Heber Springs cowboy church ready to make move to new home

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published December 16, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 14, 2012 at 12:08 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Brad Curtis is pastor of the Mountain Top Cowboy Church, which will move its congregation from a cattle sale barn to a new 15,000-square-foot facility near Heber Springs in January.

— Mountain Top Cowboy Church will soon move out of the sale barn that has housed the congregation for more than three years.

Starting in early 2013, the church will move into a new space near the intersection of Arkansas 5 and Arkansas 25 in Heber Springs. The 15,000-square-foot building rests on 16 acres of property and will come as a welcome expansion for a congregation that has quickly outgrown its former home.

“The [sale barn] is made to seat around 300 people, but we see 350 or 400 people arriving every Sunday,” head pastor Brad Curtis said. “We’re at the point that we’re filled to capacity, and there’s really no parking. It’s starting to turn some people away when they know they can’t get a seat.”

The Mountain Top church had its inaugural service the first Sunday in February 2009. Curtis hopes the new building, about two miles from the sale barn, will be open in time for the congregation to celebrate its fourth anniversary in February.

The new building is impossible to miss, standing out in deep red against a freshly leveled dirt lot. Construction began in August, but finding a permanent spot for the church has long been a goal.

“The land was available for about a year before we purchased it,” Curtis said. “We were truly blessed to be able to do this.”

Though the church is Southern Baptist in doctrine, the main philosophy behind the cowboy church is for people to come as they are. Jeans, boots and cowboy hats are a norm on Sundays, and Curtis said the new building will reflect that lifestyle.

“The new space won’t have any of the traditional ‘church dressings,’” Curtis said. “We’re not changing who we are.”

A large, multi-functional room will take the place of a traditional sanctuary. The look is simple with concrete floors, unfinished wood paneling on the walls and a stage in the front for pastors and their bluegrass worship band. Stackable chairs will take the place of pews, and a garage door on the side means they could even move a tractor in if they needed to.

“I’m looking for an old wagon wheel to use as a pulpit, although I’m more of a walking pastor,” Curtis said.

The rest of the building space includes a kitchen for morning coffee and classrooms for children and infants. While much of the additional acreage will be dedicated to parking, Curtis said, plans are in the works for an outdoor arena for rodeo activities.

“That’s who we are,” Curtis said. “Church outings aren’t softball or skiing. … We hold rodeos.”

For Curtis, the move isn’t a big event. The point of the church, he said, is the people, not the building. Though he said the move may have disrupted the congregation early on, Curtis believes the transition will be an easy one for the now tightknit bunch.

Members of the Mountain Top church come from as far as 80 miles and around six counties to attend services. Of the more than a dozen “cowboy churches” in Arkansas, the closest to Mountain Top are congregations in Ward and Batesville.

Curtis believes the church has seen quick growth as a result of its relaxed atmosphere and the way the congregation is able to reach out to adult men.

“If you get the father, you get the family,” Curtis said.

The new building will allow the congregation to eventually double in size, with room for 600 to 700 people. Curtis said that if the congregation continues to grow as it has been, the church may have to expand again in a few years.

“The [sale barn] was home for a long time,” Curtis said. “There was a rooster who would walk around behind me every Sunday that was pretty loud, though. … Some of it I won’t miss.”

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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