Recognizing the importance of local leadership in the development of healthy congregations, leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America voted November 9 to create a specific commission charged with reinforcing the role of elders in the local church.
The eldership is an area of support for pastoral ministry. Local elders bear primary responsibility for the care of the members in search of spiritual and missional development.
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, when discussing the general qualifications of local church leadership, there is an important mention of the role of elders in supporting the shepherding of the congregation. The biblical record is also clear: the apostle Paul summoned the elders of the church and advised, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
Objectives of the Commission
The Commission on Eldership in the Local Church is made up of 19 people, women and men from various countries and different functions. They will have a deadline of July 2021, to propose suggestions. To carry out this activity, the members of the Commission will review five specific objectives.
The first is to detect and guide the priority needs and demands of local elders. This deals with the perception of how the work of the elders in the congregations needs to be strengthened, and the direction of the mission’s fulfillment.
The second objective that will help guide the work of the members of this commission has to do with the development of a proposal for the growth of the nursing home in the post-pandemic context. The significant changes brought about by the pandemic in different aspects of human life still affect all organizations. And the discussion of this group will consider, for example, how the nursing home ministry can support the members in a context with greater use of digital technology.
The third point for observation of the group is related to the expansion and scope of the nursing home ministry with the participation of women. Some years ago, the divisions that make up the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church had the authority to decide and define how they intend to develop guidelines on the matter.
Integration of the pastoral ministry and the eldership
The commission will also set its discussions and proposals on the idea of intensifying the role of the eldership within the discipleship process. The fifth objective is focused on the development of ministerial competencies directed to the reality of the nursing home.
"Our intention in the dialogue with this group is to act in such a way that the activity of the eldership is even more relevant, that it promotes the spiritual and missionary development of the members," said Pastor Bruno Raso, vice president of the Adventist Church in South America, who will lead the commission.
In a recently released book entitled As duas faces do ministry - o papel do pastor y do ancião nos written by Ellen White [The two faces of ministry, the role of the pastor and the elder in the writings of Ellen White], theologian Wellington Barbosa, editor of the Brazilian Publishing House, presented suggestions in order to promote work, in an integrated way, between pastors and the elderly. The author made a deep investigation and an analysis of these offices, between the years 1844 and 1915. He considered the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, a pioneering co-founder of the movement, as well as other historical sources, and finally presented the possible steps for harmony of these two essential activities in the context of Adventist leadership.
In explaining the first step, Barbosa alludes to the importance of clearly defining roles. And on page 100 he states, “as for the elder, you want him to pastor the church, spiritually nurture the members, micro-plan his congregation and train local members.”
Pastor Erton Köhler, South American Adventist Church leader, noted, “We understand that we are advancing in a process of maturity on various issues to have a more biblical, missional, and in-tune-with–reality church, which obviously includes the development of the leadership of local congregations. We work to strengthen the role of the nursing home ministry in various aspects. And that also includes greater participation of women in a ministry as strategic as this one, which was historically established to be a supporting pillar of the preaching of the gospel in the end times.”
Commission work schedule (proposed)
Formation of the Commission on the Eldership in the local Church
Planning meetings of the Commission and orientations of the Unions and Fields regarding the objectives (Administration and Ministerial Association).
February / March 2021
- Interviews of unions/associations and missions/pastors and local leaders.
- Commission interviews with unions.
- Preparation of the Commission report with the final proposals.
- Presentation of proposals to the Board of Directors of the South American Division