“Completely unexpected and spontaneous,” a Wyoming state Baptist leader said about the 28 people baptized at seven churches in the West region of the state on Aug. 25. “Plus several more in September and October!”
Reports like this punctuated the 36th annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network Nov. 7-8 at Big Horn Baptist Church, where Don Paulson is pastor.
“God is here and He’s getting stuff done all over the state,” state missionary Quin Williams told 108 messengers from 48 of the Network’s 98 churches, plus at least 16 guests.
The meeting was not all business and included praise and worship, a music concert, meals and snacks provided by the host church and a bookstore.
The business itself consisted of passage of the 2020 budget, election of officers and approval of changes to the constitution of Mountaintop Assembly owned by the Wyoming Network.
A $1,266,450 budget for 2020 passed unanimously and without questions. This is a $45,199 decrease from the 2019 budget. Of the $525,175 anticipated in Cooperative Program giving from Wyoming churches, $136,951 – or 32.75 percent of undesignated funds, unchanged from last year – is earmarked for national/international SBC causes. This is an anticipated $2,506 decrease from 2019.
Other income includes $397,500 from the North American Mission Board, for administrative, church planting and evangelism costs. LifeWay Christian Resources, $67,000, including $7,000 for VBS and TeamWest training for Sunday School.
The Delmar State Missions Offering anticipates $83,075 from Wyoming churches. Another $178,500 is coming from “Regional Missionary Funding.” Registrations and fees are expected to bring in $6,100 and $9,100 is anticipated in interest income.
Each person was elected unopposed and unanimously – president John Larramendy, pastor of Alcova Community Church; first vice president Dean Whitaker, pastor of United Baptist Church in Riverton; second vice president Ed Tharp, associate pastor at Boyd Avenue Baptist Church in Casper and Baptist Collegiate Ministries director at Casper College.
Cheri Mickelson, member of First Southern Baptist Church in Powell, was elected recording secretary, and Dawn Kenney, member of Mountain View Baptist Church in Mills, was elected assistant recording secretary.
Messengers also unanimously voted to change the bylaws of the state convention-owned Mountain Top Assembly to bring wording in alignment with the Wyoming Network’s, such as replacing the term “executive director” with “state missionary.”
Fred Creason, northeast region missionary and coordinator of Wyoming’s CLD (Contextualized Leadership Development) program in cooperation with Gateway Seminary, reported that 12 people are to graduate in May 2020, bringing the total to 98 since the program started in 2006. Using video conferencing, he now teaches students in Illinois, Indiana and elsewhere in addition to Wyoming.
In addition to the 28 baptisms Aug. 25 in the West Region, missionary Dale Bascue listed the six or more international mission trips and the three disaster relief responses – to Houston, Nebraska and Iowa – taken in 2019 by Wyoming Southern Baptists in his area.
“Our house is in order and our finances are good,” reported south region missionary David Schroeder for the entire Network. A team from southern Wyoming has made plans to participate in ministry during the Olympics in Japan next year.
Other reports noted the strength of Baptist Collegiate Ministries in Wyoming and Mountaintop Baptist Assembly on Casper Mountain.
About 100 people live in Yoder, Wyo. Ten of them attend a fledgling Southern Baptist Bible study there that was started by Lifeway Church in Torrington, where Cody Dyer is pastor.
At last count, 102 people live in Bairoil. Twenty of them were present one recent Sunday at the town’s only church, a Southern Baptist congregation called Bairoil Community Bible Church. “If it weren’t for this church, there’d be no gospel in Bairoil,” Williams said.
In another church, in a town with a population of about 200, the pastor lamented he was only baptizing two or three people a year. “It was the fact that he was baptizing at least 1 percent of his community’s population every year that showed evidence of God’s great activity in small communities,” Williams told Baptist Press.
Two people recently were baptized at Jeffrey City Community Church, a former boom town with maybe 60 remaining residents. “Two baptisms! In Jeffrey City! That’s cause to celebrate!” Williams told his listeners, and heard western-style exuberance in response.
The 10 members of Foothills Baptist in Encampment have held the church together since May, when Pastor Allen and his wife Betty Shelton were killed in a head-on collision.
In the first two weeks Outfitter Church in Bar Nunn met for worship, two people made professions of faith. “I’m from Texas where I learned to brag,” said Planter Tyler Martin. “I moved to Wyoming to have something to brag about.”
Rhen Etzelmiller, whose wife Whitney is expecting their seventh child, is brand new as a church planter in Smoot, Wyo., near the Idaho border. A Wyoming resident since he was in high school, it was his second year to attend the annual meeting.
“The encouragement of the men and women speaking, hearing their hearts, that’s what I come for,” Etzelmiller said. “Also fellowship.”
“Contend for the Faith,” with Jude 1:3 as its scriptural basis, was the theme for the annual meeting. Theme interpretations at the beginning of each of six sessions expanded on the idea of contending – or standing up – for the gospel.
“The first place I have to contend for the faith is right here,” preached Richard Mills, pastor of Set Free Ministries in Riverton, as he pointed to his heart.
“Dependence on the Lord is the only way to fight, to contend for the faith,” Mills continued in the meeting’s annual featured sermon. “How can we lead our congregation in the faith if we’re not willing to contend for the faith?”
Contend for the faith by staying in the Word, teaching doctrinal truth, discipling “faithful men,” and being strengthened by the Lord, Mills said.
“We have people leading in our national convention who are serious about the spread of the gospel,” Williams said in his state missionary report. “Sharing the gospel is worth more than our best effort. It’s worth our all.”
Later in a sermon, Williams preached from Philippians 1:9-11 as he told pastors and church leaders, “This is what I pray for you” – to have unconditional love for [your] congregations and communities, to use godly judgment and to bear fruit.
“You are expected by God Himself to produce fruit,” Williams preached. “If you don’t, pruning isn’t comfortable.” And, he added, “Unrighteousness spoils the fruit.”
The 2020 annual meeting of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Missions Network is set for Nov. 4-6 at Boyd Avenue Baptist Church in Casper. Johannes Slabbert, pastor of Water of Life Church in Cowley, will bring the annual sermon. Brian Johnson, pastor of Risen Son Baptist Church in Thermopolis, is the alternate.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)