WindCity Church was birthed in 2014 when Chris and Eve Sims moved to Casper, Wyoming, with a hope to be a part of a movement of God in the region. Since then it has helped to start eight other church plants scattered across the state, and is praying for six other communities in the next season.
To assist in preparing, sending, and supporting church plants in the region, WindCity started the Forever West Church Planting Network in 2015 and works together with the North American Mission Board and the Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network.
A Wyoming map, regularly updated, shows each current church plant marked by an orange icon, and potential future church plants in blue. “We have had an intentional plan, but the Lord’s the one who moves those plans along,” Sims told SBC LIFE.
“We love multiplication,” the pastor continued. “It feels biblical and is more like the book of Acts than anything I’ve ever been a part of.”
WindCity Church, which meets in a 4,700-square-foot space in Eastridge Mall in Casper, baptized fifteen people in 2018, and fifty-five since it started in 2014. About 110 people gather at nine o’clock on Sunday mornings for worship.
These church plants are not cookie-cutter multiples. They include a cowboy church, campus church, senior adult church, and one in a vastly unchurched town, as well as churches “for the community,” as planter Rondie Taylor described Living Hope Church in Green River.
Living Hope Church started in October 2017. Taylor, from Portland, Oregon, served as an associate pastor in Montana when he felt God’s call to Wyoming.
“We were willing to go somewhere no one else wanted to go and Zach Edwards said Green River,” Taylor told SBC LIFE. Edwards is a church planting catalyst with the Wyoming Southern Baptist Network. “Our goal has been to support our community any way we can.
“I volunteer as a high school football coach,” Taylor continued. “The town just had a big river festival. We did set up and tear down, and served for their fundraising dinner. We just filled in the gaps for them.”
Living Water Community Church in Kemmerer, in far southwest Wyoming, planted in August 2014 by Al and Kathy Bella, sees more than forty people in Sunday morning worship. The church baptized five people in 2018 and is looking toward starting a new work in Cokeville, Wyoming, which has no evangelical witness.
WindCity North Church started in 2015 as a senior adult congregation in the older, lower-income part of Casper. It meets in an assisted living center. With a weekly attendance that averages ten, they baptized one person in 2018 and added four other additions. Jesse Weeks is the pastor.
Cody Cowboy Church, in northwest Wyoming near Yellowstone National Park, started in May 2016. They average forty-five in worship and baptized eleven in 2018. Pat Alphin is the pastor of the church that has a ministry to rodeo cowboys who perform locally.
The church building includes a bunkhouse for up to ten rodeo contestants. The pastor and his wife Renee started a video recording ministry to help bull riders and other “rough stock” (bucking) rodeo athletes improve their technique. Coaching sessions at the bunkhouse utilizing the previous night’s videos help contestants improve their scores and chances for college scholarships.
Johannes Slabbert, a South African native who served at WindCity as the church’s (and the state’s) first church planter apprentice, is planting a church in Cowley where the Northwest Wyoming topography is similar to his homeland. Water of Life Church started with a home Bible study and then launched publicly in October 2017 with four families present. Since then, fifteen people have made professions of faith in Jesus, and Slabbert has baptized eleven.
Expedition Church in Laramie, on the University of Wyoming campus, started in December 2017. Its founding pastor recently returned to his home state after nearly two years reaching the community, and Sims is “actively recruiting” for the next pastor at the church his twin daughters attend. In the meantime, elders and leaders from WindCity Church drive nearly three hours to lead services.
“One of our newest plants has taught us church planting as a team is better,” Sims said about WindCity at Medicine Bow, a recently-started church plant that won’t have some of the traditional weaknesses experienced in Wyoming-like isolation. “Instead of parachuting in an individual, sending in a team that can support one another is a better way to plant churches,” he said.
Medicine Bow is a new plant using an old building where there was once a thriving church. Mission teams this summer helped renovate the building the disbanded former congregation turned over to the state convention five years ago. Two elders from WindCity Church—A. J. LaPointe and Justin Stockton—co-pastor the fledgling group started in March that involves a dozen locals in the town of 278. Two nearby towns, Hanna and Rock River, are part of the Medicine Bow ministry area, LaPointe told SBC LIFE.
Bar Nunn, said to be the fastest-growing town in Wyoming, is the site of WindCity’s newest church planting endeavor. The second SBC church in the town, the new start is designed with an “outfitter” flavor to reach men who will then reach their families. Midweek gatherings will leave weekends open for effective outreach to the outdoor community in Wyoming’s wide-open spaces. So far, eighteen members of WindCity Church have joined with Church Planter Tyler Martin and his wife Ashley to help strengthen the Bar Nunn start.
WindCity’s next church plant could be Evanston, in the far southwest corner of
the state. A potential planter apprentice, now going through the NAMB assessment process, told Sims he feels called to that town of about twelve thousand.
“There are six additional places we have identified, and prayed, ‘Lord, help us be a part of a work there in the near future,’” Sims said. “We pray God will breathe His Holy Spirit upon our efforts.”
Sims connects regularly with the planters, encouraging them, finding out their needs and connecting with churches in the South and in Wyoming to meet them.
“Chris is always there for anything I need,” Alphin of the Cody Cowboy Church told SBC LIFE. “Chris is a great leader, very supportive,” added Taylor of Living Hope Church in Green River. “We appreciate him. He’s been great.”
When asked the secret to gathering so many Christian leaders, Sims said, “Honestly, it’s been the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. God just keeps sending people to us but seemingly they come when we’re ready to take the next step. That has created a culture that is beginning to influence others who are new believers. Alongside Don [Whalen] and Zach [Edwards] of the state convention staff, I do a lot of recruiting and looking for [church planter] prospects inside and out of Wyoming, but more often than not the Lord sends them our way.”
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for SBC LIFE and Baptist Press and is a member of First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, Utah.