CHEYENNE – Susie McEntire and Mark Eaton advocated for love during the Cowboy Church service Sunday morning at Frontier Park Arena.
As people filed into the arena, McEntire, the younger sister of country music star Reba McEntire, shared her family’s long history with Cheyenne Frontier Days, dating to the 1920s and including her grandfather’s 1934 steer roping championship. She continues the family’s long ties to the event, regularly hosting Cowboy Church with her husband, Mark Eaton.
A talented musician with 20 CDs to her name, McEntire kept the service alive with music, starting with “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” and encouraging the crowd to sing along with “Amazing Grace.”
The couple invited world champion bullfighter Dusty Tuckness of Meeteetse, Wyoming, to share his story. He related how his faith began to grow at a rodeo Bible camp when he was a teen.
“I started realizing that I wasn’t going to a rodeo camp, I was going to a Bible camp that allowed me to fight bulls,” Tuckness said. “At that point, everything started really changing for me in a big way, more spiritually than physically.”
Encouraging the audience to “be focused, be self-driven. See what God has in store for you,” Tuckness related a story of a woman who was fed up with church after seeing people on their phones during worship and behaving in un-Christlike ways. Before leaving the church, the pastor asked her to fill a glass to the brim and walk around the church three times.
Tuckness said the pastor then asked, “‘When you were carrying that cup of water around the church, did you notice anybody on their phone or what other people did that weekend?’ My point with that is if we get focused with what God has in our lives that the distraction of the world cannot come over us,” he said, drawing applause from the audience. “I think if we can just keep that focus and keep Jesus No. 1, all things are good.”
More music pulled the service along, with songs including “Where the Green Grass Grows” and “If There Hadn’t Been You” before McEntire welcomed her husband to the stage. McEntire and Eaton, a pastor from Seattle, Washington, were married in 2009, and the couple live on a ranch in Oklahoma.
“This Seattle boy has forever been changed by you all, and I appreciate it deeply,” Eaton told the crowd gathered for Sunday’s service. “Before I met you, there were some pretty dark days.”
He told about a mix CD his daughter gave him in 2006 that included the song “The Advocate.”
“Jesus advocates for the wounded and the broken,” he said, imagining Satan laughing at him for his sins, but Jesus coming to his defense.
He related growing up in a conservative home and learning to fear God as a child. He told of the shame he felt after sneaking pornography from his neighbor’s garage and cigarettes from his aunts’ purses, and described the “pressure of trying to behave for an angry, stoic God who I believed was just waiting in the heavens to catch me doing something wrong.”
As a young adult, he started a ministry teaching youth wilderness survival. At a mission conference, a couple asked him to meet with their son, “Tiny Tim,” who ran a tattoo shop and had rejected everything about the gospel. He didn’t know what to do when Tiny Tim sent him away.
Almost three decades later, he reached out to Tiny Tim once more, this time as a different man after God “knocked all of that silly performance, good boy, behave, do more, try harder-based theology.”
“My vision now of God was in the version of Jesus who died for me just as I was, and stood in the heavenlies, advocating for us and advocating for Mark, the man who’s had an affair, the man who’s been unfaithful, the man who lost his marriage, the man who lost the respect of his children and his community, and Jesus said, ‘he’s mine.’ So, I limped into Tiny Tim’s a different man.”
While Eaton got two tattoos on his arm, the two men talked for hours about Jesus, grace and relationships, and Tiny Tim related being abused as a child by a missionary. The men became friends, and Tim Sconce is now a member of the worship team at his local church.
“So I ask you this: These tattoos cost me $500. Would you spend $500 to help get somebody back in the kingdom?” Eaton said, adding that God used Tim Sconce to redeem him.
“You may be tempted to judge him, but he’s one of us,” Eaton said. “And I advocate for Big Tim Sconce just like Jesus advocates for broken Mark Eaton.”
Eaton ended his message by telling the crowd to “pray three hours a day, read your Bible … go to church always” before stopping abruptly. “Oops, I read that wrong,” he said, going on to read John 13:34-35: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Terry Duiker of Cheyenne called the service “fabulous.”
“We come every year,” he said. “It’s a great message, and it’s a great venue to hear the message, and it’s just neat to see all of these people from all over the country.”
Charlie Stewart from Alabama also enjoyed the service.
“I think it was excellent,” Stewart said. “It was short and sweet and right to the point. It had a lot of good, everyday life facts.”
He said he liked the atmosphere at the arena and the testimony from Tuckness.
“It just fit with the rodeo,” he said. “It was really good. I’d love to hear them in Alabama share a little of that with us.”
Monte and Becky Stauffer of Gretna, Nebraska, said this year is their first year attending CFD, but they have seen McEntire and Eaton at Cowboy Church services at the Timed Event Finals in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
“We always enjoy hearing her message and music,” Becky Stauffer said.
The Stauffers were looking for a church to attend while they were in town for the rodeo and were happy to find the Cowboy Church service.
“She’s always so sweet,” Becky Stauffer said of McEntire. “She always has a really good message. I like how they relate their life stories to their faith and how they’ll bring in cowboys. … You get to personally meet them and get to know them better.”