CASPER, Wyo. (BP) -- Lynn Nikkel is retiring from more than 13 years of executive leadership of the Wyoming Southern Baptist Mission Network to pursue church ministry opportunities in Oklahoma.
"It's time," Nikkel told Baptist Press Aug. 30. "I've been here through a lot of changes and transition, and it's time for the network to take a new direction, to have some fresh leadership with fresh eyes to move forward into the future.
"And it's also time for me and my family ... to move on and make a change as well," Nikkel said. He leaves the network, formerly the Wyoming Southern Baptist Convention, in December, and plans to relocate to Oklahoma where he has family members and has pastored two congregations.
"I would love to pastor a smaller membership church that God might open up for me," Nikkel said.
He joined the network in May of 2005 as executive director and has held that position, retiring under the newly adopted title of state missionary.
Nikkel leaves a state convention that has adjusted to denominational changes at the national and local level, he said, that allow the network "to be more responsible stewards" of available resources "and to work together more closely.
"We've made adjustments and taken more ownership of our ministry staff and ministry resources," he said. "We've made some changes in the name of the convention to communicate more that we are a network of churches that are here to reach Wyoming."
The new name indicates that Wyoming is the network's mission field, he said, where Southern Baptists "will work together to spread the Great Commission all across our state.
"My hope is that our churches rally together more than ever, and in greater ways than ever before," he said, "to plant churches, witness and share the Gospel with people, and gather people together in congregations."
The population of Wyoming is described by the state convention's website as 90-93 percent spiritually lost, with 104 Southern Baptist congregations serving the state's 580,000 people. Wyoming is the nation's 10th largest state in landmass, but the least populous.
The network is positioned to impact a greater portion of the state with the Gospel, Nikkel said.
"I think [with] the new direction, the new leadership, and a renewed commitment to community and relationships together as churches," he said, "I'm hopeful that we'll be able to impact that lostness in a greater way than ever before."
The network's executive board has been searching for a leader to become Nikkel's successor since he announced his retirement at the spring board meeting in April. A new hire is anticipated by the fall to allow Nikkel to serve during the transition.
Nikkel began his ministry in 1980 as an associate minister of missions and youth at Polytechnic Baptist Church (now East Meadows Baptist Church) in Fort Worth, Texas, and held his most recent senior pastorate at Memorial Baptist Church in Wheatland, Wyo., from 1994–2000. He held two pastorates in Oklahoma, First Baptist Church of Garber from 1982–1985, and First Baptist Church of Fairland from 1985 to 1994.
He began serving in Southern Baptist denominational life in 2000 as a church health strategist at the Wyoming convention, becoming the executive director five years later.
He's thankful for friendships he has developed with other men who serve as executive directors in state conventions across the country, "and the way state conventions are closest to the field of the work of our churches everywhere across the nation."
Nikkel and his wife Peggy Ellen have been married since 1977 and have adult sons Christopher Ernst and Jeremy John.