CLINTON, Ark. – The National Championship Chuckwagon Races draw an estimated 20,000 people to rural Clinton each Labor Day weekend.
Seeing the event as an outreach opportunity, several Arkansas Baptist State Convention cowboy churches set up at the races to share the Gospel, hand out Bibles and simply fellowship with those in attendance. The event draws people from across the nation and even internationally.
Cross Bar C Cowboy Church Pastor Greg Spann said they bring a classic chuckwagon to the races to set up among the vendors.
“We just talk and share and are there to pray if they need to pray or need encouragement. Whatever we can do to witness to them,” Spann said.
Damascus Road Cowboy Church Pastor Jeff Deckard described the race as a “wide open ministry.” It’s just a bit of a rougher crowd, he said.
“We have to understand that ministry sometimes is a little bit on the dirty side. It’s not always clean cut. You’ve got drunks coming by. You’ve got people who don’t go to church, who don’t want anything to do with church, but you engage them with a smile and just talk with them. You can usually strike up a pretty good conversation geared toward the Lord one way or another,” Deckard said.
“A lot of times, we want to hand pick what ministry looks like. In the cowboy world, you’ve got to go and meet them where they’re at. Sometimes that is not the best conditions, but that is where God has got you. That is where the wounded are. That is where the battlefield is at. That is why we go there.”
Several of the Cowboy Church guys use the method of three circles to share the Gospel. The three circles represent God’s design, brokenness and the Gospel.
“It’s just a good outreach. Everybody who walks by, they don’t engage. They just kind of nod their head at you and keep on walking. You’re not there to beat them over the head with the scripture. You’re there to invite them in just like Christ did,” Deckard said. “The ministry field is wide open there. It’s just waiting for people to step into it.”
Additionally, Whispering Pines Cowboy Church Pastor Wes Sparks said their outreach is “more than just standing there sharing the Gospel with people.”
“It’s meeting people and them getting to see that we’re just like them and getting to invite them to a church,” he said. “I feel like those people could see themselves being at church with us. It makes them realize we’re normal people. We’re not somebody that they can’t hang out with.”
In addition to having a booth set up, a cowboy church service is held on the final Sunday of the event. For the last three years that service has been led by Grace Cowboy Church Pastor Chris Barnes and the Grace Cowboy Church Band. They had an estimated 200 people attend the service.
“At that point, you may be reaching some people who don’t get to hear the Gospel,” Sparks said. “One of the things that the cowboy churches do that I think is outstanding is that their preachers share the Gospel in a way that I think is easy to understand.”
Tying it in with the chuckwagon races, Barnes’ sermon on Sunday was about the race of life and how to reach the finish line.