BILL SHERMAN

Tulsa World via Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Tim Taylor, manager of the Drysdales western wear store in the Woodland Hills area, is an expert hat shaper.

He's also the founder of what he believes is the only cowboy church in the city of Tulsa.

The cowboy church movement, which draws men and women who embrace the western lifestyle, is one of the fastest-growing church movements in America.

Taylor's new Common Ground Cowboy Church has been meeting Sunday evenings since March 4 at the Common Ground Church in the former Fontana Six movie theater.

Taylor said he thought the cowboy church movement was growing because of its simplicity and because it appeals to a demographic of people who often don't go to church.

Many of them wear jeans, boots and cowboy hats all the time and don't feel comfortable in a traditional church setting, he said.

"We've had people tell us they can't come to church because they don't have church clothes," he said.

But the cowboy hats don't have to come off in cowboy church services.

Taylor also said cowboy churches have short, practical messages that are easily understood by people without a church background.

"Some preachers are so versed in the Bible that they assume everyone gets it when they don't," he said.

Taylor said he has been riding and working with horses all of his life.

His grandfather and father were ranchers and cattlemen in the Okemah area, where he was raised. "I was the first grandchild. My grandpa had two Palomino mares that were sisters, and it was determined before I was born that one of them was mine," he said.

As a boy, he rode nearly every day.

When he was about 6 years old, he had his first cattle-driving experience, riding a Palomino.

"We drove them about 12 miles down section line roads," he said.

"Of course, the horse knew how to do everything, I was just staying on her."

When he was in grade school his father bought him a Welch pony.

"She was green broke, and I was green broke," he said. "We learned together. She did run off with me a couple times."

He did some sales work as an adult but always preferred wearing boots and training horses.

"I hated getting up and putting on a suit and tie every morning. It just wasn't me."

He worked on cutting horse ranches in Oklahoma and Georgia.

Taylor credits his grandfather for his early spiritual development.

"He was one of the biggest influences in my life and certainly one of the greatest people I've ever known," he said.

"When you was with them, you was going to church, there was no doubt."

As a young man, he turned away from church to a life of drinking and partying, he said.

That changed a few years ago.

"It was like I woke up one morning and the Lord said, 'I'm tired of waiting for you. I need you. I've got something for you to do.' "

Last summer, he attended a Rodeo Bible Camp at Ocheleta and came away feeling that someone should start a cowboy church in Tulsa.

"Then I realized it was up to me," he said.

He talked with his pastor, Tom Dillingham, founder of Common Ground Church, and they agreed to start holding cowboy church services in one of the auditoriums at the church, 7810 E. 49th St.

Taylor's church is the second cowboy church started in the Tulsa area in the last six months. At the Cowboy Up Cowboy Church in Owasso, Pastor Scott McAfee preaches from horseback.

"We've got ranchers, farmers, people that love horses, trail riders and some people that just love the country atmosphere. It's growing every week," McAfee said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Recommended for you