A search online for information about the geographic center of the nation or continent will yield some pretty interesting results. Did you know that the geographic center of the US was first determined in 1918 when the US Coast and Geodetic Survey ingeniously cut out a piece of cardboard the shape of the United States at the time (without Alaska and Hawaii, of course), and balanced it on a point? That led them to Lebanon, Kansas, where you can see the monument to the geographic center to this day…though the real center is some miles away in the middle of a farmer’s field. Add Alaska and Hawaii, and you travel northwest to Belle Fourche, South Dakota, in the Black Hills region of the state. There, too, a monument stands, though the actual center is again on private land some miles to the north. If you want the center of all of North America, then you’re back in the car to head to Rugby, North Dakota, where, you guessed it, the same scenario will present itself. Another even more important center is to be found in Osbourne, Kansas, where you will find a little plaque in the middle of a field marking the geodetic center of the lower 48, the US equivalent of Greenwich, from which every survey in the country takes its ultimate reference.
So, why would I mention all of this in relation to church planting? I’m glad you asked. None of these markers are even inside the city limits of any town. All take some effort to find; yet all of these centers are significant because the continent is significant. I believe the BPC is significant, that it has a great role to play in the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ on this continent. Years ago, the BPC had many churches in the great Midwest, but now, for various reasons, those churches are no more, or at least, are no longer in the BPC. So we have churches on both coasts, with a vast expanse between. Over the past several years, we’ve been seeking and defining our center, in a manner of speaking. That center may not seem all that important at times, and it may seem out of the way, but without it our lives have only a fuzzy point of reference that impacts everything we do and say.
The vision statement that our Synod approved last year after much deliberation was an excellent step forward in identifying our center. In some ways, it’s a little like that 1918 survey: a bit imprecise and subject to interpretation perhaps, and yet, it has landed us in the neighborhood. It’s something to keep working on. The clearer our perspective is of our ultimate point of reference in our relationship with Christ and our duties to Him, the easier it will be to establish new local testimonies that exalt Him. My vision is to see us steadily expand toward our geographic center armed with our firm commitment to our spiritual (“geodetic,” if you will) center. In Canada, the US, and Central America, I long to see more churches, more presbyteries, more souls reached by the grace of God. It’s going to take time and sacrifice and people to do it, and the goal stretches beyond my lifetime. Nevertheless, my prayer is that you and I will lay the groundwork for the next generation to faithfully and wisely continue the journey.
Like any road trip, it takes planning, for sure. It also takes just getting out of the house, jumping in the car, and driving that first mile down the road. There may not be anything awfully exciting at first, and there may be delays along the road. But, eventually, you get there, and the whole journey has been worth it. Finding our center is much the same. I’m glad that you and I are on this journey together. —Dr. Len Pine