My name is Tony Shoulders and yes I am related to Jim Shoulders... I am his nephew. I guess you could say that the name Shoulders is rather famous in the sport of rodeo. He won 16 World Titles riding bareback horses & bulls. My Dad and Mom both had professional rodeo careers in the 1940's & 50's. So, I'm proud of my family's heritage in rodeo... and therefore the famous last name and all... but I really didn't have to do a whole lot to earn it. Shoulders is the name they tagged me with when I came out of Mom's oven. If my last name had been Earnhart or Andretti, I would have probably grown up driving race cars instead of riding bulls and bucking horses! Nevertheless, I started riding calves when I was 3 years old, and as I got older the calves got bigger. My rodeo career began in junior rodeo and progressed to high school and college rodeo, and then on to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
One 4th of July I was entered in Prescott Arizona's PRCA rodeo. Me and my traveling partner were at the town square killing some time before the rodeo performance started that evening. We were just watching girls go by (this was before I started dating Cindy) and a young guy, around 16 years old, came walking up to me. I noticed right away that he wasn't a cowboy, so I thought he must be a rodeo fan, and expected him to ask me something about the rodeo.
He said, "Hey man, have you been saved?" I answered, "Saved from what?" He said, "Have you been born again?" I said, "WHAT?" He then said, "Do you know Jesus?" I sarcastically replied, "Well, I haven't seen Him today". He then asked, "Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" My next thought was, "Oh no, this is one of those "Jesus freaks" that you hear about, and he's after me!" I stuttered and stammered and answered, "Well, uh yeah, my mom played the organ at church and I was an alter boy and I used to carry the Big Cross and light all the candles". The young man said, "I didn't ask you where you went to church, I asked you, "Do you know Jesus?" I couldn't give him a straight answer, so I gave him some of my "cowboy theology." I explained to him that "I was a cowboy, and cowboys do things different... we are mostly good ol' boys and we don't ask for any special favors, but someday we will make that last ride where the grass is stirrup high and our entry fees are paid, etc. etc..." And if that wasn't good enough, I just knew that..."Somehow God must know that I'm the nephew of Jim Shoulders!"
After he had patiently listened to my long answer to his short question, he quoted me a couple of verses that he said were in the Bible... (I didn't know if they were or not.) but they sure screwed up all my religious thinking...
"For it is by grace you are saved through faith, not of your doing, it is gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9 He explained that I couldn't earn my way into heaven, no matter what. Cowboy or not; no matter how good I am or what I've done in or out of the arena; it's not even how big a name or who I'm related to that counts. He said, "The "cowboy way" won't work because Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man comes to My Father except by Me." John 14:6 The Way not a way. We have got to do it His way and not our way!"
He told me "Jesus said, "We all must be born again." John 3:3 and that is doing it His way." He said, "The Lord has made it easy for us, "So if you will confess with your mouth our Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." Romans 10:9
This teenager then asked me "Now would you like to receive Jesus, and become born again and receive His free gift of eternal life?" I was so STUPID... I actually said, "NO!" He seemed somewhat surprised by my answer and he quietly asked me..."are you sure you don't want to receive Jesus right now... and know for sure that you'll be headed for heaven"?
I didn't reply.
He said..."well that's ok... but do you mind if I pray for you?" I said, "you don't understand, I said "NO! I don't want to receive Him right now." He said, "That's ok", and all the sudden he just dropped his head and began to pray. Man, at that moment I know my eyes were as big as golf balls... I started to panic and I felt like running away, because I just knew at that moment every person in the town of Prescott, Arizona was staring directly at me!
I watched him as he prayed this prayer...
"Father I come to You in the name of Jesus; thank You for allowing me to plant Your Word in this man's life. I know that it is Incorruptible Seed that does not come back void, but it will prosper where It's been planted.
I now pray that You would send somebody across this guy's path, to water and fertilize the Seed that I've planted; someone that he will respect, someone that he will listen to, that will bring him to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Thank You Father... AMEN."
He then shook my hand and said, "Thank you sir," and just walked away. I was stunned to say the least, and I remember thinking, "Wow, a real "Jesus freak!" and "Why was he picking on me?" and "What the heck just happened?"
Now, I want everyone to understand... the reason I didn't want to pray that prayer and allow Jesus to come into my life, is not because I didn't believe in God, or Jesus, or even some of the things that I heard He had done... it was because I didn't think I could still be a "real cowboy" and be a "real Christian" at the same time. I actually thought if I really received Jesus, the next thing God would probably do, would be to ship me off to somewhere like deep, dark, Africa to live in a grass hut with my Bible, so I could read it to some pygmies!
Not only that, I remembered seeing some of those paintings of Jesus that someone had done in the 5th century or so, and I always had noticed that He never looked very good. To me, He always looked real pale, and was awful skinny, but that seemed to go along with His long hair, robe and sandals. In those paintings I noticed He seemed to be around women & children a lot, and if wasn't enough, He was always around sheep! Now, I know it sounds real disrespectful... but I thought Jesus was a "sissy". I just could not imagine Jesus being interested in a cowboy or a cowboy being very interested in Him. That was the image of Jesus that I had in my mind, and that is the way a lot of cowboys picture Him. Little did I know, that nothing could be further from the Truth. Satan would like the whole world to think like that... and most of it does... because they don't know Him.
I went on and rode my bull Prescott that night, and I went to a lot of rodeos and rode a lot of other bulls after that. I never told anyone, but I couldn't forget what that kid had said. Every time I drove by a church, or if I just saw a cross or if someone would say Jesus Christ when they were cussing, I thought, "Suppose it's true? Suppose it's true, after all? Suppose I was somehow killed tonight... do I know that I would go to heaven, or would I go to hell? I really knew the answer, but I didn't want to think about it.
It was almost two years to the day, July 6, 1980, I was at a rodeo in Branson, MO. When the performance had ended, and the bull riding was over, one of the rodeo judges came behind the bucking chutes and said, " I'm having a cowboy church service here in the morning and I would like for you guys to come." I had never heard of such a thing... a "cowboy preacher" and a "cowboy church service"? Just out of curiosity, (now I know it was the Holy Spirit), I thought I would see what it was all about. Well, to my amazement, there was someone I could respect, someone I would listen to, (a big, tough bulldogger named Larry Smith) and he led me to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. PRAISE GOD!
I was so excited after the service, the first thing I did was call my girlfriend Cindy, who was back home in Arizona, and let her know what had happened! She thought I was nuts at first, (and she still does) but eventually I prayed with her and led her to the Lord during that phone call. That worked so well that a couple of weeks later I proposed to her over the phone. Soon as I got home from the summer rodeos we were married on September 21,1980.
Cindy and I started attending all the cowboy church services we could get to. (Praise God for men like Glenn Smith, Coy Huffman, Dennis McKinley, and Larry Smith who plowed some mighty rough ground in order to plant the Seed by having cowboy church services at rodeos all across America, Canada, and even Australia). Although we became regulars at cowboy church, sometimes that meant that we only got to attend a service once or twice a month. After a while we began to slip, and we found ourselves starting to act like Christians only when we were around other Christians... but, we were also acting like the rest of the world when we were around worldly people. We were deceiving ourselves, we were hearers of the Word, but we weren't doers of the Word. (James 1:22)
We soon found out through "the school of hard knocks" why it is so important to "be doers of the Word and not hearers only" when the storms of life come. Luke 6:46-49
On July 4, 1985 I was entered in the bull riding at the PRCA rodeo in Belle Fourche, SD. When I got off my bull, I hit on my hands and knees and I glanced back at him to see which way he was going. When I did, he kicked me on the side of my head, right on my left temple. The result was a cerebral hemorrhage on the front lobal of the brain. This was not just another concussion; the doctors gave me a fifty-fifty chance at best, with some serious side effects like blindness, deafness, muscle defects, etc. to look forward to if I did make it.
To make a long story short, first we repented, (change of mind, attitude, and direction), asked for forgiveness, and then we applied the Word of God to the situation. "He shall call upon Me, and I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation." Psalm 91:15-16 The doctors operated on a Sunday evening; on Thursday at 12 noon, I was discharged. I didn't need any rehabilitation therapy, or any pain killers, and I had no side effects or any loss of memory! I recovered so quickly that the doctors we astonished. I knew it didn't turn out that way because I was just lucky. It didn't happen like that because I "cowboy'd up", and it sure didn't just because I'm Jim Shoulders nephew. It only happened because of the grace and mercy of God. He is Faithful and His Word is True; therefore, He will always do what He says He will do..."if we will only believe." Mark 9:23
Following this incident, Cindy and I made a quality decision to make Jesus #1 in our lives. We quit riding the fence, and we got off on the right side...He would no longer just be our SAVIOR, we would now make Him, (the Word of God) our LORD. We then got rooted and grounded in a Word church at home, and we learned to apply God's Word in our daily lives.
As I grew in God's Word and I came to know Him, and not just know about Him, I wanted to share the Good News with other cowboys so they wouldn't have to go through what I did. I wasn't sure how to get started, but I knew it took a lot of training before I got good at riding bulls & bucking horses, and I knew this wasn't gonna be no overnight deal either. After years of not missing church; studying the Word; listening to tapes; watching other men of God; and a lot of prayer... and then I began to learn how to be an effective minister of the gospel.
The day finally came when I knew I was ready to go, (or a least I thought I was ready). The Word says, "Go ye", not "Come y'all". After receiving this Divine Revelation, I knew that none of those lost cowboys, (most of them as spiritually dumb as I was), were going to just come looking for me... I would have to go to them. So, I started my ministry just like I did when I started rodeoing... I started close to home. Like my Dad said, "There is no since in you driving all the way up to Cheyenne, just to see if you can "make the whistle"... because if you can't win close to home, you're not gonna win up there... don't go till you know you can WIN!"
Therefore, I knew that if I couldn't "win souls" close to home, there was no since in me starting out by "going into all the world" Mark 16:15 or by trying to go to all those BIG RODEOS first. Jesus said, "You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, (first) and in all Judea (second) and Samaria, (third) and to the uttermost part of the earth." (fourth) Acts 1:8 So... I started to minister one on one, to cowboys behind the bucking chutes at the local weekend rodeos, (yeah, even the amateur ones) and from there Rodeo Ministries, Inc. has grown "exceedingly, abundantly above anything that we could have asked or even imagined." Ephesians 3:20
Now, Cindy and I are both on the road full time, sharing the Word one on one with others, and/or doing Sunday services at all kinds of rodeos, bull ridings, team ropings, horse training seminars, rodeo schools / bible camps, cowboy fellowships and bible studies... and yes, Praise God, now we even minister at some of those BIG rodeos. Every now and then, we even get the chance to share the Word in a real church building with ordinary folks! But really, it doesn't matter where we go, we just want to be led there by the Holy Spirit. We want to be exactly where Jesus wants us to be, and doing exactly what He wants us to be doing when He returns!
In His service,