It’s no problem if morning chores run a little late and you don’t have time to change clothes before Sunday services. Cowboy Church in Lucerne, Colo. is a casual congregation that welcomes folks wearing jeans, western hats and boots — and ignores pretty much anything stuck to the bottom of the latter.
Darin and Lynette Gleghorn, lead pastors, founded the fellowship in May 2000. The philosophy of Cowboy Church led the couple to the Christian group, and one another, years earlier. Gleghorn worked on a cutting horse ranch in Claremore, Okla. while attending college at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. It was at a Cowboy Church service in April 1992 that then 24-year-old Gleghorn accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and savior.
In 1997, he attended a Cowboy Minister’s Conference in Laughlin, Nev. where he met Lynette Peters, who was at the event as an employee of a ministerial consulting company. The two became a couple, married and moved to Texas, where they lived for about two years. They then began a traveling ministry that followed the rodeo circuit for 1 ½ years, then became associate pastors at Mountain Spring Cowboy Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Colorado State University’s ag connection draws many high school graduates from the Mountain Spring church. In May 2000, the Gleghorns were released to meet the need and begin a northern Colorado Cowboy Church. They initially held services at Vineyard Christian Fellowship, which provided use of their youth room. When more space was required, Cowboy Church moved to a large barn just outside Lucerne, where some members still team rope. Six years ago, Cowboy Church moved to its present location on Highway 85 in Lucerne.
Pastor Gleghorn confirmed that initial numbers have indeed swelled, averaging 500-700 people per service. Approximately 85-90 percent are regular attendees.
In an era when U.S. churches are closing at discouraging rates, Cowboy Church’s doors remain optimistically wide open for several reasons.
“Our vision for Cowboy Church is based on the three Rs — real, relational, relevant,” Darin said. “That’s who we are. People carry their worship experience with them beyond Sundays.”
Darin added that family values, honor and integrity, as portrayed in old-time Westerns, strengthen the authenticity of cowboy culture. If fashion choices also lend to that authenticity, then garb worn at Cowboy Church services fit right in.
A typical Sunday morning service is laid back, with casual Western attire prominent. The pastor always wears a cowboy hat as he leads worship in the fellowship’s building which, he unabashedly admits, is a former “honky tonk”. In fact, that libation-loving establishment’s bar now serves as a coffee bar, and the dance floor remains unaltered in the church’s main room. However, Pastor Gleghorn was quick to clarify that the dynamic worship music is mainstream, not twangy country and western.
Outside services, such as at ropings, are now very infrequent. But farming and ranching are happily commonplace at Cowboy Church, likewise all associated creatures. For example, eight years ago the Gleghorns rescued a stunted, emaciated four-year-old horse. Now 12, that mare has a lifetime home with the family. Sharing the pasture is a 30-something-year-old pony, now retired and cherished by Gleghorn children Rhett, 13, and 11-year-old Rhiatta.
Church members often request prayer for their animals and many healings have resulted, reported Pastor Gleghorn. During baby dedications, a young couple ignored species differences and brought in their eight-week-old puppy! Prayers were spoken over the little canine, asking God to help it grow into a loyal and obedient dog.
Many high schoolers and younger children participate in rodeo, junior bull riding and 4-H. The church secretary, Karen Walston, has horses and goats. A large percentage of Cowboy Church families work in agriculture.
Young people are a high priority at Cowboy Church. Though they might dress like the Old West, they live a modern texting, tweeting lifestyle. Their generation hungrily seeks relevance from an old-school entity — the institutional church — in a new world environment. Current technology is imperative to reach them. Everything is video- and audio-recorded and especially for youth groups, live streaming and podcasts are employed.
Cowboy Church youth eagerly participate in missions and community service work. For example, they are presently sorting, packaging and shipping dozens of pairs of new shoes purchased for a Belize orphanage. One girl even requested shoes be donated in lieu of birthday presents for her. Church youth also sponsor a young boy through Compassion International, a Colorado Springs-based Christian organization that works to break the cycle of poverty for needy children in 26 developing countries.
Locally, the junior high kids provide monthly assistance to an organization that feeds the hungry in a Greeley park.
Regular Sunday morning services are at 9 and 11 a.m. Small “Life Connect” groups meet in homes at various times. Children’s church, called “Extreme Kids,” is for the birth-12 years age group. A high school ministry, called “Impact,” meets Sundays at 5:30 p.m. And Sundays at 11 a.m., the junior high bunch gets together under the name “Shift.”
Anyone seeking further information about Cowboy Church can visit online at www.n3c.tv, or call 970 214-4649.
Visitors are sincerely welcome at all services. And remember — Jesus was born in a barn, rode a donkey and will return riding a white horse. So be sure to dress appropriately. ❖