The pastor/elder leadership team-I

This month we will look at the pastor's responsibility to the leadership team; next month we will examine the role of elders. I am targeting my advice to the average pastor, who is a district supervisor of five to 25 or more congregations.

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

The Adventist ministry faces a grueling challenge in providing pastoral care for our worldwide flock. Just 17,000 ministers are available to serve more than 7 million members. When we subtract those in nonpastoral positions, one can quickly discern the scope of the shortfall. Only through the faithful minis try of local church elders can churches survive and thrive. In close cooperation with the pastor they must provide vital services to the congregation.

This month we will look at the pastor's responsibility to the leadership team; next month we will examine the role of elders. I am targeting my advice to the average pastor, who is a district supervisor of five to 25 or more congregations.

1. Delegate. Some pastors are overly protective of their work. For greater strength they must delegate to local elders and other lay members. Elders are often the most talented lay leaders in the congregation, fully capable of shouldering responsibility. The pastor needs to entrust them with specific duties.

2. Train. One of the most important tasks of a pastor in multichurch districts is training. Beyond equipping the entire membership in soul-winning and nurturing new members, pastors must devote prime time to the training of the elders in all their churches. This can be accomplished through a monthly or bimonthly meeting with all members of the elder/pastor team. The agenda of these meetings will cover all the needs of the district, from preaching to caring for church property.

3. Prepare a sermonic plan. To avoid haphazard content in sermons preached by different speakers, the pastor should develop a sermonic plan of topics to preach about week by week. It is so easy to spend time with pet subjects and avoid presenting a balanced spiritual menu.

4. Plan outreach. Together with the elders and church board, the pastor will develop a plan for evangelism, for the district as a whole and for each church individually. I've seen this done effectively in the South Philippine Union. During a visit to a pastor's home, I noticed a map of his district with each church marked. From each church was a ribbon leading to an unentered town that the members had targeted for evangelism. Elders led the congregations in the soul-winning efforts. The results were dramatic. One of the pastor's interns supervised a district of 12 churches and had the highest baptisms of any pastor in that mission.

I've witnessed similar success in evangelism by local elders in the East Indonesia Union Mission. One congregation had a special service dedicating eight couples to begin personal work in eight unentered villages. The entire church made plans to support their missionaries. Little wonder that in portions of northern Sulawesi in Indonesia there is an Adventist church in almost every village.

5. Plan nurture. The strength of pastors' work lies in their ability to establish a strong visitation program in all churches of the district. They must develop a plan involving elders, deacons, and Sabbath school teachers in regular visitation of members, backsliders, the sick, and the youth. Nothing will fortify the church and close the "back door" like a meaningful, regular visitation program.

I happened to visit a remote church in the Philippines several years ago. The pas tor was supervising more than 30 churches. Ministerial students from the college and local elders did most of the pastoral work. During the previous week the elders had compiled a list of all missing members. Early Sabbath morning each of them had made visits to these homes. As I arrived at the church I noticed little groups walking across the rice paddies. Two of the elders were bringing missing members back to church. That day there was a lovely reconsecration service for a young mother whose husband had deserted her. Led by an elder, we all gathered around and prayed that God would bless her and her three children. Then we stepped into the church yard as the head elder led us in another special service. One brother he had visited requested that some magic charms be burned because they had drawn him away from the Lord. What rejoicing erupted among the members as the fire was lit. Within a year that church had to enlarge its building to accommodate a flock of new members, all through the soul-winning leadership of local elders.

6. Ordain. The pastor will arrange for each elder to be ordained. In some areas of the world there is reluctance to ordain elders until they have proven themselves for a long time. Actually the Church Manual suggests that ordination should occur soon after the election of church officers. This gives elders the full support of the church and publicly invites the Holy Spirit to bless their leadership.

7. Maintain team spirit. The pastor will take whatever steps are necessary to encourage and maintain a team spirit among the elders in the district.

All of this pastors can do to fulfill their responsibilities in the leadership team. Next month we will consider the role of local elders.


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

October 1992

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