Amid a sea of cowboy hats and baseball caps, boots and jeans; add the smells of sweet clover hay, sawdust, and yes, even cow manure one might think you’re getting ready to attend an auction at a sale barn. But it’s not auction night at the Goreville Livestock Auction building. Instead, Thursday night at 7 PM is when an average crowd of 300 show up to attend Southern Range Cowboy Church at 448 Rt. 37 in Goreville, Illinois.
Jason Forby, of Pulley’s Mill comes forward to lead the service after a round of worship music. His wife Sarah heads the worship team. A wagon in the middle of the auction ring holds the band of guitar players and a keyboard. A drummer sits off to the side where you might hear an occasional cowbell in place of cymbals. Water baptisms are done in a horse trough.
Forby’s style is not “preachy,” he likes to keep it short and simple and relates everything to real life just like in the parables Jesus told. He follows no protocol or bulletins. The message this night was on “Victory.” He has a laid back style, for this down home group of hard-working country folk. He encourages those attending, “When the going gets tough, you’re on the threshold. Victory is in the air!” He preaches a straight-forward message of a one-on-one relationship with Jesus.
Forby trains and shows horses for a living and he and his family are gone most weekends. He says, “We had a little church service on the weekend, and even had a real preacher, but he got in a motorcycle wreck. I don’t even call myself a preacher, but we were either going to quit having it or I was to step up or take the reins.” He then felt led to start a church for those who show livestock and don’t get the chance to attend church on Sunday, or for some who might feel uncomfortable attending “regular church.”
Cowboy churches have been springing up across the country for the last 40 years. January 2010 marks the date when this Southern Illinois Cowboy Church was born. Forby’s wife Sarah says, “I lived as a fake Christian for many years, but we have focused Cowboy Church for people just to be real and to be themselves.” For information contact Forby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Mary Elliott