LENAPAH — Justin McKee's life might seem real complicated to some.
In past or present, McKee's life includes being a rancher, rodeo and bull riding announcer, television personality, steer roper and pastor.
But keeping the latter in mind, the 45-year-old from Lenapah says his life is real simple. It's not about the microphone or rope he holds, or the cattle he tends to on his and wife Jeannie's ranch in northeastern Oklahoma.
One way he keeps life simple is by leading a cowboy church of 200 to 300 people each Monday night at the old rock gym in Lenapah.
“Most of our ministry is outside of the building,” McKee said of also meeting at a rodeo arena in that area for ranch and cowboy events.
“I believe you've got to take the church to the people, not just meet in a building and hope they show up.
“It's really about building friendships and letting people see God is real by watching how we live and where our strength comes from.”
McKee grew up south of Edna, Kan., near the Kansas and Oklahoma state line. Now, Justin, Jeannie and 13-year-old daughter Kassidy live on the place near where Jeannie grew up. They have cattle, bluestem and Bermuda on this ranch and also have pastures in Craig County, Latimer County and in east Texas.
But in December, McKee leaves the ranch and heads west to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
In addition to December's live coverage of the WNFR, the Great American Country television network presents the nightly series “Inside the WNFR,” co-anchored by McKee, a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association announcer, and Suzanne Alexander, host of Great American Country's music series “Great American Playlist.”
“Inside the WNFR” features recaps of the events, standings reports, athlete profiles and more, and runs through Dec. 14.
“Every day on ‘Inside the WNFR' is a blast,” McKee said. “Suzanne is one of the most talented people I have ever worked with. It feels a little like hosting College Football GameDay. Every guest we have on the show I think, ‘Wow, I'm talking to them.'
“I really like it when Joe Beaver and I go back and forth about the world title races. And, rodeo and country music really is the perfect combo, kinda like cheeseburger and fries.”
Throughout the year, McKee will announce about a dozen rodeos along with Xtreme Bulls on GAC and Pro Roughstock on RFD-TV.
McKee believes he's seen God close doors to open others. The church is an example.
In October 2010, he lost one of his jobs, as an announcer with the PBR (Professional Bull Riders). But he had a peace.
He, Jeannie and Kassidy had been driving 40 miles to Vinita to the Cowboy Junction Church on Monday nights.
“Occasionally we'd go to church over around here on Sunday, when I was home,” McKee said. “A couple of those pastors, if they were in the area, they would stop by and see me. I would always tell them, ‘If you ever run across a guy that could preach at a cowboy church, I'd help them get started around here.'”
Years went by, and time worked its way to October 2010.
McKee had kept feeling that “You're going to start a church in Lenapah,” he said. “And every time I had that thought, I had this calmness.”
After he broke the news on the phone to Jeannie that he would soon be out of a job with the PBR, she went to church the next day at Nowata. One of those pastors, whom McKee hadn't talked to in months, told her: “I have got to talk to Justin. All I could think about this week was helping Justin start a cowboy church in Lenapah.”
“I go to meet him on Tuesday to talk about this,” Justin McKee said. “Then I go back to my house, and the other pastor, whom I also hadn't seen in months, shows up out of the blue.”
That pastor also felt led to help McKee start a cowboy church in Lenapah.
“We started meeting at that rock gym in January 2011, and we've been meeting there every Monday night since,” McKee said. “Getting confirmation from those two pastors was amazing. I just thought my life was great before, but helping people find the light has been the most fulfilling thing I've ever done.”
I just thought my life was great before, but helping people find the light has been the most fulfilling thing I've ever done.”