A place to be

Place is an important part of our stories

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By Rick EshbaughHome sign

“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put man whom he had formed” (Gen. 2:8, ESV).

For me the heart of our new USMB strategic vision is the phrase, “empowering local churches to reach their full ministry potential.” In the Central District Conference (CDC) we currently have 26 places in five states (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota) where we seek to support these churches as they live out our stated core commitments of evangelism, intentional discipleship and leadership development.

We are in the process of formalizing membership with two additional churches who made application to join our district: New Jerusalem Temple in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (Congolese) and Grace International Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, (Ethiopian). We continue to have conversations with a network of 14 “orphaned” congregations who left their denomination over theological and policy issues. Furthermore, we have the possibility of having four additional church plants within the next year. Should this all come to fruition, God willing, we would go from 26 places to 46.  This would add the states of Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana!

The only way possible to cover this wide-ranging territory is through the networking of USMB, MB Mission, C2C Network, MB Foundation and our institutions.  This year alone we will host two LEAD One events including one in Spanish. We have several churches currently partnering with MB Foundation for building projects. Many pastors are considering or are already enrolled in our new Guidestone retirement plan. As a district we have supported five pastors seeking to further their education (one Bible certificate, three masters and one doctorate). Several of these individuals have also made application for a grant from MB Foundation’s Leadership Generation Fund. Our new partnership with C2C Network will help us to strategically plan and support existing and future church plants.

But why is it important for us to focus on strengthening the local church and to welcome others into our fellowship of churches?

In January 2016, after serving three-quarters time as the district minister for four years, we moved to an apartment in Sioux Falls and assumed the full-time position. At the end of our one-year lease, God provided a house for us in nearby Dell Rapids, SD.  While the apartment was nice and met our needs, we desired our own place.

I have come to believe this yearning for a place is part of our created nature and shows up not only in structures like homes and church buildings, but also in community in general. It is possible to have a building with no sense of community and to have community without a building. I find it revealing that before God created human beings, he established a first place called Eden. It was a perfect place to be with God. This first place was soon lost when the terms of the agreement were broken and the yearning for a place began. From that initial loss of place, our history is filled with stories of mankind building and fighting over boundaries, treasures, cities, towers, temples, walls, homes, etc.

But unlike earthly places, Christ’s kingdom is not a static kingdom with fixed borders. It is an advancing kingdom empowered by the Christ-promised indwelling of the Holy Spirit. A kingdom open to all who are willing by faith to come through the “narrow gate” of Christ alone. A kingdom renowned by those who were and are compelled by grace to unite in a Christ-like community/place as they continue to experience Spirit-led transformation.

Please continue to pray for the CDC as we seek to live into our vision!

 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-5, ESV). 

Central District Conference minister Rick Eshbaugh serves with his wife, Esther, and represents the CDC on the USMB Board of Faith and Life, Leadership Board and National Strategy Team as well as the Tabor College Board of Directors. Eshbaugh is a 1985 graduate of MB Biblical Seminary, now Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, and has served as a USMB pastor in Oklahoma, Kansas, Washington, Oregon and North Dakota. He also worked for several years with Church Resource Ministries as part of the national reFocusing team. The Eshbaughs have two daughters, two sons, one daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. This latest move to Dell Rapids, SD, marks their 21st move in 39 years of marriage.

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