Rodeo Week-Livingston Montana Church Planting

Saturday –

I flew into Bozeman yesterday. Cody Wood and Paul Seddon picked me up at the airport. This is their third summer in Montana. Their families moved to Livingston in 2007. They were two of my North American Church Planting students during my time at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I don’t want to steal their thunder, because they are contributing a chapter to a book I am editing on church planting in North America. But, they are doing some great things and I want to pass on some of their activities/strategies through this site.

The Context: Livingston is a small town, approximately 7,500 on the Yellowstone River about 40 miles east of Bozeman. Trout fishing, tourism, and traffic on the way to Yellowstone National Park drive the economy in the summer. Ranching is the major industry. There are several subcultures in Livingston. There are the born and bred Montanans, some of the ranches have been in the family since the original settlers. There is also a newer group who I refer to as Biocentrists.  They are here to enjoy nature.  You could subgroup the people by two other terms: bunny huggers and bunny blasters. Reaching the whole community is a challenge. That is where the Holy Spirit is essential. Ninety plus percent of the population in Montana are unchurched and there are over 200 identified people groups in the state. Livingston’s largest church is C.U.T., The Church Universal Triumphant, a cult.

The biggest event in Livingston is Rodeo Week. The Livingston Rodeo is one of the top ten rodeos in the U.S. All the top bull riders, barrel racers, and ropers will be here. The group that organize the rodeo is the Rodeo Association. It is the most prestigious organization in the valley. You are invited to join by the commission. When Cody and Paul arrived in town they immediately looked for ways to connect with the culture. Since that time they have managed to become involved in all the activities, including the Pig Wrestling fund raiser. For those of you who have never been to the more colorful locations in North America pig wrestling is when a team of four people (there are male, female, and coed categories) attempt to place a 250 pound pig in a barrel within 30 seconds. For some reason the pig usually doesn’t wnat to get into the barrel so it is not as easy as it sounds, and the odds of four to one are not fair. The pig has the advantage. They are the only pastors in the valley who have entered the pig fund raiser.

Keith, Cody, Aaron, and Paul after their defeat at the hands (feet) of the pig.

Keith, Cody, Aaron, and Paul after their defeat at the hands (feet) of the pig.

Cody and Paul had lined up several mission teams to come out the first summer, which was part of their pre-deployment strategy. So, they volunteered to pick up the trash around the rodeo grounds. At the end of the rodeo the association gave them a “donation” of $500 for the work. They turned around and donated it to the rodeo. The association was surprised when Cornerstone volunteered to do the trash clean up a second year. They commented that no one had ever done the clean up a second year.  Cornerstone also volunteered to host the hospitality tent. The tent is for the cowboys. C &P used the state block party equipment for the tent and provided snow cones and cotton candy. Yes, bull riders like snow cones and cotton candy. At the end of the rodeo the association members asked C&P to join. There are people who have lived their whole lives in the valley and never have been asked ot join the Rodeo Association. It is a God thing that two newcomers from Virginia and Florida would be association members. So if you come to Livingston during rodeo you will see Cody and Paul in their Justin boots, Wrangler jeans, western shirts, and white straw cowboy hats (the required rodeo uniform) working the stock, stripping the gear off the bulls after the ride, opening the bull chute, or whatever else needs to be done during rodeo.

Aaron's baptism the day after the pig wrestling.

Aaron's baptism the day after the pig wrestling.

This week I will be working at the grounds preparing for Wednesday’s opening events and tearing out walls in their new building. (More on what God is doing on the building needs later.)

P.S. Last night we had elk and antelope steaks, Tiffany is a great cook. You have to love Montana! I got my boots and Wranglers out of the closet before I came. I’m ready for Rodeo Week. And, I am wearing my big “Montana Centennial” buckle that was given to me by Dave Howeth, the former Director of Missions and CP Strategist for the Treasure State Baptist Association. He told me that if I found him five church planters he would give me a buckle. God found the planters and I got the buckle. Belt buckles are the trophies in cowboy culture. You wear them instead of putting them on the mantle. It has a bronze rainbow trout on it and is a limited edition. It is good to be visiting the west again.

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