Central District convention inspires continued church planting, mission efforts
By Myra Holmes
Harvest—both literal and figurative—was the unofficial theme of the Central District Conference (CDC) convention, held Nov. 5-8 in Yale, SD, and hosted by Bethel MB Church. A late harvest season in many rural CDC communities affected attendance, but those who came were inspired to continue working for a spiritual harvest. The CDC is comprised of 24 congregations in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska and North and South Dakota
The late harvest season overlapped with convention planning, but according to Lud Hohm, chair of the Bethel MB Church hosting committee, the many Bethel volunteers stepped up without complaint and demonstrated an attitude of servanthood to get the work done.
Late harvest likely also played a role in lower attendance at this year’s convention. District minister Roger Engbrecht says that lower attendance and lack of representation from younger generations is an ongoing concern for district leaders.
“We really feel it is important to get younger people involved in the ministry of the conference,” he says. “We want them to be a part of it and get them excited about what we’re doing together.” District leaders will be discussing possible format changes to encourage attendance.
In spite of the challenges presented by the literal harvest, the convention’s focus was on a spiritual harvest. Evangelism through church growth and church planting are “the heartbeat” of the CDC, says Engbrecht. “People are always encouraged and enthused about hearing about changed lives,” he says.
The convention opened with a focus on global mission with a Celebrate Mission Night sponsored by MBMS International, the global mission agency of North American Mennonite Brethren. MBMSI hosts these annual events across North America to inform and to encourage involvement in global mission. Celebrate Mission Night has become the traditional opener for the CDC convention, taking advantage of the gathering of so many people from this geographically scattered district of small congregations. Other 2009 Celebrate Mission events were held in Dinuba and Fresno, Calif., and Wichita, Kan.
Carlin Weinhauer, from the MBMSI mobilization team, was the keynote speaker for both the Celebrate Mission Night and for the convention. He spoke on the theme, “Press Toward the Goal.” Four Saturday workshops were led by Weinhauer; Don Morris of Mission USA; Phil Glanzer, former CDC pastor; and Jules Glanzer, president of Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kan.
Church planting was the focus Friday evening at the Church Planting and Renewal Banquet. Rod Anderson, pastor of Christ Community Church, Sioux Falls, SD, spoke, a Christ Community team led worship and the offering was earmarked for church planting efforts. Christ Community is a church plant supported by the district in partnership with Mission USA, the church planting and renewal arm of U.S. Mennonite Brethren.
The district also supports Shadow Lake Community Church, Papillion, Neb., in efforts to establish a satellite campus by allowing use of the facilities of the former Millard Bible Church and by financially supporting a new campus pastor.
During the convention the district recognized two churches emerging out of Iglesia Agua Viva, a Spanish-language congregation in Omaha, Neb. These emerging congregations are located in Omaha and nearby Council Bluffs, Ia.
Lud Hohm points out that by partnering with other district churches, even a smaller rural church like Bethel can make a difference in church planting and global mission. Julie Hohm, Lud’s wife and secretary of the host church, says that’s one of the benefits of gathering for convention—to remind individuals and churches that they are part of something bigger.
Convention business reflected a desire to reap a spiritual harvest, as delegates overwhelmingly approved about a 15 percent increase over last year’s budget, including increases for church planting. That’s a bold move in a difficult economy, Engbrecht admits, but vision for further ministry outweighs the risk. “We’re eager to see how the Lord will provide,” says Engbrecht.
The CDC will hold its 100th convention in 2010. Timing and location have yet to be determined.
First-time delegate reflects: Finding longer arms for Christ
My family is new to the Mennonite Brethren church. A little over a year ago we became members of Grace Bible Church in Gettysburg, SD. At our church business meeting, my husband and I were elected as delegates for the Central District Conference convention. It should be noted, I think, that we were not first choice delegates. A “well established” couple was asked to attend, but they wisely suggested that the church send some newer members who had never attended. We accepted but were pretty clueless about what went on at convention.
A week before the convention, my husband realized that he wouldn’t be able to attend. I felt the need to fulfill this obligation, so I traveled to the convention with a friend. After the first evening of worship and fellowship, I discovered that convention attendance was not an obligation but an opportunity, a gift. People, churches and committees that had once been only a reference made in my church announcements or bulletin came to life.
Attending the CDC convention has lengthened my arms for Christ. I am now able to see myself as part of something much larger than simply being a member of Grace Bible Church. I am a member of an awesome body of believers.—Amy Wager. Reprinted with permission from the CDC newsletter, The Partner
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