2015 Report of the President of Northern Plains Classis
Of the Reformed Church in the United States
The time has come again to consider the state of the Northern Plains Classis. This is our 30th annual spring meeting. Our classis first met in Minot, North Dakota, on May 6, 1986. Many things have changed since that day. However, the mission of the church remains the same. So how has the work of our classis developed in this past year? As with every other year, we can see progress and growth. We also see trials as well. The one thing that has not changed is the faithfulness of our God. With this in mind, let us consider the state of the classis.
My attention is always drawn first to the parochial reports of the ministers. Here we learn what is going on in our local churches. Each congregation has different needs and has different ministries, but each has the same Lord watching over them.
Rev. Dale Clark continues to minister in Dickinson, ND. He preaches every Lord’s Day evening at the Holiday Inn Express in Dickinson. He also speaks at an assisted living home in Dickinson and involves himself in other activities as he has opportunity. He also has a men’s Bible study in Taylor. It will be interesting to see what comes of that. One concern, which will be discussed at the classis meeting, will be the location of the services. On the one hand, Dickinson is the population center. It is there that visitors are most likely to come. It is the place with the most people who need to be reached by the gospel. On the other hand, with one exception, the families of the congregation live closer to Taylor than they do Dickinson. It is also possible that something might develop from the Bible studies he holds there. The Classis, the Aberdeen Consistory, and the Dickinson congregation will all need great wisdom from the Lord as to how to proceed.
My own church in Aberdeen has seen great changes this year. For the first time, we are overseeing a mission work. We have also called our first associate pastor, Rev. Clark. As we seek to oversee the mission work, we are greatly blessed that one of our elders, Elder Craig Mehlhaff, is a salesman for Truss Pro’s, which supplies rafters to the building industry. His route takes him through Dickinson quite frequently. Therefore, he is able to visit the congregation, attend Bible studies, and consult with Rev. Clark. Locally, we have had a slight gain in membership. Our radio ministry is now 10 years old. God has blessed us richly.
Rev. James Grossmann continues with his busy ministry in Eureka. He also ministers to RCUS congregations without a pastor. Thus, he is frequently in Hosmer and Herreid, occasionally in Ashley, and on occasion does pastoral work for Anamoose. He also spends a lot of time on his duties as classis Stated Clerk. Locally, he organized the first vacation Bible school in Eureka for many years. He had 18 children attend. He spends as much time as possible out and about among the people of Eureka. God has prospered his ministry greatly, and the classis is thankful for it.
In Pierre, Rev. J. P. Mosley has begun his third year in the ministry. Coincidentally, it is also the 50th anniversary of the Hope Reformed Church. Rev. Mosley has been hard at work preaching and teaching in his congregation. One interesting experience he has had is the opportunity to give the opening prayer at a city commission meeting and also the South Dakota State Senate and House of Representatives. He also conducts various Bible studies and is even teaching New Testament Greek.
Rev. Phil Poe is the pastor of the Harvest Reformed Church in Minot, North Dakota. Numerous members have recently moved away for job-related reasons. At the same time, there are prospective members to fill those places. The Harvest Reformed Church continues to walk by faith. The church has committed itself to donating $250 to mission organizations each month. The church’s philosophy is that “you cannot out give the Lord.” One concern the church has is the need to purchase a building in which to worship. We understand how important a building can be when it comes to attracting visitors to our services. We must pray that the Lord provides their need in his good time.
Rev. George Syms is our pastor in Watertown, SD. His parochial reports, through the years, reflect a real gift for promoting Christian Fellowship. He engages in Bible studies and classes and also organizes opportunities for social gatherings as well. He has also chaired the Candidates and Credentials Committee in a year when there was much work to do. His patient and pastoral attitude towards the young men inquiring about ministry in our classis has been a real asset to us all. Rev. Syms has been hospitalized this past year. We thank God he is feeling better.
Turning to our committee reports, the Candidates and Credentials Committee, as I just mentioned, has been very busy. They dealt with five gentlemen who expressed an interest in the Reformed ministry. This is a time-consuming business, and, more often than not, most contacts fall through. Therefore, you could sense the joy in the committee report as it described the progress of Thomas Walters. The latest chapter of his story, the report states, was his successful licensure examination in February. Mr. Walters is now in Ashley where he is preparing for his ordination exam. We thank God for providing a pastor for our church in Ashley. We also hope that he will be able to take some of the pressure off of Rev. Grossmann with regards to working with other Classis churches which are without a minister.
The Home Missions Committee was almost exclusively concerned with our mission work in Dickinson, North Dakota. When Rev. Grossmann left Ashley, the consistory there did not feel able to continue to provide oversight for that congregation. In the providence of God, the Aberdeen Consistory volunteered to assume that role. As I stated earlier, the regular travels of Aberdeen Elder Craig Mehlhaff has been an immense help in providing closer supervision than our Dickinson chapel had previously enjoyed. Challenges lie ahead for this mission work. These issues will have to be faced by the committee this coming year.
Most of the other committees were not terribly active this last year. The Heidelberg Youth Camp Committee is an exception. We are very thankful to Elder Matt Fickbohm of Pierre for his work as Camp Director. The committee report noted the theme of the 2015 camp will be the “I Am” statements of Christ in the Gospel of John. The committee has also been concerned about the need for privacy and modesty at camp. Presently, the committee is working on a dress code for the campers. This is not to say that discipline has been lax at Heidelberg Youth Camp. Maintaining Christian standards at a youth camp is a job that is never really completed. Experience teaches the need to fine tune camp arrangements.
So what is the bottom line? Is our classis a dinosaur headed for the tar pits or do we still have a role to play in the kingdom of God? I believe the Bible clearly indicates that the size of the body of Christ in any particular location is no indication of its significance. After all, the apostles whom Christ chose to organize the Christian church were few in number and had been very slow to learn from his teaching. We think of our own denomination, and marvel how, with only 4,000 members, the Lord has used us to proclaim the gospel of sovereign grace in a way disproportionate to our size. This being the case, can we really doubt that God is moving in our midst?
In Zechariah 4:10, we are asked, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” Not us, I trust. As we read a few verses earlier in Zechariah 4:6, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ saith the Lord of hosts.”
Rev. David A. Dawn