Delegates challenged to do their part in creating successful churches
By Connie Faber
When 86 delegates and guests met Nov. 3-5 at Grace Bible Church in Gettysburg, SD, for the 101st CentralDistrict Conference (CDC) convention, church planting took center stage. That’s because church planting is a high priority among the 26 Mennonite Brethren congregations in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“In this part of the country, we have a different definition of ‘small’ and ‘large’ in terms of our towns and cities,” said Chuck Todd, CDC chair during his opening remarks. “Regardless of the definition, there are still people who need Christ.”
Play your role
That evening at the church planting banquet, Rod Anderson, CDC church planter and pastor, reminded delegates that “you wouldn’t be here if someone before you didn’t pray and wasn’t faithful. Everyone has a role to play in the success of your church.”
Anderson went on to say that because people come to Christ in a variety of ways, it is important to “go to work and let God do his work.”
“You are important,” said Anderson. “Some are called to plant, some to nourish and some to work in the field. Are you doing your part?”
Delegates did their part the next day to ensure that CDC church planting efforts will continue to move forward when they passed a budget of $238,000, 60 percent of which is for church planting. These funds will assist four congregations and provide financial assistance for Hispanic pastors to attend church planting resource events.
District partnerships nurture growth
Stony Brook Church, a church plant in Millard, Neb., that began meeting Dec. 1, and Christ Community Church, a five-year-old church in Sioux Falls that continues to experience growth, will receive the majority of the church planting funds. Funds are also designated for Iglesia Manantial Agua Viva, a Hispanic church plant in Omaha, Neb., and Lincoln Hills Bible Church, a congregation in Sioux Falls that is using district funds to hire an additional pastoral staff member to provide leadership in worship and children’s ministries.
Church planting funds will also help Hispanic pastors attend church planting resource events. “We would like help with theological resources in Spanish,” said Daniel Rodriguez, pastor of Iglesia Agua Viva, Omaha.
Stories at the Friday night banquet from two Omaha area church planters—Chad Stoner of Stony Brook Church and Jose Guerra of Iglesia Manantial de Agua Viva—emphasized the unique ways in which CDC congregations support and encourage one another.
The Manantial congregation moved three times this past year and now is sharing facilities with Faith Bible Church, Guerra said. “Iglesia (Agua Viva) was planted in Faith Bible and grew up,” said Guerra. “Now we are at Faith Bible and I pray that we will also grow and mature.”
Stoner’s congregation has a similar history. Millard Bible Church planted Shadow Lake Church and now Shadow Lake is planting Stony Brook in the building that housed the Millard congregation. Recognizing the role that Faith Bible and other CDC congregations have played in planting churches, Stoner referred to the rich history of Salem MB Church of Bridgewater, SD. This congregation, said Stoner, has helped plant a dozen churches.
“Salem, you are crazy,” said Stoner. “God, make us look like Salem. Make us look like Faith Bible.”
On the offensive
Beginning with the opening session Thursday evening provided by MB Mission, delegates and guests were encouraged to celebrate and be part of God’s work in the Plains States and around the world. MB Mission is the North American Mennonite Brethren global mission agency.
“If your heart is stirred for something more for the kingdom, than we’ve done what we came to do,” said Brent Warkentin, MB Mission board member and the evening speaker, pictured left.
“The call to go is for all of us,” said N**l, said a new MB Mission worker who told his story. “There are degrees (of involvement) on a sliding scales for all of us, but we are all called…. God’s vision for the world is so much bigger than mine.”
Warkentin challenged the audience to be followers of Jesus Christ who are on the offensive—to attack the gates of hell with their battering logs—and reported on his recent trip to China and Mongolia. Throughout the weekend, speakers referred back to Warkentin’s closing challenge: “It would be a good thing if we’d wake up tomorrow morning and pick up our log and ask God to show us a gate for the day. And at the end of the day, if we would put the log by the nightstand and hold our damaged hands up as trophies for God’s glory.”
Be grounded; be relevant
CDC District Minister Roger Engbrecht (below) was the convention speaker and addressed the convention theme: “In a changing world: be grounded…be relevant.” He spoke about being grounded in God’s Word and willing to be different in one’s effort to make a difference.
“To make a difference in our world we need to get a grip on the Word of God,” Engbrecht said Friday morning. “We can’t be salt and light if we don’t spend time in the Word. We need to live (God’s Word) and communicate it.”
Saturday morning Engbrecht used the story of Noah (Genesis 6) to illustrate how Christians can make a difference in their communities. “If you want to make a difference, you need to dare to be different…. What do you see around you that needs to be changed? The price of change is that someone needs to dare to be different.” Engbrecht concluded with a list of practical ways in which Christians can influence their communities. Engbrecht’s passion for harmony in church families and the need for creativity were evident as he spoke.
Topping his list was being a peacemaker. “As brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to learn to get along,” he said. “We argue about the stupidest things. It grieves my heart that people fight about insignificant things. Are you a divisive person in your church? Do you insist on your own way?”
Engbrecht encouraged his listeners to show a genuine interest in people, to be creative as congregations and individuals in influencing culture and to invite others to church. “We are no longer our father’s MB church. We need to reach lost people and move forward.”
In other business
A band comprised of CDC worship leaders and pastors led singing throughout the weekend. CDC district chair Chuck Todd and Dick Nickel, vice chair and pastor of the host congregation, moderated the business sessions.
Representatives from seven Mennonite Brethren ministries and one inter-Mennonite agency reported, including Ed Boschman, U.S. Mennonite Brethren executive director. Boschman recognized the contributions of Central District volunteers on national boards and reviewed the ways in which the national conference serves local churches.
Boschman also spoke of the importance of healthy relationships between the national conference and district conferences, local congregations and individuals. He said the decision to have Shane Claiborne speak at the 2011 National Youth Conference and a variety of issues surrounding the denominational seminary resulted in frustration and disappointment for some people. “I regret all of these things,” said Boschman. “I want us to be in right relationships. We’ve broken some trust and I want to gain it back,” he said.
In addition to accepting a new budget, delegates heard oral reports from District Minister Engbrecht and six CDC committees and elected new committee members. Duane Deckert, pastor of Bible Fellowship Church in Minot, ND., gave an update on the work of Mennonite Disaster Service in assisting in flood clean up in their community.