Delegates to the Pacific District Conference convention held Nov. 1-2, 2019, in Fresno, California, and hosted by Mountain View Church, approved a budget that included funding for a new position—director of church planting and leadership development—and welcomed two new congregations into the district.
The Friday afternoon business session gave delegates a preview of the decisions that would be made the following morning. The idea of adding a second full-time staff member was initiated two years ago by former district minister Gary Wall, who concluded 17 years of service as PDC minister in July 2019, explained moderator Pat Coyle. The PDC is a geographically large district and the district minister’s responsibilities are beyond the job of one person, Coyle said. For the past two years, district leaders have been working on a proposal for adding a staff member who would work in church planting and leadership development.
District anticipates filling two staff positions
As part of his report, Coyle said that the district minister search committee had held “listening sessions” to determine the priorities for the next district minister and had received six applications for the position. Their intention was to announce a new district minister at the convention. In the interview process it became apparent that additional thought needed to be given to the position. So, the PDC executive board will be meeting in January 2020 to further discuss the role of the district minister, Coyle said.
Once the new district minister is in place, the director of church planting and leadership development will be hired and a detailed job description for the position will be finalized. The current intent is that the new staff member will lead the district church planting, evangelism and multiplication ministries and the district leadership development ministry, raise “significant” financial support for these ministries and “serve the interests of our diverse district constituency,” according to the proposed budget report in the delegate report booklet.
Leaders also hope that having a second person traveling among the six states and 115 churches that comprise the PDC will increase the number of churches that financially support the district as well as the dollar amount contributed.
Funding new positions
To ensure that funds will be available for this new position, the PDC Executive Board and Trustee Board requested that the 5 percent cap on corpus distribution be increased to 7 percent for the next two fiscal years (2020-21 and 2021-22). This recommendation was introduced Friday and discussed Saturday.
Discussion focused on understanding what constitutes the corpus (capital as contrasted with the income derived from it) and why the amount taken would be limited to 7 percent for two fiscal years (to avoid depleting conference funds). Delegates also spoke to the importance of “stepping-up” and “leaning in” in terms of church giving and overall support of the PDC.
In addition to the new staff member, the 2020-21 budget of $575,710 also includes an increase in the financial support provided to five regional Hispanic pastors. In the past, the PDC’s Hispanic congregations were served by an associate district minister. Distributing the responsibility of connecting and caring for the growing number of Hispanic congregations to five regional workers has worked well, said Xavier Pina, Hispanic Council chair.
Delegates welcome new congregations
Saturday morning two new churches were welcomed into the PDC: Neighborhood Church, a church plant located in an underserved 8-block by 12-block neighborhood in Fresno and Ebenezer Ethiopian Church, a congregation in Portland, Oregon, that began as a Bible study in the home of pastor Demess Tadasse.
After representatives from both churches had shared, delegates stood and extended their hands as Pat Coyle, moderator, Dennis Fast, interim district minister, and Brian Wiebe, Board of Home Mission chair, prayed for the congregations.
Delegates also heard brief reports from the Hispanic Council, represented by Xavier Pina, and five boards: Executive Board represented by moderator Pat Coyle, Board of Faith and Life represented by chair Rod Suess, Board of Next Gen Leadership represented by chair Jordan Ringhofer, Board of Home Missions represented by chair Brian Wiebe, and Board of Trustees represented by Ron Brown and district accountant Joe Ringhofer.
In other business, delegates elected new board members and heard a report from Josh Wilson, chair of the Fresno Pacific University Board of Directors, and FPU President Joe Jones and Valerie Rempel, dean of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.
Church planting was the focus of the Friday evening banquet and program. The evening offering for church planting totaled $14,159. Church planters Cesar and Maria Salazar of Plaza Iglesia Cristiana in Bakersfield, California, John Richardson of Prodigal Church in Fresno, and Phil and Melissa Wiebe of Lakeview Church in Stansbury Park, Utah, shared stories.
One of those stories prompted further discussion Saturday morning about marriage, specifically between believers and unbelievers. Delegates expressed a variety of views, affirming the importance of demonstrating grace as well as the importance of following Scripture and referenced the USMB Confession of Faith (Article 11: Marriage, Singleness and Family) that a believer should not marry an unbeliever.
Convention speaker offers encouragement
Convention speaker Paul Andrew spoke three times, including as part of the Friday evening banquet program. Andrews was also the speaker at a church planters conference hosted by Mountain View Church prior to the convention.
Andrew titled his first sermon “Mandate to Multiply,” and spoke from a variety of texts saying, “Multiplication is everywhere in Scripture.” Andrew concluded with a list of three things that multiplication requires: change, risk and intimacy with God and co-laborers.
“We don’t multiply alone,” Andrew said. “Just think of the multiplication power of this room. God’s gifts are scattered among his people. Each of us only has so much time…. Lord, would we steward our time well.”
Andrew’s Friday evening sermon was based in Acts 2:42-47, particularly the phrase “all the believers.” Andrews reminded the audience that the church is a community, a group of people — “the church is us,” not an organization or a worship service. He spoke of seeing ourselves as priests, with each person enabled by God with certain gifts. Andrew said that the church is “one body” and that Christians should celebrate their diversity as individuals and congregations.
“It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people,” Andrew said.
He closed with the story of Nehemiah and a prayer that U.S. Mennonite Brethren would “rise up and build,” as did the people in Nehemiah’s day.
Andrew’s final sermon was one of encouragement taken from the story of Barnabas and Acts 4, 9 and 15. It’s impact and the audience’s appreciation for the message was evident in the business session that followed as numerous people who spoke from the floor referenced the importance of encouraging one another.
“If you are an encourager, you’ll always have people to lead,” Andrew said. “There is plenty of discouragement in the world. The church should be an encouraging place.”
Andrew encouraged his listeners to see people how God sees them. He posed three questions: Am I willing to risk my reputation on someone else? Am I ready to handle the ups and downs of believing in people? Am I secure enough to empower others?
Andrew invited the audience to be encouragers in three areas: words, deeds and by offering one’s presence.
Andrew closed by asking, “What would it look life if (USMB) were a movement of encouragers? What if everyone had a Barnabas?”
Moderator Coyle closed the convention by inviting delegates to stand and join with others at their tables to “lock, lean and look.” Delegates locked arms and leaned together into a time of prayer that looked toward the future.