GILLETTE, Wyo. (BP) – A Florida transplant with a rodeo background two years ago relaunched what was started in 1963 as Gillette’s First Southern Baptist Church and in 1971 renamed Westside Baptist Church.
With Mark Mitchell as incoming pastor, the fewer than 20 remaining members voted on a new name: CrossPointe Church.
“Part of being a replant is starting everything from scratch, but I kind of wanted to honor the church’s history,” Mitchell told Baptist Press. “Their [old] logo was three crosses, and with our name we’re keeping the cross central in the church.”
Even as the attendance has grown to 40 or more, Mitchell has focused on corporate prayer, community involvement and breaking down strongholds.
In addition, the church has spent $120,000 in infrastructure repairs to the building and two parsonages, properties that look fine on the outside.
“There’s a whole lot of activity in churches today but any activity divorced from prayer, from corporate prayer, is useless,” Mitchell said. “Corporate prayer is where the wisdom from God comes from. When we pray together in the will of God found in the Word of God, we are seeking God’s purpose and plan for the church. Without it we are just either guessing or imposing our own will on God’s church.
“My experience has been that the average church not only doesn’t pray together, they’re more worried about doing Bible study than anything else,” the pastor continued. “Bible study is important, but if that’s all we’re doing, that’s like going to college to get an engineering degree but never going to a job to do the work of an engineer.”
CrossPointe is Mitchell’s fifth church in his 27-year ministry. Two were in Florida; two in New Mexico.
“The churches were all dying and prayer was always the major issue,” Mitchell said. “In every one, corporate prayer was a struggle. If they were even praying together, it was only James 5 prayers, prayers for their own needs. What I am focusing on here are Ephesians 6 prayers. We need to deal in prayer with spiritual battles. We need both but the bigger battle is the spiritual battle.
“If a church is dying, it’s not God’s will,” Mitchell continued. “There are strongholds that cause the church to die. To get over them, we need to have scripture attached to every single prayer request, because we need to know we’re praying according to God’s will and not just the desires of our hearts.”
Mitchell attends meetings of the Gillette city council, school board and library board and frequently gives the invocation. He has established relationships with community leaders “so I am able to be an influence within our government agencies.” The years he spent on the rodeo team for the U.S. Marine Corps opens doors too.
He has led church members – mostly men – to minister to physical needs in Gillette as requested, such as providing lawn care for overgrown yards, removing unwanted junk from yards, repairing fences, shoveling snow and the like. Groups of “mostly women” upon request clean houses for the homebound who struggle to do the work.
“We do it for free with no expectations but the hope of opportunities to share the Gospel,” the pastor said. “If we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing inside these four walls, then we should have more activity out there than in here.”
Mitchell has just as strong a belief about CrossPointe’s need to allocate 10 percent of undesignated income to missions through the Cooperative Program, the way Southern Baptists work together in state conventions and globally.
“When God gives us blessings, we should give one 10th back to His work,” the pastor said. “A 10th is not the max; it’s the starting place. Secondly, our support of missions through the Cooperative Program is all about the Gospel. There might be other organizations that share the Gospel well, but nobody does it better than Southern Baptists.”
Vying for the pastor’s attention over the last year is the physical campus of the church and two parsonages. He and his wife Bridget live in one; the other is rented.
Extreme snowfall and rainfall in the last year has caused major flooding multiple times in the various buildings.
“I’ve been so inundated with all this,” Mitchell said. “It’s just the work of the enemy, but if you weren’t bothering the enemy, he’d leave you alone. This has been a real spiritual battle, the battle of my life.
“At the same time, with same level of difficulty, we have seen God work and move equally,” the pastor continued. “Whenever you go into a church and defeat the strongholds there, it’s always going to be that way.”
Three churches in Gillette have been replanted and are doing well, Wyoming’s Northeast Region director Fred Creason told Baptist Press. Antelope Valley Baptist has become Redemption Church; Emmanuel Southern Baptist has become Calvary; and “CrossPointe has grown substantially. Every time I go there’s new folks.”
“It’s not been the city and the ebb and flow of the people moving in and out,” Creason said about the need for replanting.
Coal mining is flourishing, but so is drug use and witchcraft, Mitchell said. About 70 percent of area residents do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
“Our prayer meetings consist of praying for the lost in Gillette and how we can have compassion for them,” the pastor said. “We are detached from the plight of people here. I came out of a rugged lifestyle. I know what it’s like to be in the dark of the night, battling the addiction, sick of that life but wanting more of it. It’s torture.
“The word translated ‘compassion’ in Matthew 15:32 can also mean ‘anguish,’” Mitchell continued. “Jesus had an anguish for the people. We need to have that heart. If we don’t have that anguish for them, we’ll never have the passion to reach out to them.”
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.