When Todd Pierce approaches a wild horse in order to break it, he speaks gently to the animal while stroking its mane and hugging its neck. After a period of time, the horse will stop snorting, pause its frenzied kicking, and walk alongside him. Pierce then mounts the animal and coaxes it to move forward but, often, the horse will instead buck and toss him to the ground.
As the founder of Riding High Ministries, Pierce uses his expertise in horse breaking to convey important spiritual lessons following Professional Bull Riding (PBR) competitions across the United States.
“I’m not going to give up on this horse, even though it continues to reject me,” Pierce explains to the PBR audience. “That’s how it is with God. He doesn’t give up on us, no matter how rebellious we may be. He loves us and wants us to trust Him.”
After dusting himself off, Pierce repeats the same steps, first giving the horse affection, walking beside it, and then climbing on again. “I will finish the illustration within 45 minutes and present a saddled horse that had yielded to my loving hand,” says Pierce. “Then I point out that in many ways our lives parallel this demonstration. Only frustration and exhaustion happens when we run from God. But, as we turn to Him, He will give us direction, peace and rest.”
From Brokenness to Ministry
It’s a lesson Pierce himself learned as a young man. “I was a hard core partier, fighter and girl chaser,” he says in describing his life before Christ. “But God rescued me from myself.”
Soon after leaving college and getting married, Pierce and his wife, Leslie, set out on the Pro Rodeo Tour. “We were both really young Christians,” Pierce recalls. “But starting with our very first event, we realized that not only was our desire to serve God out there, but He was going to use the rodeo platform to reach people with the Gospel.”
During that event, Todd and Leslie sat down with another struggling couple and prayed with them. “From that point on,” says Piece, “although I was absorbed with competition and the struggles of being a professional rodeo cowboy, the focus always remained on us believing that is where God put us to reach people.”
When Pierce got injured in 2001 and could no longer compete, he began ministering with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) organization. “I wanted to help mentor the guys on tour as well as minister to the fans,” he explains.
Although Pierce did not enjoy speaking in front of a crowd, something clicked. “After I got through the first few events, we all realized that my life started to make sense. We could see this is exactly where God wanted me to be, so we’ve been there for 10 years mentoring bull riders.”
But there was still more that God wanted him to do. “About two or three years ago, I left the building after a competition and was really overcome with emotion. I began to cry,” he recalls. “I was so discouraged that these coliseums were being filled up with people and we were entertaining them, but they were leaving the building unaffected, without us getting the opportunity to tell them what really matters.”
Pierce and other members of Riding High Ministries worked out a plan with the PBR that allows them to hold outreach services following competitions. The first two events were in Anaheim, California, and San Antonio, Texas. The next one is Oct. 21 in Las Vegas at the World Finals Competition.
“The PBR will fill a coliseum with a secular crowd then turn the entire crowd over to us.” Pierce immediately transitions into a horse breaking demonstration, which culminates in a Gospel presentation. “We give full invitations,” he adds. “We use the same follow-up material that the BGEA uses at Crusades when counselors meet with people.”
No stranger to the BGEA, Pierce was featured on a Billy Graham Television Special and he spoke at a Will Graham Celebration in 2008. Pierce and other members of Riding High Ministries joined Samaritan’s Purse staff in Bolivia last June. They presented the Gospel and helped hand out 1,000 Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. During the 10-day trip, they assisted in distributing cattle to needy ranchers, installed water filters, and worked on a church reconstruction project. The men of Riding High also ministered at Angola Prison earlier this year.
Looking back over the last 20 years, Pierce is amazed at all that God has done with his life. “I am just a guy that got captured by God’s love and has no formal training and rode bucking horses for a living. But, because of what God did in my heart, and because I took evangelism personally and seriously, you can see what it has developed into.”
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At the end of our interview, the busy rodeo cowboy turned evangelist asked if he could share a personal note with readers: “Wherever you are in life, whatever job you are doing, God wants to use you there. We are all called into the ministry and God will use you even if you are a nobody from nowhere doing a really silly job.
“This is not about us,” Pierce adds. “The passion that should be infused into what we are doing is God’s willingness to use us where we are at. If we have surrendered our will to Him, then our desires should be His desires, and His desire is to seek and save those that are lost.”