Wyoming Stays Its Course
By Karen L. Willoughby
RIVERTON, Wyo. (BP) – The 33rd Annual Meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention was a refreshing time of celebration and shared commitment to the continuation of God’s work in Wyoming and around the world, Executive Director Lynn Nikkel told Baptist Press.
With “Trusting the Lord” as its theme, and Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding – as its scriptural linchpin, the Nov. 3-4 event at United Baptist Church in Riverton brought together 114 registered messengers from 40 Wyoming churches, out of the state convention’s 106 churches and church-type missions. More than 180 people attended the Thursday evening session.
“We heard reports of God’s activity through church planting, leadership development, the missions activity of our churches locally and globally, plus the great evangelism taking place through our churches and the ministries of our convention,” Nikkel said.
“The annual meeting had a real celebratory attitude as a result of this great recounting of what God is doing,” Nikkel continued. “It was a great encouragement to everybody who was there.”
Wyoming Southern Baptists’ opened their annual gathering with a missions service Wednesday evening, Nov. 2, and Pastors and Women’s/WMU conferences Thursday morning. The annual meeting started at 2 p.m. Thursday and closed about 9:00p.m. Friday evening.
Frank Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, spoke at the Pastors’ Conference and at the annual meeting. Other guests included a couple with Wyoming roots who serve with the International Mission Board, working in a security-sensitive area.
Speakers from Wyoming included Dave Brown, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rock Springs; David Grace, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Laramie and president of the state convention; and Executive Director Lynn Nikkel.
Richard Mills and the Set Free Ministries praise team in Riverton, along with the praise team from Hudson Baptist Church in Hudson, led in worship. As well as music leadership by WSBC staff in some sessions.
The business of the state convention, organized in 1953, consisted of electing officers, passing a “challenging” budget, and slight revision for clarity to the wording of a bylaw. No resolutions were presented or passed.
“More importantly, there is a spirit among us that desires to substantially re-invent ourselves as a convention of churches, to own our ministry and cooperative missions efforts in Wyoming, and to create a workable and sustainable future of cooperation and support,” Nikkel told Baptist Press. “From this meeting, we have set a course to be who we need to be so that we achieve our vision to be ‘Wyoming churches working together for the expansion of the Kingdom of God by making disciples in our communities, in our state and in our world,’ and accomplish our mission ‘to serve our churches in their mission and ministries as they fulfill the Great Commission.’”
Re-elected were David Grace, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Laramie, as president. John Constantine, pastor of Story Community Church in Story, as first vice president, and John Larramendy, pastor of Alcova Community Church in Alcova, as second vice president.
Cheri Mickelson, a member of First Southern Baptist Church in Powell, was elected recording secretary, and Renee’ Hanson, pastor’s wife and member of Mountain View Baptist Church in Mills, was elected assistant recording secretary.
When they passed a $1,433,958 budget, down somewhat from last year’s $1,497,042, messengers nonetheless maintained last year’s 32.75 percent of the Cooperative Program offerings from churches that is to be sent on to national SBC entities.
“Wyoming’s support for the Cooperative Program remains strong because we believe in the Great Commission work of Southern Baptists,” Nikkel said. “We continue to promote the Cooperative Program through my office, and we encourage churches to increase their giving to missions through CP where they can.”
The economy statewide is faltering because of energy-industry related challenges, and as a result, churches finances are fluctuating more than anticipated when the budget was passed last year, Nikkel said. The coal industry in Wyoming – which produces about 40 percent of the nation’s coal – saw massive layoffs last spring, according to an April 6 article in Bloomberg News.
“Receipts from churches are down,” the executive director said. “We passed a challenging budget that includes some adjustments that are hard, but necessary… Emphasis is being given to the need to manage and steward the resources being received through our churches, and a heightening of the need for us all to support Kingdom causes to the best of our ability,” Nikkel said.
God’s work continues in Wyoming, the executive director said. The church planting team works with 16 ongoing church plants and 16 “seed” – pre-plant – congregations, 22 potential church planters, 13 cross cultural planters, nine indigenous planters from Wyoming, and seven church planting apprentices.
“God has opened doors for fruitful church planting opportunities … throughout Wyoming that have multiplied our Kingdom impact,” reported Church Planting Strategist Don Whalen Jr. “The Bloom Ministry of planter wives has given the ladies opportunity to feel understood and strengthened as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts and lives.”
The Center for Leadership Development in partnership with the SBC’s Gateway Seminary, now in its 11th year, has 40 students currently enrolled and 55 graduates, reported Fred Creason, the state convention’s leadership strategist.
Mission Strategist David Schroeder reported on the variety of mission projects underway by local churches in Wyoming and throughout the world. “Ultimately, Wyoming Southern Baptists should continue to grow as participants in mission work, not being recipients only, as in former days,” Schroeder said.
The Wyoming Rodeo Ministry, which has adapted the Sturgis model of intensive witnessing at major events, involved 85 volunteer evangelizers at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Gillette, Wyo., in July, reported Evangelism Strategist Dale Bascue. As a result, witnessing conversations took place 2,288 times, and 123 people made professions of faith in Jesus.
“This has given us a three-year total of 6,247 gospel presentations and 361 salvations through the Wyoming Rodeo Ministry,” Bascue said, adding later in his report, “The Great Commission is a task that is too big for anyone of us to do without the others. In a spirit of cooperation, we work side by side, sharing resources and responsibilities to reach Wyoming with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Three of the state Strategists also serve as regional missionaries: Creason in the Northeast Region, Schroeder in the South Region, and Bascue in the West Region.
“It is a challenge to make disciples, if we intend to make genuine life transformation a reality for the folks we work with,” the executive director said in his report. “Beyond just gathering people, and beyond getting people to join our churches, and even beyond just the beginning of making believers of people, we are called by Christ to make disciples: followers of Christ who don’t just try to live for Christ, but who allow Christ to live in and through them by dying to self. …
“We are surrounded by a new culture that is very different from our heritage, and radically different in its view toward life, sexuality, governance, relationships and more, and has simply lost its way,” Nikkel continued. “I believe God still intends for us to be a moral compass in the midst of all this chaos.”
The 2017 annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention is set for November 2-3, at College Heights Baptist Church in Casper.
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.