While attending the South Pacific Division's Ministerial Advisory in Australia, Elder's Digest editor Jonas Arrais had the opportunity to talk with several ministerial secretaries and to ask questions regarding the work of local church leaders in that field.

Gary Webster, Division Ministerial Secretary, was raised in a Christian home, strayed from Christ, but was saved by God's marvellous grace in 1974. He is married to Merilyn, and they have two daughters, Robyn and Lyndelle. He has held several positions in this division. He is passionate about preaching Christ and bringing people to Him and into His church family; he also helps ministers to train and equip members.

Some Division statistics

This division includes 14 countries and is covered by four unions: Australian Union Conference, New Zealand Pacific Union Conference, Papua New Guinea Union Mission, and Trans-Pacific Union Mission. This field has about 400,000 members attending 1,830 churches and 3,187 companies.

What challenges do pastors and local church leaders face in your field?

Gary: A number of challenges face us in ensuring we have strong spiritual elder leaders.

1. Helping our pastors to see the importance of "hands-on" training of their local church elders. Much of an elder's work needs to be modeled. Ministers not only tell elders what to do, they can also show them how to do it by taking them (especially new elders) with them on visitation, Bible studies, etc.; elders are more willing then to share the minister's work for God's children.

2. Educating our local churches and elders to be less pastorally dependent. If elders assume more responsibility, the minister is free to train and equip members, reach out to lost people, and increase the spiritual growth of members.

3. Helping conferences, missions and local churches to see the critical importance of supplying each elder with a copy of basic tools such as The Elder's Handbook and Elder's Digest. How can church elders lead if they are not given the resources that will teach them how to lead? They should not have to pay for such basic tools from their own pockets. This is the responsibility of the church for which they are working.

What evangelism growth strategies are the South Pacific Division using?

One of the most effective tools in personal evangelism that we have used in recent years is the SEARCH video series. Television advertising for a video on the return of Jesus has resulted in thousands of people requesting to watch our videos, and scores of lay members are involved in active ministry to lost people.

One of the most effective tools in personal evangelism that we have used in recent years is the SEARCH video series. Television advertising for a video on the return of Jesus has resulted in thousands of people requesting to watch our videos, and scores of lay members are involved in active ministry to lost people.

Church planting has become a significant aspect in the Church's strategic plan to reach lost people. There are some significant evangelistic challenges in the South Pacific Division; for example, where rapid and strong growth have occurred in the Pacific Islands, integrating these new believers in the body of Christ has been a huge challenge. The "back door" is swinging wildly in some places. Adequately trained elders and the multiplication of holistic small groups are seen as vital to this challenge.

In affluent countries such as Australia and New Zealand, secularism and materialism are having a significant impact on the spirituality of church members. A passion for Christ and lost people is absent in too many of our members. This is the fundamental reason that the Church in those countries is experiencing little or no growth. Prayer serious, earnest and heartfelt is the only thing that will turn many of our churches around. Revival and reformation are our greatest needs.

Some churches see evangelism as the work of a specially-trained speaker. Such approaches are having less and less of an impact. As a result, many ministers and members consider public evangelism to be ineffective, outdated, and irrelevant. This is unscriptural, but it does underscore the fact that public evangelism must change its basic approach. It must become more of an event to help members to reap the fruits of their friendship evangelism. Evangelists and pastors need to invest far more time and energy into reviving, mobilizing, training, and involving members in the work of Christ.

Health-and-Healing ministry needs to be taken more seriously by ministers and members. Positive results have been seen where this program has been used successfully to touch lives for Christ. We must revisit this method of reaching people that was used so powerfully by Christ, in the New Testament church, and in our Adventist history.

Our local elders, the under-shepherds of Christ, are doing a wonderful work for Him and His people. Out of love for Christ, many extend themselves far beyond the call of duty. The words of Paul to the church elders and deacons in Philippi can be said of so many of our local church leaders: "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1:1, 6).

Graeme Christian is the Australian Union Ministerial Association Secretary. Born in Tasmania into a ministry family, he began his formal ministry in Sydney, Australia. He has worked in different places and performed different functions in the church. Currently he is serving as the Ministerial Secretary for the Australian Union Conference, located in Melbourne. His wife Marcia is a schoolteacher and is also passionate about the Lord's work. Their children are now young adults.

Some union statistics

This union has 410 churches and 81 companies, with 52,771 members cared for by approximately 300 pastors and more than 1,300 local church leaders.

Could you give a brief statement on the importance of the work of lay leaders?

Graeme: Excellence in leadership is vital for the church. The contributions of the leadership team can never be overrated! Their priorities set the direction for the church. Their passion for the gospel commission focuses the church on the job Jesus has given us. The work of our leaders creates the climate and the culture, of the church whether it's caring or just plain busy. I want to applaud those who tirelessly invest of themselves and their abilities in the most significant ways to facilitate the growth of God's work in their areas.

What kind of challenges do they face?

Graeme: Local leaders are busy people, yet busy-ness never led to godliness. One of the first challenges for Adventist leaders is to keep growing as spiritual leaders who are on track with God. A second challenge is to keep focused on our core business. It was Jesus who gave he church its job description: to take the gospel to the world and this begins in our own communities and our network of friends and family. The way we spend our resources our time and money in particular is a good indicator of our priorities. Jesus cared for people and worked to bring them a clearer picture of God. the church its job description: to take the gospel to the world and this begins in our own communities and our network of friends and family. The way we spend our resources our time and money in particular is a good indicator of our priorities. Jesus cared for people and worked to bring them a clearer picture of God.

How can pastors and elders work as a more effective team?

Graeme: Teamwork is based on our willingness to respect each other for the strengths each one has been given by God. God is a team, and His picture of the church involves each one doing his or her part. The doctrine of spiritual gifts helps us to understand this principle. The apostle Paul used the body as an image of the church, with each one doing his or her part to build up the body. God has made us individuals; however, individuality and teamwork are often in conflict. Submitting to each another is tough sometimes; however, this is the basis of teamwork.

Paul Cavanagh is the Trans-Pacific Union Ministerial Secretary. He was born in South New Zealand and raised in a secular environment. He became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian at the age of 19. He attended university and gained a BSC in the biological sciences, then earned a B.A. in theology from Avondale. After graduation, he was called to work in the Island Mission Field and has served in Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Papua, New Guinea. A study break in the United States gave him an opportunity to earn a M.A. in Missions and a Master's of Public Health.

Some union statistics

This union has 435 churches and 570 companies cared for by 290 pastors and more than 2,000 local church leaders. Territories and languages in this union:

Island Nations of Solomons, Vanuatu, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Niue, Tonga, Samoa, Tokelau Islands (unentered). In the Melanesian areas of Solomons and Vanuatu, there are hundreds of local languages; the lingua franca is Pigin or English. Some French is spoken in Vanuatu. The Polynesian Islands have their own languages.

Discuss the importance of church leaders and what the church is doing for them.

Paul: The role of lay leaders is recognized in theTPU as being extremely significant, for it is impossible for those in gospel ministry to adequately shepherd the church members by themselves.

Local church leaders face many problems. Those in rural areas lack a formal education and come from a non-literate (i.e. oral) background, so reading is not a part of their lives. Many lack training for the role they have been asked to fulfill in the local church. Many areas do not have supporting resources. As the church expands, these leaders face a steadily increasing number of new members. These issues are being addressed at the union level with the development of resources and training materials.

A series of training sessions to develop skills needed for leadership at the local church level is in progress; it is intended that there will be two units each year produced in this area. Other departmental leaders in the union are working on training materials for local church leadership in other areas as well. It is an intentional policy of theTPU to raise as many church companies up to organized church level as possible. Training materials are being developed with this in mind.

All churches and companies are receiving the Elder's Digest magazine on a regular basis, and each will receive a copy of the Elder's Handbook.

There is a real need to intentionally define the role of the pastor and the role of the elder; the pastor/elder team must understand how they complement each other in this work.

There is a real need to intentionally define the role of the pastor and the role of the elder; the pastor/elder team must understand how they complement each other in this work.

Kendell Cobbom is the Ministerial Secretary in the New Zealand Pacific Union. He is married to Lanelle, and they have two beautiful daughters. He is the youngest son of a minister and spent much of his growing-up years in the Pacific Islands (Pitcairn, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea) where he grew to love this part of the world. He considers it a privilege to minister in his father's footsteps and to have an immediate connection with people because of his having ministered there beforehand.

Some union statistics

This union is the "baby" of the South Pacific Division, but it contains a diversity of cultures and island groups over a broad sweep of the Pacific: all of New Zealand (two Conferences), French Polynesia, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Pitcairn Island. In this union territory, the languages spoken are English, French, Cook Island, Maori, Bismarck, Tahitian, Samoan, and Tongan. (With New Zealand being a cosmopolitan location, there are many other language groups there besides those mentioned.) We have 137 churches, 37 companies, and 17,235 church members in our union cared for by 92 pastors and about 725 local church elders.

What kinds of challenges do local church leaders in your union face?

Kendell: One of the key challenges is a dependence on self and the skills that come "naturally," rather than a reliance on God's guidance for all that takes place in ministry. We are tempted to think that we are working "for God" rather than "with God."

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus invites us to be yoked to Him what a partnership!

What are pastors and the Ministerial Association doing for lay leaders?

Kendell: Pastors and our Ministerial Association are there to support and empower lay leaders in ministry. We are not there as lords but as servant-leaders. Unfortunately, one challenge of ministry is theological conflict, and this is an area where those who are more educated may be able to assist in resolving conflict and encouraging lay leaders to grow in God's grace through a daily ongoing relationship with Him.

What kinds of training and materials are they receiving?

Kendell: Certainly Elder's Digest and the Elder's Guide are very helpful for keeping in touch with current issues and support. We are making the "Seminar in a Box" video series available to our lay leaders as an excellent equipping tool.

Tony Kemo is the Papua New Guinea Union Ministerial Secretary. He was born and raised in the village as a firstgeneration Adventist. His parents were converted from paganism to Adventism. Tony graduated with a B.A. in Theology from Pacific Adventist College and a M.A. in Administration and Management from Avondale College. He has been a pastor for 34 years and has been married to his wife Beatrice for 33 years. They have been blessed with four children and now have four grandchildren.

Some union statistics

Pidgin, Motu, and English are the common languages spoken in this Union. However, in Papua, New Guinea, more than 800 dialects are spoken throughout the entire country. They have 3,305 churches and companies with 234,520 members cared for by 343 pastors, 394 volunteer missionaries, and approximately 10,500 local church elders.

What kinds of challenges do you face i your union?

Tony: We are bringing more people into the Church while at the same time losing more. Nurturing is our greatest challenge in Papua New Guinea Union Mission. PNG is poor in many ways, especially in the areas of physical and social life. To alleviate this poverty, we have to find some solutions to the physical needs of our people. More people are living without jobs in urban centers, and survival becomes difficult. In these situations, many of our young people fall back to their old ways of life.

Tell me something about teamwork between the pastor and elders.

Tony: Elders should meet regularly with the pastor. The pastor must create an environment to train elders, equip them with resources, and then delegate responsibility to them to conduct the functions of the church. The pastor has to work with his elders to visit church members, those who are sick, those who are mourning for the loss of their loved ones, and those who are struggling in their Christian lives. Having fellowship together can also help to build team spirit.

In your opinion, what kinds of qualities should lay leaders have?

Tony: Christian values that are based and rooted upon the life of Christ can make a difference in someone's life. The lay leader builds a vertical relationship with God on a daily basis. As the Holy Spirit lives in the lives of lay leaders, the qualities of God's life are seen in him or her. Pastors must become model leaders so that their lay leaders will follow the directions given by their example.