1991 Annual Council votes

1991 Annual Council votes Ministerial Association to serve elders

New tools to help elders serve the church

James Zachary is the global evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, California.

Papua New Guinea. The lay evangelist hikes five miles each Sabbath through the thick jungle. Rain or shine, he has an inner compulsion to make the trip. Each Sabbath afternoon, 150 people await his arrival for a Bible study. During the upcoming weeks, many make decisions for Jesus. Soon a church is ready to be organized, but the district pastor already has 12 congregations to shepherd. The lay evangelist must assume the care of the new flock. And he does. And soon he will train one of the new members for the task.

Central India. A carpenter, he came to the city to make his living, and here he found his Saviour. As he builds his cabinets and doors and windows through the week, he feels burdened for his native village, which has not yet heard the good news. So he ventures forth each Sabbath to share his faith with family, friends, and neighbors. The 75-mile bus trip takes him over hot and dusty roads, but the sweat and toil mean nothing compared with the joy of sharing the gospel. I was in that village when this happy carpenter dug the first shovelful of earth in preparation for constructing the church. Once again, a layperson has come to the aid of the pastor.

Lima, Peru. At the beginning of 1991, the conference issued evangelism kits to 3,000 laypersons. On September 27, nearly 2,500 were baptized. Thirty new congregations joined the 220 already in the city. Who would look after these congregations? Who would assist the overloaded pastors? Elders, of course.

Philippines. One of my former students, now serving as a pastor in the south Philippines, recently wrote to me that he has 32 churches to supervise. His lay evangelists are establishing five new ones.

During this quinquennium, church leaders expect more than 2 million new members to join the church, as a result of Global Mission emphasis. Who will shepherd them? Who will visit? Who will preach? Elders, of course.

What a responsibility rests on elders! Often without any specialized training they must give leadership to their church. From week to week, after working long hours at their trade or business, they must take time to study the Word in preparing a sermon, to evangelize, to care for the needs of members.

In some parts of the world, a different challenge beckons the elders. A congregation might have three pastors and 11 elders. Anxious to serve the Lord faith fully, most elders would like to do some thing more than calling for the offering or announcing a hymn during the worship service. These local leaders need support in order for them to fulfill their responsibility of spiritual ministry and leadership.

The 1991 General Conference Annual Council has charged the Ministerial Association with the responsibility to train, equip, and support the ministry of local elders. The council adopted this action, to be implemented worldwide:

"WHEREAS, Scripture emphasizes the local church elder's leadership role in the local church (sometimes designated as lay pastor); and

"WHEREAS, local church elders, working under their pastors, often do much of the pastoral work of a church; and

"WHEREAS, the Ministerial Association coordinates the training and equipping of local church elders in cooperation with the departments of the world church; and

"WHEREAS, pastors and local church elders need some of the same training and ongoing reminders of the need to work closely together; it is

"VOTED, 1. To encourage the local conferences/missions/fields to invite local church elders to attend periodic meetings of the Ministerial Association which are specifically designated for training local church elders. This reserves full membership to pastors but emphasizes the significance of local church elders as their assistants.

"2. To invite local church elders to specified meetings for pastors as finances allow."

The General Conference Ministerial Association is taking the following steps to support, equip, and train the local elder as an assistant to the pastor of the local church.

First, work has begun on an elder's manual. A worldwide committee is presently reviewing the manuscript, to be published in mid-1992. Churches, mission fields, and conferences will use this manual and the Church Manual in training local elders. All elders should have personal copies of these two important tools.

Second, by 1993 the Ministerial Association will issue a book by Floyd Bresee on sermon preparation, keyed to elders. The association will also provide a set of training materials to local conference ministerial secretaries and district pastors.

Third, Ministry magazine will continue to publish articles of professional and service interest to local elders.


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James Zachary is the global evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, California.

February 1992

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