What could be better than
serving as a North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary in picturesque
Colorado Springs? After all, the city of 380,000 backs up to the base of
snow-capped, 14,000 feet-tall Pikes Peak on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.
Money and Outside magazines
have both deemed it as No. 1 on the list of the best places to live in the
United States. It’s perceived as a Christian “mecca” and nicknamed “The
Evangelical Vatican” because so many evangelical Christian organizations are
headquartered here — Focus on the Family, The Navigators, the International
Bible Society and Young Life, just to mention a few.
Colorado Springs is a
military stronghold, the location of the Army’s Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force
Base, Schriever Air Force Base, NORAD and the United States Air Force
The 6,000-foot high city is
headquarters to the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic Training Center,
and the national sports federations for Olympic bobsledding, fencing, figure
skating, basketball, boxing, cycling, judo, hockey, swimming, shooting,
triathlon, volleyball and wrestling.
The Colorado Springs area is
also a vast wilderness of “lost” souls. Just ask Bill and Carol
Bill, 53, serves as a NAMB
national missionary and director of missions for the Pikes Peak Baptist
Association, which includes about 50 Southern Baptist churches and church
plants. In a metro area of more than 600,000, 83 percent — some 500,000 —
never darken the door of a church — any church.
“God really broke my heart
over the lostness of the Pikes Peak region,” says Lighty, who — with his wife
of 32 years, Carol – has worked in his current assignment two and a half
years. Prior to that, he spent almost 21 years as pastor of Chapel Hills
Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. The Lightys have two grown daughters,
Trisha and Ashley, and two granddaughters.
Lighty is one of some 5,300
missionaries in the United States, Canada and their territories supported by the
Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® for North American Missions. He is among
the North American Mission Board missionaries featured as part of the annual
Week of Prayer, March 7-14, 2010. This year’s theme is “Live with Urgency:
Share God’s Transforming Power.” The 2010 Annie Armstrong Easter
Offering’s goal is $70 million, 100 percent of which benefits missionaries like
Although Lighty says
Mormonism and Catholicism are both strongly entrenched in the Colorado Springs
area, “there’s half a million people here who don’t know Christ.”
In addition to Pikes Peak,
another of Colorado Springs’ famous landmarks is the “Garden of the Gods,”
so-called because when it was named in 1859, it was described as a “place fit
for the assembling of the gods.” Lighty said this focus on the mythical
gods — but not on the one true God — is symptomatic of many of the residents of
the Colorado Springs area.
“In a very real sense,
Colorado Springs is not godless because the people here have a lot of gods they
worship,” he said. “Some worship nature and the mountains. Some
worship skiing. Some worship the metaphysical. Spiritualism is a big
element of our culture, and we have a strong Wiccan movement. Some worship
their motorcycles. With five military installations here, many worship the
military and the goal of getting promoted to the next rank.
“So our challenge is
competing with all these other gods plus the mountains — where there’s
something to do 12 months out of the year — in order to help people worship the
one true God versus their multiple gods,” Lighty said.
Lighty says he wears
different hats in his job — church planting strategist, a coach to pastors and
a consultant to churches.
“I never saw myself getting
out of the pastorate, but it’s been a wonderful change. I never would have
thought of myself in this coaching role. I love helping men and women
develop leadership skills and giftedness. Now I have the opportunity to
impact the entire region, not just one church.
“I have now come to the
realization that one church cannot reach the Pikes Peak region for the Kingdom
of God,” Lighty said. “If one church could have, it would have been done 100
years ago. I don’t think one denomination can do it, but that it’s going
to take hundreds and hundreds of churches to reach these people significantly
One of Lighty’s “hot
buttons” and key church planting strategies centers on multihousing ministry,
especially in nearby Manitou Springs. According to Lighty, 50-60 percent of
families living in America (U.S. citizens and non-citizens) reside in apartment
complexes or mobile home communities. But 95 percent of these people do
not associate with a local church, and only four percent say they actually
attend a church.
“We use a variety of
strategies to impact the multihousing communities,” says Lighty. “Many multihousing
communities are extremely multi-ethnic. In Colorado Springs, we have about
6,000 Russian-speaking people and a significant Rumanian population. The
world is coming here and many of them live in multihousing communities.
“So one thing we’re trying
to communicate to pastors is that these people may never come to your church
building but perhaps we can plant a church in that multihousing community,”
whether an apartment complex or mobile home park.
Wynn Greene is the Pikes
Peak Baptist Association’s multihousing coordinator for the Front Range area of
the Rocky Mountains.
“We’re not keeping up with
what God is doing,” Greene said. “God has brought the world to America and to
multihousing communities. So we missionaries can put our passports back in
the drawer and our suitcase back in the closet and start praying for the local
“Bill Lighty, as the DOM for
the Pikes Peak Baptist Association, has been phenomenal because of his personal
leadership and his past experience as a pastor in the Colorado Springs area for
over 20 years,” said Greene.
But Lighty said the
challenge to reach Colorado Springs is intensifying because the percentage of
unchurched in the Colorado Springs metro area is going up, not down.
“In the ’90s, our local
newspaper took a survey and discovered that at that time, only 25 percent of
the people went to church on a given Sunday. Ten years later, they
repeated the exact same survey and found that now only 20 percent go to
church. It’s dropped five percent.” At the same time, Colorado
Springs continues to grow by leaps and bounds as it has for the past 30 years.
“To the best of my
knowledge, there has never been a revival west of the Mississippi River and
that’s sad,” said Lighty. “I’ve been praying for 25 years that God would bring
us a revival and that we would see a fresh movement of God in this region,
whether it’s along the I-25 corridor, in Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins
Why is the Annie Armstrong
Easter Offering important to Lighty’s ministry?
“It’s critical because so
much of what we do is mission-driven. Our new churches are often times
very small, and many of the pastors are bi-vocational or their wives work
full-time so they can pastor part-time. Without ‘Annie,’ probably
one-third of our churches would go under, especially in this economy.”
Lighty sums up the challenge
like this: “It seems as if God has said, ‘OK, if you won’t go to the mission
field, I’ll bring the mission field to you.’ So now, the mission field is here
and it’s right in our back yards. All local churches have to do is go into
these communities, be what God has asked us to be and do the work He has asked
us to do. We have no excuses.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Mickey
Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. The Biblical Recorder
will be updating each day of the Week of Prayer with a feature story, photos
and video about a missionary.)