Visiting a cowboy church
by Samantha Emerson, a junior at Stephen F. Austin State University. Emerson is from Plano. This story was written in the feature writing class taught by Dr. Linda Bond.
Josh Hart is a photojournalism major at SFASU. He is an intern at the Nacogdoches County Chamber.
Nacogdoches County is home to 64,000 people who all have the choice to attend more than three hundred churches in the area. For many locals traditional Christian churches are home, but for about 250 people, Impact Cowboy Church is their non-denominational church of choice.
While some people would assume that a cowboy church service is held around a fire with rugged, Luchesse boot-wearing cowboys riding in on their horses, upon walking into the sanctuary, my initial perception was completely changed. Yes, the scuff of boots across the concrete floors was heard, and many there wore cowboy-style hats. But after looking among the congregation members, it was a far more diverse group then expected - people of all walks of life peppered the plastic seats, not the walnut and maroon upholstered pews that are so familiar to traditional houses of worship. Different races were present, ranging from older couples, to working-class families and small children who giggled and cooed throughout the service. This was a family oriented atmosphere, and the pastor’s sermon was one of the most practical and applicable messages I have ever heard.
Pastor Stanley King and his wife Caye started Impact as a church plant from their larger home church in Arlington. The first service was held four years ago, and on Easter Sunday in 2011 the congregation opened doors to their very own sanctuary, a simple but comfortable building on 53 acres that is only 6 miles from downtown Nacogdoches.
Pastor Stan makes sure that an emphasis on acceptance and service is made clear when bringing new members to the church.
“Profit does not make for a good church, serving others does” said Stan. “We may not have chandeliers, but if someone walked in our doors and simply needed formula for their child, we would have the means and the heart to provide it.”
Stan said that only about three percent of the congregation fit the typical cowboy description, but the majority of its members are the perfect representation of average, middle-class America. Among the members are oilfield workers, contractors, teachers, CASA workers and stay-at-home mothers.
While Stan relates to the people that walk in his church’s doors, he devotes 100 percent of his time to the ministry. Years ago, Stan was the vice president of a trucking company, Caye was a teacher, but he graduated with a pastoral degree from Christ for Nations after feeling a calling to serve.
Caye has roots in the Nacogdoches area and said that the decision to bring a church to Nacogdoches arose from the need for a type of worship that stood out from the hundreds of churches that the town already had. “We just identified with the country lifestyle. It was more laid back and the delivery of the message is different,” she said.
And the message was so different. Not in a stand-out charismatic tele-preacher type of message, but rather in a genuine, hitting-home kind of way.
From the back rows of the pews, Stan’s voice could be heard as intimately as if he was sitting across the table in a restaurant. He spoke with the warmness of a father encouraging his son after a pee-wee football game. Stan spoke about spiritual gifts - the idea that every person is given his or her own talent or skill so that the body of Christ (churchgoers) may work together in a fashion that is positive and uplifting.
He called out members by first name, walked up to them, and thanked them for their spiritual gift; he thanked one member for having the gift of building, and for his contribution to a new arena that is being built, he thanked another for his gift of service to the youth ministry, and he thanked another man for his gift of joyfulness.
“Many people feel like they just can’t find a fit at other churches. They come one time and find a place with us,” said Stan.
Other members like Lisa Burgay have felt that Impact Cowboy Church is their church home. “We’re one big happy family. We love each other, hug each other, and we eat together on Wednesday nights. Anyone can come, and if you come once, you’re a member to us. You’re accepted,” Burgay said.
And for many Nacogdoches citizens that have average, every-day struggles, acceptance is the answer to their prayers.
Impact Cowboy Church is a member of the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce. Other churches that are chamber members are:
› Covenant Church of Nacogdoches
› Davis Memorial Church of God in Christ
› First Baptist Church
› Fredonia Hill Baptist Church
› Grace Bible Church
› International Church of Nacogdoches - formerly First Assembly of God
› New Hope Congregational Methodist Church
› North Street Church of Christ
› Redeemer Lutheran Church & Student Center - Robert Kobler
› Unity Church of Christianity
› Vineyard Church of Nacogdoches
› Westminster Presbyterian Church
Find contact information for these and all chamber members in the online directory at nacogdoches.org or the Nacogdoches Guide & Chamber Directory available at the Chamber, 2516 North St.