Hundreds saved at Arkansas cowboy church Easter service

Hundreds saved at Arkansas cowboy church Easter service

by
Daniel Sperry for Nazarene News
| 14 Apr 2023
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Arkansas

Hundreds of people came to know Christ as their Lord and Savior during a Resurrection service at CrossRoads Cowboy Church (CRCC) in El Paso, Arkansas. 

CRCC hosted a professional rodeo in its arena on Friday and Saturday and invited people to the Easter service on Sunday. More than 3,000 people attended the Easter service, and more than 8,000 people heard the gospel throughout the entire weekend.

Led by Pastor Ron Riddle, who is the cowboy church emphasis coordinator for the USA/Canada Region, CRCC also enjoyed its 10th anniversary on Sunday. In 10 years, the church has grown to over 1,500 members and has established five satellite campuses across central Arkansas. The town of El Paso only has a population of 267 people.

“Pastor Ron and the entire team at CRCC are passionately committed to reaching the Western heritage culture with the gospel,” said North Arkansas District Superintendent Mark Lindstrom. “Evangelism is baked into everything they do—in the arena and in the chapel.” 

The success and growth of the cowboy church came from Riddle’s goal to reach the heart of the “Cowboy Joe.” The “Cowboy Joe” is someone Riddle described as a loner who tends to work by themselves most of the time.
“I wanted to create an environment where even ‘Cowboy Joe’ would want to come and stay,” Riddle said. “It’s a very non-judgmental environment, just letting the Holy Spirit do its work and finding a way to get these guys involved with things they enjoy doing.”

Prior to CRCC, Riddle was pastoring nearby at Jacksonville First, which was a traditional church. He says he was the only cowboy there and didn’t mind that. He grew up riding bulls, raising horses and cattle, and competing in team roping in youth rodeos. 

When former North Arkansas District Superintendent Randy Berkner came to the district in 2009, Berkner pitched the idea of a cowboy church to a few people, including Riddle. The idea was a little off-putting to Riddle at first due to his contentment with his ministry at Jacksonville First. But his son, Chism, began to talk him into it.
Berkner took Ron and Chism with him to Texas to visit a few cowboy churches, and the Holy Spirit began to work inside Riddle’s heart.
“God got to dealing with me about how God was really using that type of ministry to reach people,” Ron said. “I had never been a fan of doing targeted groups; the gospel is for everybody.”

But God continued to speak to Ron through his son, and eventually, the idea for CRCC came to fruition. The center of the church’s operation is the rodeo arena, which has an adjoining chapel.
“A lot of people put a gymnasium in the back of their chapel; we chose to put a rodeo arena,” Ron laughed.

To help reach “Cowboy Joe,” Ron has the church fleshed out with the idea of discipleship groups as teams. These teams specialize in certain areas of ranching and even running the arena during various competitions and events that are held at the arena. 

The arena is in use every night of the week, with a team putting on some events from barrel racing to youth and kids rodeos, with a professional rodeo event every Saturday. The teams meet for a bible study once a week, usually on a night when their team is hosting an event. 

“This intentionality has made it possible for thousands to say ‘yes’ to faith in Christ, which has resulted in more than 900 baptisms and 1,326 new Nazarenes since the establishment of this ministry,” Lindstrom said.

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