Engbrecht retires from fulltime ministry

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Engbrecht to continue serving part-time CDC ethnic ministry coordinator

By Myra Holmes

Roger Engbrecht has seen changes big and small in the Central District Conference (CDC) in over three decades of ministry. But some things—like a personal and district passion for church planting—remain the same.

Engbrecht, pictured with his wife, Lucille,  has served in a variety of ministry roles in the CDC for a total of 33 years, the last 12 as district minister, making his the longest pastoral ministry in the CDC. He will retire from full-time ministry Dec. 31, although he will continue to work with the district’s eight ethnic churches. Rick Eshbaugh, pastor of Harvey (ND) MB Church, will take on the role of district minister.

As district minister since 2001, Engbrecht has poured time, energy and prayer into building relationships with pastors and churches in Nebraska, the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana, traveling thousands of miles per year. Sometimes he has worked with churches to resolve conflict. Other times he has walked with congregations through change. Always, he has championed church planting.

The conflicts, he says, have been the most painful part of his work. While challenges are inevitable whenever sinful people meet, Engbrecht urges love. “It’s time for the church to be what Christ said we should be: salt and light,” he says.

In many areas of the district, especially the rural areas, changing demographics have hit hard. “I have a great appreciation for our rural churches,” Engbrecht says, calling those congregations “the backbone of our district.”

But the reality is that people are moving away from those rural areas. Many rural churches have responded to the challenge by reaching out in new ways to those in their community. That kind of change, while good, isn’t necessarily easy.

“Change is always challenging,” Engbrecht says. “The message doesn’t change, but the method of how we reach people these days has to change.”

He’s seen churches close—sometimes because of conflict, sometimes the result of declining attendance. But he’s also seen God turn those endings into new beginnings. Take, for example, Millard Bible Church, Omaha, Neb., which closed in 2008. That facility is now home to Stony Brook Church, where hundreds of people are now hearing about Christ. Engbrecht says, “When we think something is done, God is just beginning.”

Through all the changes, Engbrecht and the district remain passionate about reaching people for Christ. Engbrecht says the greatest joys as district minister have come from seeing churches planted and lives transformed. He points out that more people come to Christ through new church plants than through any other method. That’s why he says, “We need to continue our efforts relentlessly in planting new churches.”

While financing a big church planting vision is a continuing challenge, Engbrecht is convinced that the resources are available if churches and individuals work together. “We’re capable of doing much more,” he says, as a district and as a national family of churches.

Engbrecht will undoubtedly continue to champion church planting, even in retirement. It’s just who he is. And, he hopes, it will continue to be integral in the CDC. “We’ve been highly focused on evangelism. I hope we’ll never lose that vision, that we’ll always be about the Father’s business of seeking to win the lost for Jesus.”

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