Gladys B. Rfos from the Brazilian magazine: "Revista do Anciao" in Portuguese, from the South American Division.

An interview with Jetro Carvalho, first elder of the church of Botafogo, Rio do Janeiro, Brazil.

Jetro Fernandes de Carvalho was born into an Adventist family. In 1958 he was ordained elder at the Marambaia Seventh-day Adventist church in Belem do Para, Brazil. In 1961 he transferred to the Central Church in Recife, where he served as first elder for many years.

In 1982 he moved to Rio do Janeiro and was first elder of the church in Botafogo. Today he serves in the same capacity at the church of Barra, Tijuca, Brazil.

Jetro is married to Naara, a teacher. They have two children. He is a physician specialized in general surgery and gastroenterology. In this interview he tells the reader of Elder's Digest of his experience with new converts and how to evangelize in a big city.

Elder's Digest: Which are the main needs of the local church?

Jetro: The main goal of the local church should be to have a working program that has in mind the salvation of souls. When all the departments plan their activities with this objective in mind, the church fulfills its mission.

To bring souls to Christ, the personal touch of every officer, their creativity and methods to be used should remain the number one program of the church. The greatest challenge of a pastor is to win the support of all the church officers to this program. The second need of the local church is to develop the members' respective gifts or talents for the projected program. This is the pastor's most important assignment.

The third need of the church is to teach its members to sing. When the hymns are well chosen and the congregation sings with enthusiasm and from the heart, all the sermons will be well received.

Elder's Digest: Where do you get the material for your sermons?

Jetro: In the first place the Bible and always the Bible. I follow Paul's example: "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2), and obey the command given by Timothy: "Preach the word" (2 Tim. 4:2). Secondly I use the writings of the spirit of prophecy.

Elder's Digest: What doctrine do you like to preach the most?

Jetro: The doctrine of justification by faith, because I need it every moment. Statistically my needs are the same as those of any other member; what is good for me is good for others. When I talk about my personal experience gives me courage to preach, and my fellow members enjoy it.

Elder's Digest: What concerns should a preacher have about giving a vigorous and attractive message?

Jetro: A preacher should be serious and objective, showing conviction in his expositions and that he believes what he says. Never present a subject that you don't master. A sermon is appealing when it touches your needs and is vigorous when it bends your pride.

Elder's Digest: Which are the major challenges of your congregation?

Jetro: The church of Barra, in Tijuca, is located in a neighborhood of well-educated people. Taking our message to them is our major challenge. The internal matters of the church are not challenges, it's our duty to obey the Lord's bidding.

Elder's Digest: How do you approach apostasy?

Jetro: Apostasy in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is inevitable. Two years after baptism members don't leave the church through apostasy per se, but yes, as a crisis of identity, meaning that the new member discovers that this is not exactly what he wanted.

Elder's Digest: What can the elders do to help the church put an end to this problem?

Jetro: Many are inclined to say that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is cold, with no warmth, not attending to its members. This is far from the truth, and it is time to stop it. What I see is a courteous church, where the members try to be friendly and solicitous. The saying: "The apostate leave through the back door," is not confirmed by experience. They leave through the front door. No one stops them. What the elders can do is to stimulate the church and themselves to gain souls to Christ, and invite those who left, to return.

Elder's Digest: What have you done to help the people that are interested in studying the Bible?

Jetro: I am in charge of two small groups; one meets on Tuesdays, at my condominium, with people invited by my wife, and the other meets on Friday, at a sister's residence with people she invites.

Elder's Digest: What is the "Favorite Brother"?

Jetro: When I served as elder in the Central Church of Recife, about 30 yeas ago, I began a program called: "Favorite Brother". It's purpose was to avoid apostasy by nurturing the new member. When they develop roots, they don't leave. Friendship, activities, Bible studies and prayer make a new member a veteran. There is no assurance that a member will stay in the church; basically this is the philosophy of the "Favorite Brother". How does it work? After baptism, the new member chooses an older member as a favorite brother. The older member sees that the new one has a Bible, a hymn book, a Sabbath school quarterly or an Adventist Review. When one or the other is absent from church, the partner should know if he can be of any help. Get together often, to study, to pray or to program how to save souls for Christ. The new member brings vitality and the old one shares his experiences.

Elder's Digest: What do you think about the formation of small groups in a big city like Rio do Janeiro?

Jetro: Small groups, as a set of tools for evangelism, are the best option for this city. It quickly establishes friendships. Guarantees good attendance in an evangelistic effort, prepares the participants for inevitable duplication, and it offers a place for talent development. A church that does not do this, does not progress.

Elder's Digest: How do you reconcile work, family and taking care of church programs?

Jetro: I keep a dynamic agenda that is modified during the day according to established priorities, in such a way, that the church will not suffer. Sometimes I have to cancel or postpone patients' appointments in order not to disregard my church.

Elder's Digest: In what areas can an elder help the pastor to carry out his work?

Jetro: a) Be a friend and inform the pastor of what happens in the church; b) Help the church see the pastor as the number one member; c) Recognize that only the pastor gives credibility and authority to any program; d) Try to clear the pastor's path of any criticism, resistance, rejection, rebellion, etc; e) Visit the pastor and pray for him and his family, and f) Perform your duties as a dedicated elder.

Elder's Digest: How can the elders cooperate in the visitation program?

Jetro: Recruit members who like to visit. Organize a systematic visitation program. Write or send a note to members at the time of their baptismal anniversary. Make it a point to speak with the not- so-well known members, before or after the service. Friday after sunset, call the sick and lonely ones. Before Sabbath school visit with the members, and observe the rules of good visitation.

Translation by Gladys Rios.

Gladys B. Rfos from the Brazilian magazine: "Revista do Anciao" in Portuguese, from the South American Division.