Chaplain Paul Scholtz prays during an altar call at a rodeo Bible camp in Colorado Springs.
Paul and Linda Scholtz had to chart their own course when they began ministering among cowboys. In 1976, the newlyweds, recent graduates of Central Bible College [AGTS '76; CBC '74], went on the road with a pickup truck, a saddle horse and $16 between them.
“We initially didn’t see this as a ministry,” Linda says. “But God uses the things that we love.”
Soon, rodeo organizers asked the couple to minister in an environment where professional cowboys often faced derailment by vices ranging from alcohol to prostitutes.
“We saw an incredible need for Jesus among young people who had gifted athletic abilities, yet were overcome by sin,” Paul says.
Paul Scholtz competes in the National Cavalry Competition.
The Scholtzes gained credibility and trust by being active rodeo participants themselves. Paul rode saddle broncs and Linda became a Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association trick rider, twice advancing to National Finals Rodeo. Paul worked a physically demanding schedule — up at 4 a.m. daily sorting horses, bulls, calves and steers; then feeding 500 bales of hay; sorting cattle in the pit area; untying cattle for bulldogging and roping contests — all while conducting praying meetings between performances. When Paul couldn’t gain access to the arena, he preached from the back of a cattle truck. Meanwhile, during cowboy church, Linda held Cowkid Sunday School and puppet shows for children.
Attendance at prayer meetings grew, and many contestants figured out that they needed something beyond competition to provide lasting satisfaction. Over the years, the Scholtzes, through preaching and other ministry efforts, have helped transform rodeo to become a family sport.
The couple averages traveling 80,000 miles annually in their Speed the Light vehicle from their base in Boone, Colo. Part of their repertoire now involves conducting about 10 four-day rodeo Bible camps a year for junior and senior high youth, blending Bible teaching and rodeo instruction with events such as calf roping, bareback riding, bull riding and saddle bronc riding. Paul, who has been a Royal Ranger commander since 1992, also does several Royal Ranger rodeos each year. The still youthful-looking Linda conducts around a dozen trick riding camps annually.
Although their days of active rodeo event participants are long past, the Scholtzes still can handle horses quite well, even though Paul, who walks with a limp, has had complications from hip surgeries.
AG churches in the Rocky Mountain District have raised funds to transform the missionaries’ arena into a working rodeo and Bible camp. The facility, dedicated in September, features a rodeo arena with bucking chutes, holding pens and grandstands. Consequently, the Scholtzes are saving time, energy and expense because they don’t have to transport livestock and equipment all over the country.
Paul goes nowhere without his cowboy hat and boots. His guttural voice enhances an exterior image as a tough hombre.
“We can’t wait for cowboys to throw their hats and boots away and walk into church because they’re not going to do that,” Paul says. “God demands that we engage the culture.”
—John W. Kennedy. This article originally appeared in the January 13, 2013 issue of the Pentecostal Evangel under the title "AG Missionaries Help Transform Rodeo Circuit"