BY DAN IRWIN DIRWIN@NCNEWSONLINE.COM





Why wait for the Apocalypse? True, horses -- four of them -- play a prominent role in end-time prophecy in the book of Revelation. But Dale Brenneman and his friend Ron Nagel wanted to make some sort of equestrian impact for God long before that. So 18 years ago, the two pooled their unbridled enthusiasm for horses and began a local chapter of Cowboys for Christ. Members meet two Sundays a month at Dale and Faith Brenneman's home in Slippery Rock Township for a trail ride (bring your own horse), Cowboy Church around a campfire and a potluck dinner. The chapter's primary purpose, though, is to provide worship services at horse shows, rodeos and livestock auctions throughout the area. Cowboys for Christ is an international organization founded in 1970 by Ted K. Pressley. Nagel -- now on the pastoral staff at New Life Baptist Church in New Wilmington -- learned of it while attending Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, in 1988, Brenneman said. "We had always kind of traveled the same roads, as far as having horses when we were young, and then getting back into them after having our own families," said Brenneman, who also shoed horses for nearly two decades. "We had always talked about what we could do to serve the Lord through the horses, because we knew they were a gift. "We always thought it would be a Christian camp, something for kids." Instead, Nagel and Brenneman wound up being Cowboys for Christ, and it wasn't long after they set up their local chapter that calls began coming in from all over with requests for services. "God's hand was in it," Brenneman said. "He was saying, "I want more than just a couple of weekends a summer.' "Now every week we're on the road somewhere, sometimes two and three a Sunday, from about Palm Sunday until October." Though most of the calls from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the group has provided services as far away as Kentucky and Massachusetts, Brenneman said. Closer to home, chapter members are a regular at the Lawrence County Fair, where they've had a booth and provided both Christian literature and food for bull riders and other rodeo members. They're eliminating the booth this year, but they still plan on rustling up the necessary grub for visiting cowboys. Bob and Carol Steffler of Ellwood City have been part of the chapter since its inception. According to Carol, there are three reasons why the couple continue to ride out each week for God. "First, it's our love for Jesus Christ," she said. "Next, our love for horses; and next, wanting to see the gospel spread to people who have the same love we do. "Some of them don't know Jesus Christ. The horses are a common ground. There's a real camaraderie among all people who own horses." Bob Steffler added: "We've dedicated our horses to the Lord -- our lives, our horses and everything we own. That's how God uses us, to bring the gospel to horse people." Group members range from children through adults in their 60s. And, Faith Brenneman noted, new members are welcome. "Ron (Nagel) has gone on to full-time ministry now, and we really miss him," she said. "Some Sundays, there's two or three places that want a service, and we can't do them all, so we've had to eliminate some of those. "So we're hoping the Lord will bring someone in who wants to do some of that."



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