Central District delegates approve budget emphasizing church planting
By Connie Faber
Topping the agenda when Central District Conference (CDC) delegates gathered Nov. 8-10 at Bethesda Church in Huron, SD, for their 102nd convention was an announcement regarding a change in the district minister assignment and affirmation of the district’s commitment to church planting.
In the first business session Friday morning, CDC chair Chuck Todd announced that Roger Engbrecht will be retiring from full-time ministry at the end of December. Engbrecht has served the CDC in various ministry roles for 33 years, the last 12 years as district minister.
“I’m proud to have served in a denomination that is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ,” Engbrecht told the delegates.
Engbrecht, Eshbaugh to share responsibilities
Engbrecht will continue working part-time as the CDC director of ethnic ministries, a new position that will serve the district’s eight ethnic congregations. Ministry to ethnic churches, Todd told the delegates, requires establishing long-term relationships, which is why the CDC Executive Board asked Engbrecht to continue serving in this area.
Throughout the conference, various agency representatives acknowledged Engbrecht’s leadership. Ron Braun, representing Tabor College, affirmed Engbrecht for his service on the Tabor College Board of Directors. Don Morris, representing the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, expressed appreciation for Engbrecht’s work at the national level and in district church planting ventures.
One of Engbrecht’s last responsibilities as the CDC district minister was to officiate the Saturday morning communion service. He also asked delegates to remember those in the district who died this past year, specifically mentioning Pastor Walter Preza.
Friday morning Moderator Todd also introduced Rick Eshbaugh, pastor of Harvey (ND) MB Church, who will begin serving part-time in January as the district minister, focusing on serving current churches and emerging church plants.
In his comments to the delegates, Eshbaugh noted that God has uniquely prepared him for this new assignment thanks to Eshbaugh’s previous experience as a lead pastor, intentional interim pastor and with Church Resource Ministries, a consulting organization emphasizing evangelism, leadership development and renewing and strengthening established churches.
“I’m blessed to work with churches that are turning around and with pastors going through difficult times who need to be encouraged and supported,” said Eshbaugh.
CDC Chair Todd (not pictured); Faith and Life Committee chair Roy Burkett (right) and Quint Hofer, Trustee Committee chair; and Michael Patrick, pastor of Emmanuel MB Church, Onida, SD, (far right) gathered around Eshbaugh and his wife, Esther, and Engbrehct and his wife, Lucille, to offer prayers commissioning the new team of district ministers.
"Focus…is church planting"
The opening business session also included a review of the 2011-12 fiscal year budget provided by CDC treasurer Richard Walter. “From this budget you can see that the focus of our district is church planting,” said Walter.
Sixty-two percent of the 2011-12 CDC budget was earmarked for church planting and renewal expenses. Last fiscal year, the CDC provided financial support for three church plants: Manantial de Agua Viva in Omaha, Neb., Stony Brook Church in Millard, Neb., and Christ Community Church in Sioux Falls, SD. The Church Planting and Renewal Committee has also partnered with Lincoln Hills Bible Church in Sioux Falls since 2007 to hire a worship pastor and that financial support concluded this past year.
Rod Anderson, Church Planting and Renewal Committee chair, reported to delegates that these four churches reported 33 conversions and 18 baptisms in the past year. Committee funds were also used to send committee members to Exponential Conference, a church planting conference held annually in Orlando, Fla., and to provide educational opportunities for Hispanic pastors.
Church planting will continue to be a CDC priority, judging from the 2012-13 Church Planting and Renewal Committee budget request. Funds for the next year include planting a new church somewhere in the CDC—Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. In the closing business session, delegates approved a 2012-13 budget of $229,880, with $122,000 designated for church planting and renewal.
The historical importance of church planting in the CDC was highlighted Friday evening at the banquet held at Huron’s Crossroads Event Center. “Thank you for giving someone the vision to plant the church that we are in today,” said Committee member John Langer in his opening prayer.
The banquet program was designed to “get everyone on the same page and using the same language” concerning church planting said Chad Stoner, Church Planting and Renewal Committee member (pictured right). Components of the program highlighted prayer, planters, provisions, partnerships, perseverance and possibilities, with members of the Church Planting and Renewal Committee taking responsibility for the segments. Mission USA Director Don Morris was involved in several segments. Mission USA is the national USMB church planting and renewal ministry.
The banquet program also included a question and answer time. Committee members solicited questions from delegates earlier in the day. An offering was taken to support church planting and renewal in the CDC.
In other business, delegates affirmed delegates to fill vacancies on CDC committees: Executive, Faith and Life, Trustees, Church Planting and Renewal, Youth and Nominating. Each committee also provided a written report and was called on for an oral report.
Conference guests who addressed the delegates included representatives from USMB, Kindred Productions, MB Mission, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, Tabor College, Center for MB Studies, Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite Disaster Service. Kevin King, MDS executive director (pictured left) gave delegates an update on the disaster agency's work in Minot, ND, following a flood two years ago, and on Staten Island, NY, following last month's Superstorm Sandy.
Musicians from Bethesda Church (pictured below) led in times of worship during the conference. They were joined Thursday night by musicians from a Hispanic congregation in Huron with which Bethesda shares their youth facility in the north part of the city.
Crop reports and harvesters
Rod Anderson, CDC pastor and church planter, was the keynote speaker. His two morning sermons were based on Matt. 9:37-38 and highlighted the convention theme, “Equipped for the harvest.”
In his Friday message, Anderson emphasized seeing the need in one’s own community. He began by explaining that agricultural crop reports are helpful in determining supply and demand and to assisting the harvester in making appropriate plans.
“Jesus provided one of the earliest crop reports,” said Anderson. “The harvest would be plentiful and the workers few. Do you really believe his report?” asked Anderson. “When you look at your community, do you see people who need Jesus—or do you just see people?”
Using the city of Huron as an example, Anderson said that statistics about American’s beliefs and religious practices suggest that there are “311 people looking for Jesus in Huron.”
Anderson said, “Doesn’t that get you excited? We have a lot of people out there looking for the church, but we aren’t looking for them…. Get your combines ready, because the harvest is ready.”
Anderson cited research indicating that churches with 200 members or less are more likely to plant a daughter church. Noting that most CDC congregations fall in this range, Anderson said, “We as a conference of churches are poised to reach this generation for Jesus Christ…. We can make a difference.”
Anderson’s Saturday morning message emphasized the importance of “more churches and more workers.”
Anderson said, “We pay attention to the harvest field but what about the workers? When was the last time you begged God to provide workers for his harvest?”
Anderson encouraged his audience to bring new people into the family of God and into local churches. “We need these new people, and then we need to put them to work in God’s harvest,” he said.
God specifically designed each person to work in his harvest field, said Anderson, and it is important to not be distracted from what God has called you to do, said Anderson. “Have you ever said to God, ‘I will do this for you’ and then something happens in life and it all unravels? When you take a step for God, Satan will meet you head on. If you’re not doing something for God, Satan isn’t interested in you.”
Anderson, currently pastor of Christ Community Church in Sioux Falls, also preached Sunday morning at Bethesda Church.
The CDC convention began with a focus on foreign missions Thursday evening provided by MB Mission representatives Jon Pritchard, Carlin Weinhauer and two missionaries who will be serving in East Asia. The opening worship session concluded with small groups of delegates and guests praying for believers and missionaries serving in East Asian countries.
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