But after that initial bit of interest, what typically happens is, the non-believer begins to fight against the changes the Christian hopes to bring about. As they begin living more daily life together, the Christian ends up sleeping in Sunday mornings with the non-believer because it’s easier than fighting to get the other to go to church. The Bible study stops as they get busier living life but soon the Christian wears down and instead of the non-believer digging into a Bible he or she never had any interest in, the Christian begins reading his or her Bible less, praying less, spending less time thinking about life from a Christian perspective as they become a couple.
The Christian wears down and is no longer the force for Jesus that he or she was. His or her light dims.
Being unequally rarely works and the ox will sooner or later stumble and fall and be taken down by the weaker ox.