Three Trees Cowboy Church in Wynne. (Submitted)
Pastor Tracy Wilson was called to plant Three Trees Cowboy Church in Wynne roughly 12 years ago. Since then, the church has gone on to start five other plants with a sixth cowboy church plant gearing up to begin services on Sunday, May 7.
Three Trees is one of four churches in the state of Arkansas the North American Mission Board qualifies as a multiplying church, said Arkansas Baptist State Convention Church Plant Strategist Jay Ham.
“We believe churches plant churches and that they should be raising men and women out of their pews who are going to be the next church,” Ham said.
That’s exactly what Three Trees has been doing. The multiplying began just six months into establishing Three Trees as a church plant when they partnered with Higher Trails Cowboy Church in Walcott to plant Cross Trail Cowboy Church in Pocahontas.
About three years into their existence, Three Trees then planted Rusty Nails Cowboy Church in Forrest City, pastored by Hillmon Davis.
Three Trees’ third church plant was Damascus Road Cowboy Church in Damascus, pastored by Jeff Deckard, which was followed by Drover Cowboy Church in Harrisburg, pastored by Chance Watson.
Additionally, Three Trees Missions Pastor Chris Stover developed a ministry on a local sweet potato farm for the seasonal workers that come to Wynne from Mexico. They partnered with Carlos Lozano, a Hispanic pastor from Jonesboro, on the Hispanic ministry.
Which leads to their sixth church plant, Emmanuel Cowboy Church.
“The Lord has really decided to do some pretty incredible things with our little ministry,” Wilson said, “About every 45 minutes, starting in Forrest City, you can go straight up Hwy. 1 and find a cowboy church.”
Leading Emmanuel Cowboy Church, which is the first cowboy church plant since COVID, is Pastor Michael Partain.
Partain didn’t come to faith in the Lord until he was 27 years old. The soon to be 37-year-old said the last 10 years have been a fast, long journey.
Partain and his wife initially joined more of a contemporary church, where they served for a couple years. Feeling there was more out there, they decided to explore other churches.
The couple was introduced to Three Trees Cowboy Church in Wynne on a Sunday in 2017. “We showed up and fell in love and we never left. I was encouraged. We were accepted. I felt at home,” Partain said.
Roughly a year later, Partain learned God had laid it on the heart of Watson to plant a cowboy church in Partain’s hometown of Harrisburg. He joined the core group church planting team and helped plant Drover Cowboy Church, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in October 2019.
About halfway through that church plant, however, Partain told himself he would never plant a church again, calling it exhausting, messy and chaotic at times.
“I didn’t have a desire. I had a desire for ministry, to love people and lead people. I just didn’t have a desire to ever be a part of a church plant,” Partain said. Partain then went on to take the role of full-time associate pastor and worship leader at Three Trees Cowboy Church.
“I loved it there, but still knew this wasn’t it,” he said. Then, in January of 2022, Partain said God changed his heart while leaving Jonesboro after testing for COVID.
“We were leaving the clinic and driving back to Wynne, and He just spoke to my heart, you need to come to northern Jonesboro— Brookland—and plant a cowboy church,” Partain said.
Partain went several months without saying anything to anybody, including his wife and Wilson, until he knew it was nothing of him and it was everything of God.
“Then I just surrendered. I told God, I’ll do anything you want me to do, whatever that looks like,” he said. That meant planting Emmanuel Cowboy Church, which kicks off its first service 10 a.m. Sunday, May 7, on the campus of Nettleton Baptist Church. Immediately after the service, Partain said there will be a block party on site with bounce houses, popcorn machines, horses and ponies and more.
“We’re hoping for a big day,” he said.
Partain said a cowboy church is an environment that is inviting to everyone.
“It is a place where I can serve, I can lead, and I can love people right where they’re at. The majority of the cowboy church, what I’ve found, is just full of blue-collared everyday working people. They can come, listen to the truth and they can worship,” Partain said.
Cowboy churches celebrate western culture and western heritage in the way they do ministry and in their services. Talking about how cowboy churches minister, Ham referenced a quote by Pastor Vance Pitman that said, ““Your job, your skills and your passions are meant to be used where you live, work and play for the glory of God.”
Ham thinks that is seen best in the cowboy church world.
“They take ministry to the people that they see at the feed store and the people they see at the rodeos and the people they see around their communities. They see them as their mission field. They aren’t trying to start a club or trying to start a clique,” Ham said. “What I hear over and over again with the cowboy churches is it is judgement free, open arms. We don’t care where you were last night, we’re just glad you’re here today. I think that is something that is attractive to the lost world. I feel like it’s been very effective in reaching people.”
Partain said his mission is not to just evangelize and not to just be a shepherd, but to make disciples that make disciples that go on and plant churches. “I told God several years ago, I am not your man. I am not your guy. He proved otherwise. As long as He can keep me out of the way I believe He is going to do great things up here,” he said.
If people are interested in church planting, Wilson said to make sure it’s a calling. Pray about it.
“It has to be a call from God to go and plant,” he said.