Brother Harvey Abke never imagined he would receive a call from Brother Steve Johnson asking him to be the pastor of a new cowboy church Brother Johnson was starting in Caldwell, Texas.
"I have an evangelistic heart to reach people for Jesus but I started to feel complacent," said Pastor Harvey. "This church would mean I could come back home to my roots."
Brother Steve Johnson, pastor at First Baptist Church of Caldwell, attended a conference and while there God laid on his heart about reaching out to the lost in Caldwell. While at the conference, Brother Steve prayed about starting a cowboy church in Caldwell through a mission called "To Seek and To Save".
"To Seek and To Save" mission was started by the FBC Caldwell when their congregation began noticing their community had a large group of people who were unchurched and untouched by Christ. Many would claim association with a congregation, but had no active involvement/had not been to church in five or more years.
"I had been convicted that as a pastor and church we talked about reaching the unchurched in our community, but didn't do very much about it in practical terms," said Brother Steve. "It's easy to talk about missions, but hard to do missions. 'To Seek and To Save' was our church's effort to do evangelism."
A turning point in the development of the church start came at a banquet hosted by FBC Caldwell where the idea was presented of possibly sponsoring a new upcoming cowboy church. At the banquet, one of the senior adults, Mrs. Reube Cross, spoke eloquently about how she supported the Cowboy Church idea, and there was an overwhelming support from the congregation.
"God wanted us at First Baptist Church Caldwell to do more in the community to reach the lost," said Tracy Kristof, ministry assistant for Burleson County Cowboy Church.
It was almost a two-year span of meetings, classes and prayers before Brother Harvey was contacted about the possible position, but in 2012, he and his precious wife, Sue, accepted God's call and the ride began.
In March 2012, in a small auction barn, a core team of about 25 people had their first meeting. Shortly after, Burleson County Cowboy Church had its first service at the American Legion Hall at the fairgrounds on Easter Sunday, April 2012. By God's blessing, there were 206 people in attendance during the service.
With the success of the first service, the core team realized their location at the hall would not suffice if their numbers continued to grow.
"We out grew the hall very quickly," said Tracy. "I cannot count on one hand how many times the core team, including myself, were not able to sit in a chair through the service. We would stand in the kitchen peeking through the window, listening and watching the service so others would have chairs to sit and enjoy the service."
God blessed them again helping in the foundational step of getting into the beautiful building that they are now. This building was an old cabinet shop, and after renovations it was ready to be called home for the Burleson County Cowboy Church.
Currently, the church averages 400 people every Sunday morning and 100 people on Wednesday nights for Bible study. They have also baptized over 170 people since they had their first service 22 months ago.
"There are so many times I have had to sit back and take it all in," said Tracy. "Our Father's love is so amazing and to watch Him work brings joy that my words cannot express."
Being a Western Heritage cowboy church, they learn by the cowboy church model. The Cowboy Church Model is a practice that follows the Five C's: Christ likeness in all we do, Culturally relevant, Constitutional in their bylaws, Cost effective, and Consensus.
"The hardest part of for us has been to learn by the model and follow it," said Brother Harvey. "We have struggled with traditional church ways. We are working to make sure we keep it cowboy."
A Cowboy Church mission is to reach the lost in the western/cowboy culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ and provide a church home where they can become more like Christ. They reach out to the working cowboys, cattle people, horse people and the people who are cowboys at heart or have the mentality of a cowboy.
"In all things God is number one," said Brother Harvey. "We thank God for all HE has done here at BCCC and plan to keep on keepin on in His word giving Him the glory."
As they say at BCCC, "Keep the reins tight and ride with Jesus".
To learn more about the Burleson County Cowboy Church, visit http://www.burlesoncountycowboychurch.com/ , or for more information on Western Heritage, go to http://texasbaptists.org/evangelism-missions/western-heritage-ministry/ .