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April 27, 2018


The Importance of the Holy Spirit

Daily in my devotional reading I come across various statements and thoughts. Sometimes I have to read them over and over to grasp the deeper meaning. However, there are those that strike me at first glance, speaking directly to my soul. Such could be said as I read Acts of the Apostles Chapter 5 entitled, “The Gift of the Spirit.” The author, Ellen White, wrote, “Wherever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thought of, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death. Whenever minor matters occupy the attention, the divine power which is necessary for the growth and prosperity of the church, and which would bring all other blessings in its train, is lacking, though offered in infinite plenitude” (AA 50). Given the preceding statement, it is clear that we need to aggressively seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit daily.

The Importance of the Holy Spirit

I must confess to you that I have learnt to pray for the Holy Spirit and His guidance especially when faced with meetings where I least know what to expect.  However, I have come to realize that even in meetings and situations where I feel most confident, I need to depend on the Holy Spirit. “Why?” you may ask. It is because I have discovered that when I have this sense of over confidence, I tend to pray little; and it is then that what was supposed to be an easy and predictable situation turns out to be just the opposite of what I expected. It could be that God is showing me that in every situation I need to be more dependent on Him - even in situations that I may consider of little challenge.

Accordingly, I ask that you revisit the above statement by Mrs. White. I underscore, “Wherever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thought of, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death.”  Truth be told, you and I cannot afford to be in such a hopeless condition. And given the Division’s focus on mission should not the ministry of the Holy Spirit be a matter of importance?

Seeking Sincerely the Holy Spirit

Given the fact that “Wherever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thought of, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death,” shouldn’t we pray earnestly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? In this vein, Ellen White contends, “Since this is the means by which we are to receive power, why do we not hunger and thirst for the gift of the Spirit? Why do we not talk of it, pray for it, and preach concerning it?”  In fact, she points out, “The Lord is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who serve Him than parents are to give good gifts to their children. For the daily baptism of the Spirit every worker should offer his petition to God.”  Furthermore, says Mrs. White, “Companies of Christian workers should gather to ask for special help, for heavenly wisdom, that they may know how to plan and execute wisely. Especially should they pray that God will baptize His chosen ambassadors in mission fields with a rich measure of His Spirit. The presence of the Spirit with God’s workers will give the proclamation of truth a power that not all the honor or glory of the world could give” (AA 50). I want to believe that 12,000 plus souls baptized in Haiti a few weeks ago were in direct response to a concerted effort of many in Haiti and outside who prayed for the Holy Spirit, depended on Him and acted in faith believing in the promise of Jesus to pour out His Spirit.

The Need for Intentionality

Given the above statements, I need to be more intentional in my daily walk with God. Like you, I want to know that God is directing in every phase and aspect of my life. In short, I must have a greater dependence on Him- and yet the privilege is ours to get to know Him better and to know His will.  The secret is found in Acts 1-2, which speaks about the disciples being of one accord and seeking the fulfillment of that which Christ promised –the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  What about us? Isn’t there the promise of Joel 2 that apply to us? "I will pour My Spirit upon all flesh." Until we realize the need and importance of the Holy Spirit, it will be business as usual. Have you considered why the various initiatives (“Revived by His Word,” “Total Member Involvement,” “Lord Transformed Me,” “7-7-7,” etc.) are all under the banner of Revival and Reformation?  All of these are designed to encourage us as church leaders and members to recognize what is our greatest need and to get involved. Let us make the application today.

Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary


April 20, 2018


THE TALKING BACKPACK, A MISSIONARY ENDEAVOUR!

By M Dinorah Rivera, Children and Adolescents Ministries Director, IAD


This is the year of the child and adolescent! A year to celebrate, give wings and support this special group in our congregations, allowing them to shine as they exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and the purpose for which God created and love them.

In a time when the church is looking for ways to keep them in the church, it is imperative that we understand their needs and change the ways that are causing the exit of the young ones; that is, learn to involve and love them, giving them the sense of belonging and acceptance they desperately need.

As followers of Jesus, the leaders as well as parents know Jesus’ teachings, but somehow they continue to be a stumbling block; a block that as stated in Scriptures will be fatal, not only for the child but for the perpetrator. Jesus says in Mathew 18:5-6, “And any of you who welcomes a little child like this because you are mine is welcoming me and caring for me. But if any of you causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to lose his faith, it would be better for you to have a rock tied to your neck and be thrown into the sea.”

With this in mind, the Inter-American Division is responding to the call to the world-wide church to involve every person in the church by involving children and adolescents in a witnessing program called THE TALKING BACKPACK, especially during the year of the child and adolescent (2018).

THE TALKING BACKPACK will give every child and adolescent in Inter-America the opportunity to use the most effective evangelism tool:

  1. Personal growth for effective discipleship. By studying, living and practicing Christian values, understanding that our character is the only thing we will be taking to heaven.
  2. Witnessing to others not only by our Christian attitudes but also by enticing peers to acquire the attractive gadgets (pins, patches and others) displayed in their backpacks, giving them the opportunity to witness and invite peers and neighbors to the meetings to learn about values and acquire their own gadgets.

OBJECTIVES

  1. To bring to the consciousness of the children and adolescents the importance of developing the character of Christ, not only to enjoy a full life, but to also be a witness to what God can and will do for each one of his children.  
  2. To awaken and develop within them a spirit of service and mission
  3. To make each child and adolescent a part of the great commission given to the church.

The core:

As we look into the spiritual health of our church today, we find that relying only on our message is not enough. Our behavior is more like the attitude of the world than of heaven. If we want to be a relevant church, if we are to be a group of people, a chosen generation that is in real tune with the teachings of Jesus, we need to display a better imitation of his love and character. That is why we need to go back to God’s Word and be real, truthful, courteous, respectful, have an attitude of gratitude, practice forgiveness as God forgives, self-discipline, punctuality, responsibility, service, inclusiveness, trust, integrity and optimism.

All the necessary materials are available, including an app for smart phones and tablets to keep the children and adolescents connected with the program, using ways to keep them motivated. 

As we allow God to answer our plea, “Lord, transform me,” we pray that God’s Spirit will work in the heart of every leader (Pastor, elder, leader in the church and in the homes) to not only promote this program, but to tear down any barrier that might prevent the children and adolescents from being fully involved.  God, in his perfection and grace, will multiply all efforts in favor of His ministry with children and adolescents. 


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary


April 13, 2018


Living in Tension

In the insightful book by a former General Conference president, Jan Paulsen, entitled, “Where Are We Going?” he includes a chapter captioned, “Living in the Tension.” Essentially, he focuses on the tension of living between the first advent and the second coming of Christ, or put another way, living between the now and later, or between the ideal versus reality. It is hard to argue that living in tension offers its own challenges: “Where am I going?” “Am I living for Christ?”  “What do I do given current ills and acts of injustice and violence?”  “How do I make the message of the church relevant to today’s secular mind?” If that is not enough, how does one reconcile the fact that the church is not perfect? Added to the preceding, there are those who are calling for reform and a cleansing of the church.  How do we respond to all of the concerns? In response, I share some personal observations based on my understanding of the Bible, Spirit of prophecy and from my experience.

The Church of God

Unfortunately, there are those who see the church as “them versus us.” The fact is the church is a body of believers who are imperfect with issues of one type or another. Some members are ill, and some others are severely ill. The church is a work of God in progress of refining and renewal. God is seeking to save His people. Against this not so good description, comes the encouraging statement of Ellen White who says, “Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard” (Acts of the Apostles, p. 12). Given this explanation, I need to be careful of what I say about God’s church or, for that matter, about myself. God is not finished with us, but He will finish the work started if we allow Him to do His job, which He is more than qualified to do.

Avoid Discouragement

Living between the now and the yet to be offers its share of trials, persecution and discouragement, especially when the darts or insults are hurled from within the church. Though this hurts, it ought not to surprise us, for Paul wrote to young Timothy years ago, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).  That is not a perhaps or maybe so but a definite reality. Says Jesus in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.”

Paulsen explains, “Discouragement is the constant enemy of leaders. 

We may face it in our own walks, and we’ll inevitably confront it within the community of faith, where it usually arrives in the company of criticism, negativity, and faultfinding.”  The onus is on us to not give in to discouragement or discourage another. Instead we can and ought to pray for one another, especially leaders.  When last did you pray for your pastor, conference or world leader?  Or when last did I pray for a fellow elder or colleague?

Keep Focused on the Yet to Be

Living between tensions of the first and second advents, it is crucial that we learn to live in the power of the cross and the resurrection, as we keep focused on the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do this by spending time each day reading God’s word, praying and witnessing.  Even when we do not feel like it, we keep focused on the mission of making disciples, for did not Christ offer us the power and authority to accomplish this mission? When we lose sight of His mission, we lose focus and instead of growing in Christ, we grow away from Christ. Living in Christ must be a way of life, as it is essential as the very breath we breathe. Without oxygen we will die --it is that simple.  Likewise, when we become distracted with everything else to the neglect of our own soul’s need of Christ, we become spiritual dwarfs? Ours must be one of daily obedience. This will lead to daily renewal or what we refer to as revival, and there will be gradual reforms in our way of life, overcoming pride, jealousy, envy, criticism and negativity. This leads me to declare like the Apostle Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Let’s live for Christ in the “now,” and we can rest assured that we will live with Him in the “future.” So never despair for “it’s the trials that bring us close to heaven.”


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary



April 6, 2018

Make Disciples

This weekend, as we anticipate a great harvest of souls at the Lord Transform Me Convention in Haiti, I thought to share this article written by IAD president Elder Israel Leito. It is taken from the book Total Member Involvement by Alejandro Bullón. Hopefully, it will inspire many members to get involved in discipleship.

A Most Solemn and Special Work Entrusted to Human Beings

“When we read Matthew 28:18 – 20, how do we interpret the command given by the Lord?  For some, the evangelical commission is a challenging task; to them, it may even seem impossible to accomplish.  For others, it is nothing more than a motivational message of the risen Christ, and there are those who assume that it is a goal to be achieved.  But for the true church of the Lord, these words contain the most solemn and special work ever entrusted to human beings: ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’

Called to Play a Part

“It is observed, ‘There are those who for a lifetime have professed to be acquainted with Christ, yet who have never made a personal effort to bring even one soul to the Saviour. They leave all the work for the minister. He may be well qualified for his calling, but he cannot do that which God has left for the members of the church’ (DA p. 141).

“Furthermore, ‘There are many who need the ministration of loving Christian hearts. Many have gone down to ruin who might have been saved if their neighbors, common men and women, had put forth personal effort for them. Many are waiting to be personally addressed. In the very family, the neighborhood, the town, where we live, there is work for us to do as missionaries for Christ. If we are Christians, this work will be our delight’ (Ibid...).

The Proclamation of the Divine Message Involves Us All

“As Christians who are committed to the preaching of the gospel, Adventists know that this command was not given to a small church group.  Jesus spoke to the ‘eleven;’ that is, to ‘all’ the disciples who remained after the death of Judas.  These ‘eleven’ disciples represented ‘all’ the church.  The responsibility and privilege of taking an active part in the proclamation of the divine message involves us all.  It is from this passage that the Total Member Involvement program is inspired.  The aim of this program is to encourage every church member to accept, under the guidance of the Spirit, the challenge of bringing the message of salvation ‘to the end of the earth’ (Acts 1:8), and to experience the joy that making disciples for Christ brings.   Heaven is ready to give us all its power, but every member must be willing to go everywhere.  Total Member Involvement also finds a reason for being in this statement by Ellen G. White: ‘The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers” (Gospel Workers, ‘Enlarging our Forces’, p. 351).

“Total member involvement: a call to serve will help us understand how the Holy Spirit, through the work of every member, can turn a person into a disciple of the Master.  Of course, in order to make disciples we must first be true disciples.

“With regard to the work of preaching the gospel, we can also say the words we utter during Communion: ‘Let us all partake…’

Maranatha.”

Israel Leito, President
Inter-American Division


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 


March 30, 2018


Because He Lives –You Can Face Today and Tomorrow!

Bill and Gloria Gaither are known for writing and producing such songs as “He Touched Me,” “Something Beautiful,” “Let’s Just Praise the Lord,” and “The King Is Coming,” among others.   Another of the over 400 songs written by this musical duo that strikes a responsive chord in many is “Because He Lives.”  Since 1970, its lyrics have engendered hope and assurance, and at this time in Christendom, such emotions are even more potent, as the song speaks to the certainty of Christ’s resurrection.
Turmoil and Despair Give Way to Lyrics of Hope

The timing and occasion of the writing of “Because He Lives” was characterized by “great turmoil” due to the prevailing drug culture. And if that were not enough, the Vietnam War was being waged. Also, it was at this time that Benjy, their first son, was born. With two girls already and now a son, the Gaithers wondered about the turbulent times.  Uncertain and somewhat discouraged about what was happening during the period of the late 60s and the beginning of the 70s, they were inspired to pen the words: “How sweet to hold our newborn baby and feel the pride and joy he gives, but better still the calm assurance this child can face uncertain days because He lives.”  So heartened and reassured, they reasoned that because Christ lives, they and their children could embrace the future unafraid. 

Given the difficulties and uncertainties of the present, we, too, may be fearful about what lies ahead.  But, just like Bill and Gloria did, we need to find solace in the fact that we “can face uncertain days [with some assurance] because Christ Jesus lives.” Not only is He alive, He is here and everywhere through the person of the Holy Spirit, supplying grace, forgiveness, eternal life, and strength to overcome our daily struggles. And there is more: He is capable of supplying our every need just because He lives! Let me explain.

Facing the Uncertainties of the Present and Future

We all love the feeling of confidence derived from knowing that there is someone who knows the way or understands a situation we are about to face.  Realizing that we are not alone and that we have some indication as to how the matter is likely to turn out reassures us and gives a sense of calmness. We have that assurance in Christ.  The writer of the book of Hebrews noted, "We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all — all but the sin"  (Hebrews 4:15, The Message). Is it any wonder that in the next verse, we are given the invitation: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV)?

Few would deny that these are the days that require the help of one who knows the times and what to do. That person is definitely Christ.  As God, He knows everything! He is all-powerful and, as noted already, possesses everything we need or could ever need! Essentially, He is in control, for nothing takes Him by surprise. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians contends, "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17, NKJV). Christ is alive and now intercedes on our behalf before His Father, and, therefore, like Bill and Gloria Gaither, we can face the present and the future with certainty- “Because He lives.”

Christ’s Resurrection Gives Meaning

It is a known fact that if one can find meaning or a reason to live, he or she is likely to shun despair and suicide.  It is when a person perceives that there is no reason to live that he feels inclined to let go and quit; but with Christ infusing hope, one now has a different outlook. What once seemed dismal and gloomy now appears to be optimistic and promising. Although the situation is still likely to be the same, looking unto Christ changes a person’s viewpoint or attitude toward his or her seemingly hopeless condition.  As one who has had many challenges and who continues to face daily hurdles, I have discovered that the secret to rising above them is keeping focus on Christ and trusting in His promises. Indeed, the advice found in these words of the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” is worth heeding: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Maybe this explains why some persons who know not Christ view Christians as being weird people; for they question, how can they be so cheerful or positive in such tough economic times with these imposed new taxes? How can they still praise the Lord when they have been laid off or diagnosed with cancer?  Truth be told, it is not the Christian, it is Christ and His resurrection.  As Bill and Gloria Gaither declared, “Because He Lives, we, too, can live.” 


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 

March 23, 2018


Special Cases of Ordination

Recently I received an inquiry about the ordination of deaconesses and, needless to say, the discussion led into the realm of the ordination of female elders. As the division territory is massive and diverse reflecting the same in some practices it is necessary that there be guide lines and principles. Accordingly, I submit the following that could apply to the ordination of both deaconesses and women elders, though the Church Manual (English 2015 ed.) highlights to a greater degree that of elders (see p.80 ordination of deaconesses and pp. 191-192 ordination of elders).

Ordination of Female Elders Voted by Church

The right to ordain women as church elders was voted at the 1984 General Conference Annual Council. Notwithstanding that action taken by the world church, the Church Manual notes that while “Each congregation is free to elect the person of gender of its choice as church elder. . .. However, because the ordination of women as church elders can be something which may cause division, no church should plan such action before consulting with the administration of the local field.”

Consultation Is Necessary to Preserve Unity of the Church

Here are some steps listed in the Church Manual (English edition 2015) designed to preserve the unity of the church.

  1. The concept should be carefully examined, discussed, and properly accepted at the local church level.
  2. If a church contemplates such an action, the entire matter should be discussed and approved by the conference committee after the conference administration has sought counsel from the union leadership.
  3. The action to elect and ordain a woman as a local church elder must not be taken unless a clear consensus exists that the ministry of a woman elder is desirable and even essential to the spiritual well-being of the local church family. It should also be the consensus of the church that a woman elder will be respected as a spiritual leader and soul-winner. The church should also express its belief that there are dimensions of spiritual service and counsel that cannot be properly fulfilled by a male elder.
  4. A clear majority of the voting members of the local church must be in favor of the action. The matter should be considered at a specially called church business meeting. Every member should be given the opportunity to vote on the issue rather than only the few who might be present at a regular meeting where routine items of business are on the agenda.
  5. Whatever the decision of the church, it should result in unifying the members and not the source of divisiveness or alienation.

 

Criteria for the Ordination of Elders and Deaconesses Who Have Been Disfellowshipped but Have Returned to the Church

      “If a local church elder or deacon returns to the church after being removed from fellowship and was later rebaptized and his or her congregation feels that he or she has given signs of genuine conversion, and desires to elect him or her once again to a leadership position requiring ordination, it is recommended that in such cases they consult with the administration of the local field.”


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 

 

March 16, 2018


A Look at the Communion Service

A significant and sacred service within the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the Communion service. It is usually conducted by an ordained pastor or an ordained elder who is assisted by other elders, deacons and deaconesses. Therefore, to ensure the meaning of such a service is understood and observed fully, there is need for planning and preparation. Hence, the following information is shared. For a more thorough treatment of the subject, one should consult the Church Manual and the book Seventh-day Adventists Believe.

Significance of the Communion Service

For Seventh-day Adventists, the Communion service involves foot washing, the breaking of unleavened bread and serving of unfermented grape wine. Based on the example of Christ, the ordinance of foot washing “is Christ’s appointed preparation for the sacramental service”  (Church Manual 2015th Edition, p. 123). The service is intended to convey “a message of forgiveness, acceptance, assurance, and solidarity, primarily from Christ to the believer, but also between the believers themselves” and thus the term ordinance of humility.

Equally important is the Lord’s Supper which follows foot washing. Having replaced “the Passover festival of the old-covenant era,” it involves the symbols of unleavened bread and unfermented wine which represent the body and blood of Christ denoting His crucifixion. As such, the Lord Supper also conveys deliverance from sin even as the Passover festival reminded the Children of Israel of their deliverance from Egypt. Therefore, the occasion should be a joyous one and “not a time of sorrow” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe), given what Christ has accomplished for us in dying on the cross.

There is also a future dimension to the Lord’s Supper service as it “points to Christ’s second coming” (Church Manual). Says the Apostle Paul, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26, KJV).

Announcing the Communion Service

The Communion service, which is customarily celebrated once per quarter, “usually . . . part of the worship service on the next to the last Sabbath” (Church Manual), ought to be announced from the Sabbath before, or even earlier, as to allow for members to prepare and attend the service. As such, when the members come to the service, “they can receive the intended blessing.”

For All Members

It is observed that some members refrain from attending church on the Sabbath designated for the Communion service, and some leave the service just prior to the foot washing segment not returning even for the Lord’s Supper. However, we are counseled, “None should exclude themselves from the Communion because some who are unworthy may be present. Every disciple is called upon to participate publicly, and thus bear witness that he accepts Christ as a personal Savior. It is at these, His own appointments, that Christ meets His people, and energizes them by His presence”(DA p.656). Furthermore, Ellen White notes, “Hearts and hands that are unworthy may even administer the ordinance, yet Christ is there to minister to His children. All who come with faith fixed upon Him will be greatly blessed. All who neglect these seasons of divine privilege will suffer loss” (Ibid).

Including Those Who Cannot Attend

The Church Manual states, “If members are ill or cannot for other reasons attend the Communion service, the pastor or elder, possibly accompanied and assisted by a deacon or deaconess, may conduct a special service in their homes.” 

Anticipating the Next Communion Service

Given the aforementioned information, let us begin preparing for the next Communion service. With the proper preparation involving the right choice of music, appropriately-dressed elders, deacons and deaconesses, adequate emblems, utensils and towels occasioned by a related sermonette (shorter than the normal sermon) prefaced by much prayerful thought by the pastor or elder leading out, a lasting impression may be made upon each worshiper, including children who have yet to be baptized. Let’s make the service special as we anticipate Christ’s presence and, above all, the time when we will sup with Him in the new earth.


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 

March 9, 2018


The Anointing Service

Among one of the special services of the church is that of anointing the sick. In fact, one can find support for it in Mark 6:13 and James 5:14, 15. However, in some respect today, there would appear to be a shift from the practice of these texts, in particular James, resulting in anointing for every ailment, more frequently and even in mass thus evoking the following questions: “Are these practices in harmony with scriptures?” “What is the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church pertaining to anointing for the sick?”  In response to these questions, I submit the following:

Praying for the Sick

The Elder’s Manual (English edition) cautions, “The anointing service should not be employed for every frivolous complaint, but neither is it exclusively a last rite. It should be reserved for significant sickness or weakness, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.” Additionally, it explains, “Anointing is not designed to bless the dying, but to bring a healing blessing to the living.” Also, the pastor should respect the one to be prayed for should he or she be reluctant “to reveal details of [their] illness.”

Anointing Should Be Requested

James 5:14,15 would seem to imply that a request for anointing should come from the person who is sick. However, in looking at the principle of James’ admonition, it would seem acceptable for a relative, friend or fellow church member to make the request in behalf of the individual. The Elder’s Manual in the same vein notes, “It is not the position of the pastor to judge the worthiness of the individual or the request, but to do as Scripture instructs in praying for the sick.”

Anointing Is an Intensely Personal Event

As the anointing service is “an intensely personal event, addressing the specific needs of an individual -It is not designed for mass audiences and healing services.” Nevertheless, some persons put forth Mark 6:13 which says, “And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” A close look at the text does not seem to suggest mass healing but that many persons were healed because of anointing.  

Furthermore, the Elder’s Manual observes, “Using it as an appeal to attract large audiences is a distortion of its purpose.” Nevertheless, it is appropriate to conduct this service in the presence of the church family, if this is the wish of the one being anointed.”

Ángel Manuel Rodríguez, a former member of the Biblical Research Institute argues, “There is no biblical support for the practice of anointing the sick in large or small numbers during public religious meetings. James made clear that this was a private religious ceremony.”

“Herbert Kiesler, another SDA Theologian explains, “Since we are deeply concerned that this current trend of group anointing may draw its inspiration from charismatic circles and since there is always the danger that such a practice may end up as routine exercise, we hold that ministers and elders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church should abide by the guidelines given to us in the Scriptures and in the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy.”

Location of the Service

“Anointing services may be held in a church, home, hospital, nursing facility, or wherever the need may arise. If conducted in a hospital, ensure that you are not an interference to the medical care being provided.” Also, the length and formality of the service would have to be considered in certain settings or locations. For example, kneeling for the prayer may not be appropriate around a hospital bed.

The Anointing Prayer

“If the one being anointed wishes to pray, allow them to pray first, followed by any others in the group who are asked to pray. The pastor or lead elder should pray last. At the conclusion of the prayer, use two or three fingers to place the anointing oil on the recipient’s forehead, symbolizing the touch of the Holy Spirit. Olive oil is usually used, but this is not mandatory.” For a suggested order of service, refer to the Church or Elder’s Manual.


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 

March 2, 2018


Roles and Functions of Pastors and Elders

From time to time it becomes necessary to restate the roles and functions of pastors and elders in an ever-growing church. Even some of the more senior ones of us forget and overlook certain key points. For example, in last week’s article on marriages, I mentioned that weddings are conducted by ordained pastors. However, by stating “if he or she” in regard to conducting the marriage, I could have implied that female pastors are ordained and conduct marriages.  It should be noted that the Seventh-day Adventist Church only ordains male pastors; therefore, I wish to clarify the roles of ordained and commissioned pastors as well as elders in this week’s article.

The Role of Ordained Pastors

Ordained pastors, notwithstanding that they are ordained to the world church, are appointed by the local conference/mission committee to a local church or district. As pastors or district leaders, they “do not take the place of the president in their respective fields. They are not charged with administrative ‘authority’ as is the president, but they cooperate with him in carrying out the plans and policies of the conference.” Nevertheless, the Church Manual observes that “By virtue of ordination, the pastor is qualified to function in all rites and ceremonies.”

The Role of Licensed Ministers (Non-ordained Pastors)

Licensed ministers are un-ordained pastors who are given the opportunity “to demonstrate their call to the ministry, especially in the area of soul winning.” As licensed ministers, they are “authorized to preach, to engage in evangelism, to lead out in outreach (missionary) work, and to assist in all church activities.” Yet, there may be times or circumstances “where it is necessary for the conference to appoint a licensed minister to carry responsibility as a pastor or assistant pastor of a church or group of churches.”

The Role of Commissioned Pastors

The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual explains, “In a marriage ceremony the charge, vows, and declaration of marriage are given only by an ordained pastor except in those areas where division committees have approved that selected licensed or commissioned pastors who have been ordained as local elders may perform the ceremony” (chapter 8). Additionally, Pastor Israel Leito, president of The Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, clarified the same and noted, “the commissioned pastor functions similarly to that of a licensed pastor and essentially carries out the same rites” (consultation with the president February 26, 2018). Therefore, a commissioned pastor may conduct funeral services, preside over the communion, pray for infants and perform baptisms once authorized by the local conference/mission president.

The Role of Local Elders

Local elders (males and females) are elected by the local church and work closely with the pastor. The Church Manual states, “Election to the office of elder does not in itself qualify one as an elder. Ordination is required before an elder has authority to function. Between election and ordination, the elected elder may function as church leader but not administer the ordinances of the church.” An elder does not conduct a communion service but participates in it. As in the case of a business meeting or a church board meeting, a pastor presides, but in his absence, an elder may chair the meeting “with the approval of the pastor or the conference president.” In the case of baptism, “An elder should not officiate in the service without first obtaining permission from the conference president.” The Manual also points out that “Elders do not have the authority to receive or remove members. This is done only by vote of the church. Only the board may recommend that the church vote to receive or remove members.”

Lest one gets the impression this article is one of can’t do’s, I again clarify that the intent is to state the roles. The Ministerial Association values all pastors and elders and continues to equip and train such persons for effective ministry in order to fulfill God’s mandate of Matthew 28:19, 20.  Without local elders, ordained, licensed and commissioned pastors, the church would not be effectively run and managed. Therefore, each is valued and appreciated by the Ministerial Association.


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 

February 23, 2018


A Look at Weddings

Among the most delightful and joyful celebrations performed by a pastor is that of a wedding, as it affords him the opportunity “to minister in a joyful and spiritual celebration for couples and their families and friends.”  However, it can also turn out to be most embarrassing and disappointing for the same should certain and key guidelines be ignored and not adhered to.  Accordingly, I attempt to share the following suggestions. 

Purpose of a Wedding

The purpose of a Christian wedding is to unite in a legal and spiritual manner a man and a woman in holy matrimony as noted in Genesis 2:24. The legal requirement recognizes the laws of the land or a given jurisdiction which are not to be ignored, as God never advocated a disregard for the laws of the land, except for where they conflict with His laws. Spiritually, marriage is ordained of God, and a couple in “tying the knot’ recognizes God and His gift of love and marriage.  Therefore, a couple requests the presence of a pastor. Additionally, careful attention should be given to simplicity and affordability.

Prior to Marriage Ceremony

To call upon a pastor to perform a marriage without sufficient notice for counseling is unfair to both the pastor and the couple. The pastor is charged by God to perform diligently and honestly before God and man, and how can he/she when he/she would not have sat with the couple to counsel? The couple does an injustice to themselves and the pastor when he/she is not contacted in a timely manner.  Essentially, they deny themselves the opportunity to intelligently and prayerfully examine each other’s ways and motives.  A couple through counseling may determine that marriage with each other is not for them, and maybe there may be reasons to delay the process.  So omitting counseling can have serious consequences, which are likely to result in a separation and/ or divorce.

Pre-marital counseling addresses subjects such as temperament, finance, family background, religious background, communication, intimacy and -- where deemed necessary -- recommendation of a blood test, etc.

Legal Requirement

As marriage is not just a spiritual matter, it is necessary that all relevant forms are completed and required documents supplied to the appropriate government agency, to ensure that all requirements are met prior to the actual ceremony.  Of course, during the counseling, the pastor will see to it that the marriage form is signed and a receipt of the same with an issued license is provided, which is used in preparing the marriage documents to be signed at the end of the ceremony.

Church Requirement

Equally important is attention to church procedures involving use of church, permission to move furniture, use of appropriate music and counsel regarding attire as well as availability of the sanctuary. Paying little or no attention to any of these could result in embarrassment and disappointment.

Plan in Advance

Essentially, it is necessary that a couple planning to unite in marriage sit with their pastor some time in advance to allow for all of the above mentioned to be attended to. Unfortunately, there would seem to be greater emphasis today on what one wears, guest attendance list and where the reception may be hosted. It should be noted that simplicity and sound judgment regarding affordability are critical; for it is after the crowd would have dispersed that life for the couple begins, and unfortunately for many, it begins with significant bills that tend to stress a couple when they should be enjoying themselves and the extended honey moon. Instead, bills consume their thoughts, time and discussion. This provides a formula for frustration and, at times, for one partner to resort to various means seeking to repress the stress.  The key is to plan and plan in advance seeking the guidance of God.


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 

February 16, 2018


Funeral Etiquette
The passing of a loved one results in grief and in some ways much stress having to relate to insurance companies, place of employment, funeral home, cemetery, family members, and in no way least, a pastor or elder, etc. And yet, these interactions do not constitute the end of the ordeal for family members, as the funeral service itself can take on the unexpected, turning into a long and drawn-out sitting.  Accordingly, I share a few observations and suggestions.

Condolences, Remarks, and Tributes
Pastors and elders should assist the family of the deceased in preparing the program. Thereby, counsel could be given with regard to the number of persons to bring condolences, remarks, and or tributes. My observation is that after two or three persons would have spoken, there is repetition and there seems to be a challenge to stick to the time of 2-3 minutes allotted. It appears that there is an aura about funeral services that influences even the shiest of persons to speak longer than required, especially if encouraged on by hearty “Amens!” from the congregants.  Even pastors and elders could extend the time with each speaking. It is not necessary for all pastors and elders to offer condolences. The conference president, ministerial secretary and /or a church pastor could represent the other pastors and or elders. There is a need to assist the family of the deceased in avoiding the pressure to yield to some last minute requests to speak or sing. 

Special Music or Musical Selection
Musical selection implies just singing or an instrumental rendition. However, if you have attended a few funerals, you may have witnessed persons giving remarks or a “sermonette” prior to singing or playing, oblivious to the fact that time is moving and that others are to follow, including the pastor with the sermon or homily. In some churches, just before the musical item, an usher escorts the musician/singer to the front and reminds him/her of what he/she is expected to do. Then, as soon as the person before him/her leaves the podium, he/she (the musician/singer) is in place to sing or perform without unnecessarily extending the song or the service. 

Reading the Obituary
Most persons read the obituary during the funeral proceedings or as soon as they sit down to await the commencement of the service, especially if they are on time and fortunate to obtain a copy of the funeral brochure. So when someone reads the obituary aloud from the podium during the service or requests that everyone reads it silently together, time is being utilized that could be used for another item.

Sermon/Homily
It is unnecessary to preach a long sermon, especially after the family and others have been sitting for a long time; neither is it fair to the pastor to have to cut short his or her sermon because persons speaking or performing before the sermon consumed the time, and as a result, a good number of persons leave before hearing the message.  This raises a question: “What is the purpose of a funeral service?”

Follow-up
Following the burial of a loved one is the time when it really counts to stay in touch with the family. Visits, telephone calls and assisting with meals and chores could be very helpful. Of course, while there is no spotlight on them, these acts may be necessary. Pastors and elders, let us do our part to make funeral services shorter and on point. And above all, pay attention to post funeral care and support.


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 


February 9, 2018


Baptism in Grand Style

In 2011 when I attended UNDECA, the Adventist University of Central America in Costa Rica, to pursue a short Spanish intensive, I witnessed a baptismal service that impacted me. As I recall, it was at the end of a Week of Prayer, conducted by two pastors in the University chapel, one speaking in the morning and the other in the evening. As a church pastor and administrator, acquainted with baptismal services, I observed with keen interest, and to my liking I note the following points that caught my attention:

Baptism Was not ad Hoc

It was clear to the worshipers, at least to me, early in the service that a baptismal service was to take place. At the point of baptism, it did not seem an intrusion but very much a part of the divine service. It was also encouraging to see the support for the three candidates as they walked toward the front of the chapel. It appeared to me that these dear ones were fully aware of the service and were ready for the occasion. Equally impressive and touching was the taking of the vows.

The two pastors, who conducted the Week of Prayer services, presented the vows. Sitting and watching, I got a chance to objectively observe what I would have done over the years, and to objectively consider similarities and possible dissimilarities. Listening to the vows allowed me to place myself in the position of a candidate and not the usual role of pastor. This is good, as one is presented with the opportunity to listen and internalize. Do we really think about what it means to live for Christ and to help others be ready for His return? Internalizing the vows forces us to consider what we are doing.  For those of us as elders and pastors, it may be a good thing to take out the baptismal certificate and look over what we pledged.  Hopefully, reviewing the pledge will lead to a renewal of that initial commitment.

In the Pool

In the baptistery, which could be seen by all worshipers as the pool was elevated with a transparent glass allowing the audience to see the baptism. And guess what was in the pool? - -rose petals, at least that is what they appeared to me, floated on top of the water. But also impressive was the manner in which the pastors were dressed. Yes, adorned neatly in white robes and buttoned shirts with neckties, two pastors conducted the baptismal service. What a sight!  They were smartly dressed for this service. Here is an example for us as pastors and elders. We should ensure that we are always well dressed for the occasion. Observers should be able to tell the difference between the pastor and the candidate.

The Lord's Supper

Now if that was not enough, a communion service followed. A short sermon followed the baptism, and the audience was separated for foot washing. That was extra special for the new believers who participated in the foot washing. I was happy to be a part of a group that washed the feet of one of the newly baptized.

So what is the point? It is simple! Let us ensure that we make each baptismal service special and not something to get done or get out of the way. It should be a blessing to the candidate/s, their family, and the wider church body. It should be a service that one never forgets. Above all, it should signal a marriage to Christ. Therefore, let us make it such, Christo-centric and Christo-friendly.


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 


February 2, 2018


The Value of Personal Visitation

Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy Basis for Visitation

The word “visit” is recorded approximately 36 times in the King James Version and about 26 in the New King James Version of the Bible. This amount of times underscores to me the importance of visitation. In fact, Christ states in Matthew 25:43, “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” Additionally, the Lord’s brother, James, explains in James 1:27, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Given the aforementioned, one can appreciate the example of the Apostle Paul, in Acts 15:36, when he said to Barnabas, “Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. Furthermore, in the book Evangelism, Ellen White stressed, “Not only is the truth to be presented in public assemblies; house-to-house work is to be done” (Evang., P. 431). Therefore, in keeping with the biblical and Spirit of Prophecy mandate to visit, the Ministerial Department of the Inter American Division encourages pastors and elders to visit members consistently and regularly.

Visitation Is a Must!!

Undeniably and unarguably, pastors and elders cannot be effective in ministry without personal contact. Neither can churches be vibrant and mission driven without inward and outreach visitation. In considering Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, it can be said that it had a positive impact on them and others in Bethany. Even throughout the following years down to the current period has this positive impact continued. Personally, I have been blessed through the ministry of visitation and seek to carve out time for visits in the home and hospital with my wife, reaching out to members and non-members. It reminds me of my calling as a pastor.

Reaction to Visitation

Many members feel a sense of belonging and appreciation to be visited. It conveys the message that they are cared for and thought of. And that is what we want, among other blessings, for members to feel valued and appreciated. Additionally, we would do well as pastors to train members to visit one another as well. It does something for one engaged in ministry and service. This will lighten the pastor’s load and spur the church membership to be active and involved. Members are valuable and should be made to feel that way. Without them there is no church. But more, we get to fulfill and address some of their needs whether for encouragement, understanding of doctrines and clarification of issues. It helps us to be sensitive and considerate of their needs. After all, Jesus was master at this and still is through us today. Therefore, let’s prove faithful in doing His biddings. Our local church, mission, conference, union and division will be stronger.


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 



January 26, 2018


Overcoming the Hurdles of Ministry
A Focus on the Family reports “a whopping 1,500 pastors will leave their churches . . . due to moral failure, burnout or contention within the congregation” (Pastors and Wives at the Breaking Point - Adventist Review online). Essentially, the above reference underscores problems and challenges within pastoral ministry. Given this reality, how does one handle the challenges and woes brought on by parishioners and colleagues? In this regard, I share the following points: 

Remind Yourself of God’s Call

To remind oneself of God’s calling is to reassure oneself of his/her purpose and reason for being in ministry.  It is like asking the questions, “Who am I?” “What am I doing in ministry?” “Why should I continue?” It is human to be affected and experience hurt and even failures, but it is crucial to know why one is in ministry and why one should continue. The Apostle Paul referred to his calling to the Gospel Ministry about three times in the book of Acts, chapters 9, 22 and 26. Additionally, this allows for refocusing and a deeper sense of commitment. It also allows for a sense of fulfilment and meaning as one engages in ministry to the church. 

Expect Criticisms

Admittedly, no one enjoys being criticized, even at times if the criticisms are constructive. We would rather receive praises, accolades and even flattery.  However, that would not be right, especially flattery, as it fails to confront honesty. Hearing week after week, “That was a great sermon” may lead one to expect this always; and when it does not come, it may be disappointing.  Personally, I enjoy when members remark, “I have been touched,” or “I never thought that was in the text,” etc.  I feel good as the person is likely to look forward searching the Bible him/herself.

By your anticipating criticism, it tends to cushion the blow. Also, if a pastor can accept the criticisms objectively, he or she may discover some good advice for free. And except for the discomfort of the criticism, he/she will be better off for it (depending on one’s personality, for some of us handle criticism well and some not so well). 

Establish a Prayer Ministry

It is no secret that one of the most effective weapons that a pastor has is that of prayer.  Prayer enables one to elevate his or her thoughts on a power bigger and higher than self, as opposed to focusing on problems, issues and the mundane.  Develop the practice of praying for difficult persons by name. It is hard to pray for one and wish a person evil. More so, it is in praying that one depends on God to grant wisdom, solution and courage if required to confront albeit tactfully or in a Christ-like manner.

Plan Your Days

To leave your day open is to leave time to pity self and situation.  On the other hand, strategizing to have an effective ministry allows for freshness, innovation and a sense of structure. Ensuring that I make time for personal devotion, exercise, family, sermon preparation, visitation, and personal development is important. There is some truth to the expression, “the devil finds work for idle hands.”

Finally, observe that when one does his/her best, he/she must accept that and not allow others to place guilt trips on him/her. Do your best each day, and leave everything to God.


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 



January 19, 2018


Revisiting the Call

 In 2 Timothy 1, the Apostle Paul counseled young Timothy to remember his calling and ordination to the gospel ministry. It came at a time when Timothy was being affected by the arrest of his mentor, Paul, who could perish anytime as noted in chapter 4:6: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.”  The likelihood of a possible death may have led Paul to confront Timothy to be bold and not timid, for he said, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (1 Tim. 1:7, NKJV).  Consequently, Paul admonished Timothy, “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (2 Tim. 1:14, NKJV). Additionally, he advised him “to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6).

When Last Did You Reconsider Your Call to Ministry?

As a pastor, departmental director or officer and by implication, local church elder, it could have been 50, 30, 10 or 5 years ago since you were ordained. But with time and the daily demands of the church or office as in my case, it is possible to get caught up in the maize of doing things, meeting deadlines and preparing for some board or committee, not to mention travels; and rightly so, for these need to be attended to. Notwithstanding the need to address these, time must be found to revisit the uniqueness of God’s initial communication or impression upon us to enlist in His work. That confronts me every now and then especially when I engage in some outreach. To explain, it is never easy to break away from the routine of the office as an administrator and engage primarily in evangelism. However, there is such a joy that I experience when I do this.

Why Get Involved?

Apart from the need to get in the trenches of crusades and revival pulling us away from the office, the upcoming LTM Celebration from March 23 to April 7 in Haiti accords some of us throughout the Division territory to get involved. In fact, it is personal for me and the Atlantic Caribbean Union as LTM will be hosted in the four conferences that make up the union. Already, our LTM union coordinator, Pastor Peter Kerr, is working assiduously in targeting key personnel, providing ongoing training and attention ensuring that ATCU will be ready for possibly 50 pastors, who will conduct short reaping campaigns in all four fields of the union. With a soul goal of 10,000 members for the period 2016 to 2020 and somewhat now behind our target, we are determined to have a great time of harvest across our union. As such, the support of each member in accordance with Total Member Involvement is being pursued by each local field. Furthermore, the focus of Lord Transform Me allows for each member to visit his or her call to some form of ministry in the context of the priesthood of all believers. What a privilege! What an honor to work for God and to be reminder of the initial call to ministry!


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 

 



January 12, 2018


Pastoring Made Easy

The above caption may prove to be misleading, especially when one considers the demands of pastoring today. Nevertheless, pastoring can be fun? I declare yes, it can be exciting and fulfilling. Here are a few basic but far reaching steps.

Staying in Touch with the Source

Unlike other professions, pastoring is a calling. However, that is not to say that one may not sense a spiritual pull or liking to a given profession. My point is to underscore the need for a deep spiritual conviction before getting into pastoral ministry. Otherwise, one is likely to be unhappy or non-committal in the midst of opposition and pressure. Ellen White notes that “The greatest work, the noblest effort, in which men can engage is to point sinners to the Lamb of God (Gospel Workers, p.18). And the Bible confirms, “No man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was” (Heb. 5:4).

Given this fact, it is absolutely necessary that one who ministers to others engages in meaningful time with God daily- if he or she is to be effective in reaching others. That involves daily devotion and reading to feed one’s soul, praying consistently.

Love People and Love to Serve

It is not easy to love in every instance, but to be a pastor is to model Christ. He demonstrated an unparalleled caring disposition for people of all ages. Recall in Mark 10 that children were brought to Jesus, but His disciples thought that Jesus was too busy to concern Himself with such little ones. But how mistaken were they, for He said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14, NKJV).

Not everyone possesses an outgoing nature, nonetheless one can still foster a caring attitude for parishioners. Even when he or she is met with opposition and/or coldness, a pastor can determine that he/she will reach out and minister. That involves picking up the phone and calling to inquire how the member is doing. It involves sending e-mails and yes, answering emails, returning calls in a timely fashion. Additionally, it involves visiting members and their relatives at home and in the hospital. Members love it when they know that their pastor cares. You have heard that “people are not interested in how much you know until they know how much you care.”

To visit requires a bit of discipline. Schedule regular visits on given days, and eventually it will become a pattern.

Teach and Preach the Bible

Teaching and preaching demand study, and study demands discipline. Fortunately, there are numerous resources to aid a pastor in sermon preparation.  However, he or she must pull away and read and pray, and read and pray until God gives understanding. Now that takes time, and hence the need to set aside study time. He or she may not be dynamic or the best orator, but when people sense an anointing upon the pastor’s life, they will trust him/her and call upon him/her for prayer and counsel. Stay with God long enough and He will give you something to say. So you can be a great pastor by adhering to these simple steps.


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 



January 5, 2018


Preventing Drop Outs

So often pastors and church administrators are questioned and criticized about the retention of new believers. There are those who feel that the same energy and enthusiasm that go into bringing persons to baptism need to follow post baptism. Some observe that there would seem to be a cut off period. In some instances, the observation and criticism are true. As pastors, leaders and elders we can do more and need to do more even with the training of members to assume their role in helping to nurture and anchor new converts. Therefore, in this article, I will seek to make some observations that may prove beneficial in this regard.

Looking at New Believers

As the caption denotes, new believers are new believers just like new babes needing love, food, changing and attention again and again and again. Noted Evangelist Mark Finley states, “Baptism is not a panacea to solve all spiritual problems.” In fact, from my personal experience and observation, the act of baptism may result in problems and difficulties for new converts.  From unwarranted criticism to isolation of family; to transitioning to a new church and making new friends, pose challenges and difficulties, to say the least. Then, adjusting and living up to the high standards of the new faith are not easy! Compounding the situation is the lack of acceptance or tolerance of “old members” – Old, not so much as in age, but as persons who have been in the church for some time. With a slip here and there, or a failure to maintain a certain “walk” may draw uncalled-for remarks such as “I told you he was not ready,” or “They are not serious.”
 
Time and Attention Are Needed

It takes time to assimilate and adjust to new ways, practices and make new friends. Have you ever visited a new church, or attended a new school or university? That calls for serious adjustment for some of us. Becoming a member of the Adventist church can be radical. For example, up to three weeks ago, you went out on Friday evenings and did house chores on Saturdays. Now three weeks later, you are attending church, and with the crusade having ended, there is no Friday night meeting, and you are at home with a non-Adventist spouse and possibly children. The television channel is turned on to basketball or some weekly sitcom that you watched. If only the world could come to a stop and all observe the Sabbath, but that does not happen. And if you are without family and friends to assist, it gets really unsettling. Of course, your appetite has not necessarily changed. It may be changing, so if the conch or pork is being cooked, or your spouse desires that you continue preparing his favorite dish of “pig feet,” you have real issues. How does one transition? These are not imaginary questions; they are real.

What Can the Church Do?

Ellen White makes the point: “Those who have newly come to the faith should be patiently and tenderly dealt with, and it is the duty of the older members of the church to devise ways and means to provide help and sympathy and instruction for those who have conscientiously withdrawn from other churches for the truth’s sake, and thus cut themselves off from pastoral labor to which they have been accustomed” (Evangelism, p. 351). 

As pastors and elders, we must teach our members to share the load and responsibility of caring for one another. There by not every eye or person will be focused on the pastor to do evangelism and conserve new believers following crusades.  Also, we need to teach them how to be practical and patient; so with certain dress styles worn by some recently baptized ones, the older members need not hit the roof and say the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, place a loving arm around the young brother or sister in the faith and offer to assist. Take the person home regularly, or if this is not possible, ensure there is a meal at church in order to assimilate and establish the new member. Also, invite him or her over to your house on Friday evening to welcome the Sabbath, or if situation allows, go to their house for the same. Call regularly and visit. Just as it takes time to nurture an infant, it takes time to nurture babes in Christ. We can do better, and we need to. 


Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary 

April 6, 2018


“Make Disciples”

This weekend, as we anticipate a great harvest of souls at the Lord Transform Me Convention in Haiti, I thought to share this article written by IAD president Elder Israel Leito. It is taken from the book Total Member Involvement by Alejandro Bullón. Hopefully, it will inspire many members to get involved in discipleship.

 A Most Solemn and Special Work Entrusted to Human Beings

“When we read Matthew 28:18 – 20, how do we interpret the command given by the Lord?  For some, the evangelical commission is a challenging task; to them, it may even seem impossible to accomplish.  For others, it is nothing more than a motivational message of the risen Christ, and there are those who assume that it is a goal to be achieved.  But for the true church of the Lord, these words contain the most solemn and special work ever entrusted to human beings: ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’

Called to Play a Part

“It is observed, ‘There are those who for a lifetime have professed to be acquainted with Christ, yet who have never made a personal effort to bring even one soul to the Saviour. They leave all the work for the minister. He may be well qualified for his calling, but he cannot do that which God has left for the members of the church’ (DA p. 141).

“Furthermore, ‘There are many who need the ministration of loving Christian hearts. Many have gone down to ruin who might have been saved if their neighbors, common men and women, had put forth personal effort for them. Many are waiting to be personally addressed. In the very family, the neighborhood, the town, where we live, there is work for us to do as missionaries for Christ. If we are Christians, this work will be our delight’ (Ibid...).

The Proclamation of the Divine Message Involves Us All

“As Christians who are committed to the preaching of the gospel, Adventists know that this command was not given to a small church group.  Jesus spoke to the ‘eleven;’ that is, to ‘all’ the disciples who remained after the death of Judas.  These ‘eleven’ disciples represented ‘all’ the church.  The responsibility and privilege of taking an active part in the proclamation of the divine message involves us all.  It is from this passage that the Total Member Involvement program is inspired.  The aim of this program is to encourage every church member to accept, under the guidance of the Spirit, the challenge of bringing the message of salvation ‘to the end of the earth’ (Acts 1:8), and to experience the joy that making disciples for Christ brings.   Heaven is ready to give us all its power, but every member must be willing to go everywhere.  Total Member Involvement also finds a reason for being in this statement by Ellen G. White: ‘The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers” (Gospel Workers, ‘Enlarging our Forces’, p. 351).

“Total member involvement: a call to serve will help us understand how the Holy Spirit, through the work of every member, can turn a person into a disciple of the Master.  Of course, in order to make disciples we must first be true disciples.

“With regard to the work of preaching the gospel, we can also say the words we utter during Communion: ‘Let us all partake…’

Maranatha.” 

Israel Leito, President
Inter-American Division

Ministerial Weekly is a weekly article for pastors and elders produced by the Ministerial Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division / Author: Pastor Leonard Johnson, IAD Associate Ministerial Secretary