In just a few weeks the sixtieth session of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church will meet in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to the 2,571 official delegates, tens of thousands more Seventh-day Adventists will come to participate and enjoy fellowship with their brothers and sisters from around the world.
A special call to pastors and members
By Ted N. C. Wilson
In just a few weeks the sixtieth session of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church will meet in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to the 2,571 official delegates, tens of thousands more Seventh-day Adventists will come to participate and enjoy fellowship with their brothers and sisters from around the world. It’s during this time that special focus is given to the worldwide aspects of this God-ordained movement, now numbering more than 18 million members, with a presence in 216 countries around the globe.
But as wonderful as it is to think about how God is leading and blessing this movement in a global setting, let’s also remember the vitally important role of the church members and pastors of 75,184 local Seventh-day Adventist churches.
Our spiritual foundation is, of course, our personal relationship with Christ—the Rock. The unity of our church can be found only as we all are connected to Jesus Christ. But the practical infrastructure of the church is built on its pastoral workforce—those involved in dynamic evangelistic outreach, nurturing church members, and sharing the Word of God in its complete message each Sabbath. They inspire members to share their faith and the soon coming of Christ, and are engaged in the very important work of being missionary trainers to church members.
We need to support, honor, and encourage our pastors around the world, many of whom have enormous districts that include scores of churches and thousands of church members. In these settings pastors must depend completely on the Holy Spirit and local church leaders. It’s so important that we lift up these pastors as they train local leaders for an even more effective evangelistic outreach.
We Are Called
As we honor and pray for pastors, let’s ask the Lord to help each of us, whether we are in small, rural churches, or large city or institutional churches, to support pastors by lightening their loads.
God has called each of us, including me, since I’m also a member of a local church, to reach out to the mission field around us: our local communities, neighbors, and acquaintances—befriending them, ministering to their needs, and sharing the unique God-given biblical messages entrusted to us. As church members, we have been called to do this work and shouldn’t simply rely on the pastor to do it. One of the best ways to support our pastors is to say, “Pastor, please put us to work.”
Pray for our pastors. Pray that the Lord will place a hedge of protection around them and their families. Pray that they will focus completely and totally on the Word of God, because the authority of Scripture is coming increasingly under attack. The messages from our pulpits must ring with biblical clarity and not philosophical, psychological, and cultural content.
A Word to Pastors
Pastors, one of your most important roles is to train and launch church members into local missionary evangelistic work so that you’ll be free to plan how to enlarge the borders of God’s kingdom.
This, of course, isn’t a new idea. We are told, “Ministers should not do work that belongs to the laymen, thus wearying themselves and preventing others from doing their duty. They should teach the members how to work in the church and community, to build up the church, to make the prayer-meeting interesting, and to train for missionaries youth of ability. The members of the church should cooperate actively with the ministers, making the section of country around them their field of missionary labor.”1
Fifteen years later at the 1901 General Conference session, Ellen White had these pointed words for ministers:
“Who feels a burden for the souls who cannot receive the truth till it is brought to them? Our ministers are hovering over the churches, as though the angel of mercy was not making efforts to save souls. God holds these ministers responsible for the souls of those who are in darkness. . . . Establish your churches with the understanding that they need not expect the minister to wait upon them and to be continually feeding them. They have the truth; they know what truth is. . . . They must be rooted and grounded in the faith.”2
A Clarion Call
The powerful message Paul gives us in 2 Timothy 4 is ever to be our clarion call: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season” (verse 2), so that we can say along with Paul, “I have finished the race” (verse 7).
Jesus says, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17). To do that, we need to know God and have a daily connection with Him. Diligently study God’s Word and the Spirit of Prophecy. Be a strong advocate of personal and public prayer. “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron. 20:20).
Pastors, we are called to be God’s special servants after God’s own heart. In Jeremiah 3:15 God says, “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” The Holy Spirit will help you discern the true needs of people.
Let’s follow Christ’s example and search for souls. We’ve been called by God to a special work that can be done only as we cooperate with heaven in the glorious work entrusted to us, remembering that this is a cooperative venture with heaven.
God expects us to do our best. The apostle Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23, 24).
Be a Servant
The real work of a pastor is to be a servant, someone who gives unstintingly. In order to be a real servant, we must be close to God and submit our lives each day to Him.
Paul shares this concept in a dynamic way in Ephesians 4:1-6. He begins by calling himself a “prisoner of the Lord,” and asks us “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” Verses 2 and 3 tell us that we were called “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We are to put real effort into the practice of showing love to others in the bond of peace.
The Larger Scope of Unity
Paul then helps us understand the larger scope of unity—larger than simply our own personal convictions—by lifting us to the heavenly courts and the eternal themes created by God Himself. Ephesians 4:4-6 crescendos with these lofty words: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
As a pastor, make sure to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit leading you to the true unity that comes only as you become one with God in your life, witness, outreach, training, and spiritual nurture of others. “The secret of success is the union of divine power with human effort. Those who achieve the greatest results are those who rely most implicitly upon the Almighty Arm.”3
Take Time for People
Be a good administrator and make time to visit your church members and know them. The Lord spent time getting to know people. He ate with them, talked with them, listened to their problems, and sympathized with them. You may not be the best speaker or preacher, but if you visit your church members and spiritually encourage them, they will love you!
Stay close to your spouse and family. Let your family relationships be a shining example to the world about what it means to allow Christ to be head of the home and church through you as the spiritual leader of the family and the church. Let your children know that you love and appreciate them. Let your family life also show the signs of heavenly order and Christian stewardship. Be a leader in showing people how to rely completely on the Lord for every need and that a faithful steward is blessed by heaven beyond comprehension.
In 3 John 2 we read, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” Our physical and spiritual health are intertwined, and we are to follow God’s natural laws as well as His moral laws. Be an active proponent of comprehensive health ministry, helping people in cities and rural areas find Jesus, the source of life and health.
Facing the Future
Pastors and members, as we face the future, we’ll face many challenges and trials. We may be harassed and ridiculed. Keep looking to Christ and not to human beings. God wants us to have a steady and growing relationship with Him; it’s the secret of real spiritual power. Every morning, place yourself in God’s hands, asking that He lead in all that you do. As you allow the Lord to lead you each day, you’ll be a great blessing to everyone you meet.
Being a believer in Jesus Christ is not a spectator sport; it’s an active participation of outreach. We don’t want anyone to feel guilty because they’re not going door to door; there are many ways (including door-to-door efforts) to witness for Jesus in an active way. If you have a relationship with Christ, you have something to say; don’t hide it. In this way you’ll be helping to support the work of your pastor and the entire Advent movement.
Remember that your pastor needs time with family, and not always with you. Keep your faith strong in the Lord. Jesus is coming soon. As we remain faithful to Him and His Word, He will give us that wonderful invitation, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). n
1)Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Oct. 12, 1886.
2)Ellen G. White, Pastoral Ministry (Silver Spring, Md.: General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1995), p. 100.
3)Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890), p. 509.
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.