Engbrecht honored for long-time service to district
By Myra Holmes
When delegates and guests of the Central District Conference (CDC) gathered for their 105th annual convention Nov. 6-7 in Sioux Falls, SD, conversation centered around church renewal, a shift from past years when the focus was on church planting.
“Our team has set out to help our churches work on renewal in ways we have never done before,” says John Langer, chair of the district’s Church Planting and Renewal Committee, in his written report. “As we look to 2016, we will be working alongside our existing churches more to encourage them and offer ourselves to them to assist in whatever way they need us. It is clear that God is moving, and we are encouraged by what he is doing in the Central District.”
The CDC, which encompasses 26 churches in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska and the Dakotas, remains active in church planting and supports several church plants in the district, the newest being Sanctuary Fremont, Fremont, Neb.
Reports, banquet focus on renewal
An emphasis on renewal was especially evident during Friday evening’s traditional church planting banquet, which centered this year on renewal efforts in the district. Speakers highlighted various aspects of renewal in the district.
Stephen Stout, interim pastor of Faith Bible Church, Omaha, Neb., spoke on efforts to re-start that congregation. The district launched a church renewal fund last year; FBC was the first recipient of the fund. Stout noted that the 45-year-old congregation had been struggling, with attendance about a year ago hovering around 35; now attendance is around 60. Chad Stoner, of the Church Planting and Renewal Committee, wondered aloud if FBC might be the fastest-growing Mennonite Brethren congregation in the United States.
“God is doing some good things,” Stout said, “I really believe that our best days are yet to come.”
Troy Weiland, pastor of Christ Community Church (CCC), Sioux Falls, SD, shared what renewal looked like when their church building was flooded in August. A heavy downpour overwhelmed city drainage systems, leading to a river of water on the church property and about four inches of water throughout the church’s storefront facility.
Weiland said district leaders immediately offered support, volunteers put in roughly 1,000 hours of work to refurbish the building and Lincoln Hills Bible Church, another USMB congregation in Sioux Falls, opened their doors to CCC while they were displaced—all of which is “a testament to our conference,” said Weiland.
CCC had been slated to host the district convention and was able to do so as planned, moving back into their building shortly before convention.
As the district’s newest pastor, installed Aug. 23, Dan Strutz, pastor of Community Bible Church, Mountain Lake, Minn., shared his excitement to move forward in ministry in a congregation that has had “rough days.” He encouraged attendees to pray for the future leaders of the church, much like a father prays for the man who will one day marry his daughter.
Ananias “Markey" Montague, minister of music and fine arts at Salem Baptist Church, Omaha, led a time of worship. Montague was one of the resource people for a LEAD ONE leadership training event that focused on worship and was held in August at Christ Community Church—an event that committee member Stoner said was a form of renewal for district worship leaders.
A Friday evening offering of $3,507 was earmarked for rebuilding efforts at Gospel Fellowship Church, Wolf Point, Mont., where a November 2014 fire destroyed their facility.
Delegates pass “robust” budget
A focus on renewal was also evident during budget discussions. The $421,000 budget, which district chair Lud Hohm called “very robust,” represents a significant increase over last year’s budget of $386,000. It includes a decrease in funds earmarked for church planting and an increase in funds for church renewal and assumes increased church giving in a time when many of the rural churches are impacted by a downturn in the farming markets.
“We are asking you as churches to support what the Central District is doing,” said district treasurer Richard Walter as he introduced the budget. In the end, delegates approved the budget unanimously.
An offering on Saturday intended to jump-start the budget brought in $5,710.
Workshops Friday afternoon further explored two kinds of church renewal. Stout, of FBC in Omaha, and Stephen Humber, representing MB Mission, talked about reaching out to neighbors as mission, which is part of the continuing vision of Omaha’s FBC. Bruce Bogar, pastor of Gospel Fellowship Church, Wolf Point, Mont., and Garvie Schmidt, representing MB Foundation, discussed the church’s plans to rebuild following their fire.
In addition to approving the budget, delegates heard reports from district committees as well as partner ministries and approved a slate of district leaders. Lud Hohm will continue as district chair.
On Friday morning, attendees recognized Roger Engbrecht for long-time service in the district. Engbrecht has announced plans to retire after serving 34 years in the district as a pastor, district minister and, most recently, part-time district minister for ethnic ministries. “It has been a real joy for me and my wife to serve the CDC all these years,” he said.
CDC chair Hohm presented Engbrecht with a plaque of appreciation.
As Engbrecht retires, Rick Eshbaugh will move from a part-time to a full-time district minister role. He has announced his resignation as pastor of Harvey (ND) MB Church, effective no sooner than the first of the year.
Speaker highlights identity in Christ
Rob Clogg, president of Grace Fellowship International, a counseling ministry based in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., was the keynote speaker for three general sessions. His focus was on the convention theme, “A Life Worthy of the Calling in Christ,” taken from Ephesians 4:1, and his messages centered on three key words in that verse: life, worth and call. All three messages emphasized the power of the cross not only for salvation but also for victory in life. He encouraged attendees to look at their problems through the perspective of the cross. “Not I, but Christ,” he said. “The challenge is great, but we have a life worthy of the call.” Attendees were given a small wooden cross to remind them of the message.
Photo by Myra Holmes: Retiring pastor Roger Engbrecht addresses the delegates.