Rugged Cross Cowboy Church experiences God's faithfulness

Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

MAGNOLIA – What began as a vision of 15-20 people has grown into a thriving cowboy church – known as Rugged Cross Cowboy Church – with an average of 185 in worship service.

The journey between these two points has been filled with steps of faith and signs of God’s faithfulness – and Mike Launius, pastor of Rugged Cross Cowboy Church, has witnessed it all firsthand.

Launius remembers the first interest meetings held to discuss starting a Bible study. He agreed to help with the Bible study, which launched in fall 2010, and soon afterward, the group decided to become a church.

Launius was trained as a church planter through the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC); and Rugged Cross Cowboy Church was constituted in 2011, holding its first service as a constituted church on Easter Sunday.

The church reaches out to nontraditional people who love the Western heritage and don’t feel comfortable in a traditional church, explained Launius.

He said he thinks the reason cowboy churches reach people that other churches don’t has to due with the propensity of cowboy churches to truly accept people just as they are.

“And it’s nothing against the traditional church by no means,” Launius said, “but we’ve got people (who) come in from turkey hunting with their camouflage on. We’ve got people (who) come in from rodeos at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and they come on to church and got their spurs and boots on and they have mud on their boots. … We truly accept people as they are. … We’ve got people in our church who haven’t been to church in 15-20 years and sure wouldn’t have ever thought about singing in church or being a leader in the church, and now they’re leaders of the church and they’re singing and taking a leadership role. And that wasn’t going on three years ago in their life.”

Read the rest of the story in the 6-26 edition of the Arkansas Baptist News.


Arkansas Baptist DR responds to Jonesboro area following damaging storms

JONESBORO – Arkansas disaster relief volunteers responded within hours June 5 following damaging winds and thunderstorms that swept through the north and northeast portion of the state – killing two people.

Thousands of people were reported to be without power as a result of the storms, which packed 80 mph “straight line” winds, downing trees, damaging roofs and at one location derailing a freight train. The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management reported there is damage in Jackson, Independence, Craighead, Lawrence, Mississippi and Poinsett counties.

Joe Garner, disaster relief director for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC), reported that teams from Walnut Street Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Tri-County Baptist Association, Wynne, Balboa Baptist Church, Hot Springs Village and Rock Bayou Baptist Association, Franklin, responded with volunteers. In all, 23 Arkansas Baptist disaster relief workers were involved with recovery efforts, completing 58 recovery jobs and two tarp jobs.

Thirty-five ministry contacts were made by volunteers, four evangelistic contacts and two professions of faith reported, according to ABSC officials.


Attorneys seek fees in Ark. same-sex case

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports in today’s edition (May 30) that the attorneys who prevailed in the lawsuit challenging the state's gay-marriage ban asked Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza to make the state and county defendants pay them at least $500,000 for their work in the case, an amount both "reasonable" and "substantial." 

Attorneys for the state of Arkansas responded immediately, calling the request premature at best, considering Piazza's decision to overturn the same-sex marriage prohibitions is on appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court. They've asked him to wait to make a decision until the high court rules, the Democrat-Gazette reported.

It is not known when the high court will make that ruling, as a transcript of the proceedings in Piazza's court has not been filed. Once filed and both sides submit written arguments, it is a process expected to take months, if not a year.

But if Piazza doesn't want to wait until the Supreme Court's decision, the state's lawyers want him to make the plaintiffs' attorneys show evidence to support their request, with the possibility of having a hearing on the question of payment, court filings show, the newspaper said. 

Plaintiffs in the case are 21 same-sex couples, including eight who were legally married in other jurisdictions and a single woman seeking to divorce a spouse she married in New York, the Democrat-Gazette reports. Defendants include the state departments of Health, and Finance and Administration, and county clerks in Pulaski, White, Lonoke, Conway, Saline and Washington counties, where some of the plaintiffs have been refused marriage licenses, the filing states.

The first same-sex marriage in Arkansas occurred on May 10 at the Carroll County Courthouse in Eureka Springs, according to the Democrat-Gazette. Hundreds of weddings followed, many of them at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock where clergy members volunteered to perform the ceremonies after the gay couples obtained marriage licenses.

Marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples in Arkansas for a week – from the day after Piazza's ruling May 9 until May 16, when the high court issued a stay. During that week, only a few counties, mostly those listed as defendants in the lawsuit – issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Democrat-Gazette reported.

Same-sex marriage is prohibited in 33 states, with each ban being challenged in court. Since the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, judges in 21 states have ruled that their states' gay-marriage bans are unconstitutional (Link to the full text of the decision PDF). Three such decisions have occurred since Piazza invalidated the Arkansas law three weeks ago.

Piazza ruled that Arkansas' prohibition, enacted through statute in 1997, and a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004, violate guarantees of equal protection under the state and federal constitutions, the Democrat-Gazette reported.

Read the article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (subscription required).


Ronnie Floyd: ‘We’ve got to make a difference’ (part 2)

Caleb Yarbrough
Arkansas Baptist News

SPRINGDALE – This is the second of a two-part interview with Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas and a candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In this installment, Floyd is asked about his church’s commitment to giving through the Cooperative Program (CP) and how churches today should support CP giving, his small church roots, his involvement in LifeWay Christian Resources curriculum, the role of state conventions and associations and the question of Calvinism in the SBC.

ABN: The first time you ran for SBC president in 2006 your church was criticized for not giving enough through the Cooperative Program. Since 2006, you have led Cross Church to increase its CP giving. Can you explain? Why the change? (Editor’s Note: Cross Church is now the top giving CP church in Arkansas. In 2013, Cross Church had $17,209,876 in total undesignated receipts and gave $716,827 – 4.17 percent – to CP).

FloydFloyd: Well, first of all for clarification, we were at times not represented in what we were truly giving through the Cooperative Program. Our church had made a decision, two or three years earlier maybe, that we give a smaller portion through our convention and then the larger portion toward the other (missions causes). Well, by Southern Baptist definition of the Cooperative Program, at least at that time, they did not count the other (causes). They counted only what came through the SBC state conventions. That word never got really out there, fully, what we were doing. But I want to make it real clear – we were not doing what we needed to be doing. I’m not by any means saying we shouldn’t have done more. Through all that, I came back from that convention and, if I am not mistaken, within 30 to 60 days, we recommitted … because there were also some things going on at the state convention that were encouraging to us and I lead our men and made a strong appeal. And slowly we started making a track through this, and when GCR (Great Commission Resurgence) was brought about, … we were already making a starter commitment. … And when GCR was passed, one of the major things we did was that I chose to get off national television so that we would have quicker money accessible toward allocating toward and through the Cooperative Program. We got off national television. I stood up and told my church we were doing that. I’d been on national television since the early 1990s. So, we made that commitment and will continue to excel in that and we will continue next year’s budget excelling in that. (We) have done that in the worst economy that has ever affected this region in my 27 years. But we’ve done it convictionally, and the Lord has just blessed, unbelievably.

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Greg Addison named ABSC associate executive director

LITTLE ROCK – Greg Addison, 49, pastor of First Baptist Church, Cabot, since February 2007, has been named associate executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC).

AddisonAddison, who was ABSC president from 2012-13, is expected to begin his new duties July 1. He replaces Jimmie Sheffield, who has served as interim associate executive director since 2013.

"It is exciting and a great honor to have Greg Addison working for the churches in the Arkansas Baptist State Convention," said J.D. "Sonny" Tucker, ABSC executive director. "The state fell in love with Greg as they got to know him while he was serving as state convention president. His experience as pastor, service as state convention president, passion for evangelism and his background as an attorney will make him a valuable asset to Arkansas Baptists."

Prior to serving at First Baptist, Cabot, Addison was pastor of East Side Baptist Church, Paragould, from 2002 to 2007.

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