Trevor Ward is a local elder at the Lyttelton SDA Church in the Transvaal Seventh-day Adventist Conference/South African Union. His church has 88 members and 5 elders. He and his wife Dale have two children, Aaron and Matthew. May you be motivated and blessed as you read how God is moving in Elder Ward’s church and life.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A LOCAL CHURCH ELEDER.

I was not born into Adventism but became a Seventh-day Adventist in my 30’s. In the past I had always declined the position of elder due to the enormous responsibility that this position held. When I was first elected elder in my local church in 2006, the task ahead seemed daunting; however, the Lord has guided me in ways I never thought possible. Working in my local church with its multicultural membership has presented challenges, but these have been overcome by following the example Christ set when He lived here on earth. It has also broadened my knowledge of people and brought me to a closer walk with God. Drawing on Christ’s strength in making the right decisions on church matters has really been a life-changing experience for me. Being an elder is not a 9-to-5 job; rather, it requires me to be available to assist church members whenever needed. Church leadership is not for the weak, as I have discovered on several occasions. You need the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon in dealing with church matters. But to my fellow elders, I say: Never give up, no matter how difficult the task ahead seems. When you think that all is lost and that you have endured all you can, go down on your knees and ask the Lord for help. You will rise a new person, filled with inspiration and dedication.

DO YOU WORK CLOSELY WITH YOUR PASTOR?

Our pastor is responsible for two churches, so that has given me the opportunity to work very closely with him. The pastor is available only every second week, so this means that I am very involved with the day-to-day operations of the church. This necessitates continuous communication with the pastor, keeping him up-to-date on church activities. I sometimes meet with him late in the evening, updating him on decisions from the elders and from Board meetings. An elder becomes the conduit between the pastor and the church members. The pastor remains the shepherd of the flock, and the elder acts as the assistant shepherd.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU PREACH?

With five elders in the church, I am not often required to preach. However, the occasion has arisen where the appointed speaker has canceled at the last minute, and an elder had to step in. Nevertheless, I try to preach at least once every two months. It is indeed an honor and privilege to stand before God’s people and deliver the Word.

HAS THERE BEEN MINISTRY DEVELOPMENT IN THE PAST FEW YEARS?

This seems to have been a problem in our churches in recent years; not much ministry development has taken place. This is evidenced by the fact that pastors have multiple churches to oversee. My personal view is that the problem has its roots in the lack of focus on our church youth. Teaching the baptismal class in our church for the past couple years has exposed me to the views and thoughts of our young people with regards to their faith. Because there is not much Bible study, their knowledge of church history and Bible truths is very superficial. There definitely has to be a concerted effort to increase ministry development over the next few years.

ANY SPECIAL PROJECTS?

At the beginning of 2008, a decision was taken to make it the Year of Evangelism for Lyttelton. Being located within a military base meant that the harvest fields were right on our doorstep. We realized that this was not going to be a short-term project but that 2008 would herald the beginning of a long-term goal to be faithful witnesses for Christ and win souls for the Lord. Various projects were assigned to different church departments. The Youth Department are raising funds to improve the appearance of the building and to purchase much-needed equipment. Much of this has already been done. We have a very active Personal Ministries Department, and they have embarked on a project to distribute as many Bibles as possible. The military hospital that caters to the Defense Forces’ medical needs has approached our church to provide Bibles for their patients. To date we have donated more than 2,500 Bibles. Even though individual departments are responsible for these projects, every department has been encouraged to participate so that the projects become church-driven instead of department-driven.

WHAT ARE YOUR CHURCH’S MISSION, VISION, AND GOALS?

I think Lyttelton’s mission is the same as the mission of the world church—to preach the gospel to all the world. However, our ‘world’ is the area immediately surrounding our church. Spreading the gospel to the community remains our primary mission. 

There are many challenges to this mission, including poverty and alcohol abuse. This mission has determined our vision. We would like the Lyttelton church to become the beacon of hope in our community, a place of refuge from the ravages of this world, a source of encouragement in times of despair, and a place where friends can be found whatever the circumstances. Through our initial efforts in achieving this vision, we have become known as the “Saturday” church among sections of the local community. Our vision does not stop there; we would like to begin church planting in the area. In the book of Acts, we read of how Paul and Barnabas traveled around the countryside, encouraging people and spreading good news. I believe that Lyttelton has the same mission and goal.

HOW HAS YOUR CHURCH GROWN?

The church was established about six years ago and had 20 members. The Lyttelton church came into being as an overspill of the Sunnyside church in the Pretoria central area. The church building could no longer accommodate all the members, and it was decided that a number of smaller churches would be established. By the end of 2008, our church had grown to 88 members. While this growth has been exceptional, it has come about by members transferring into the church instead of via baptism; in the past six years, we have baptized only two new members. Part of the difficulty in bringing new members into the church is the lack of suitable outreach programs, coupled with the church’s location.

HOW DO YOU RELATE TO YOUR CHURCH MEMBERS?

Being a founder member of the church, I don’t see myself as a church officer and the laity as ordinary church members. We are one family who has embraced the concept of being brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not a group that gathers only on Sabbath and then are strangers during the week. Elders are considered the undershepherds of the flock, and as such, they must know all their sheep. Getting to know my fellow members outside of the church setting is a priority. I think that once you get to know members on a personal level, the relationships grow to a higher level, and it makes it that much easier to relate to members on church matters.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE IN READING ELDER’S DIGEST?

The information contained in Elder’s Digest has been a source of inspiration for me. The diversity of topics and letters of encouragement serve to provide a renewed sense of energy and confidence in carrying out my duties. Knowing that there are colleagues out there who are living the same experiences as I am and overcoming all obstacles proves to me that the Lord truly lives within our hearts if we let Him. The articles are relevant to our times, and the advice gives elders the assurance that whatever questions they may have, those questions will be more than adequately answered.

HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING SPECIFIC FROM ELDER’S DIGEST THAT YOU DID NOT ALREADY KNOW?

Not having any formal training on how to conduct myself as an elder, there were certain aspects of church protocol which I assumed would be the same as the protocols practiced in business. However, I soon realized that the business ethic of winner/loser does not transfer well to church situations. Dealing with church matters is altogether different in that there cannot be any losers. Conducting Board meetings was a challenge in the beginning as I had to stop viewing Board members as employees but rather as fellow brethren who had the same objectives and goals of winning souls for Jesus as I had, even though we had differing views on how this should be done. Elder’s Digest has been an excellent resource for ensuring that I can deliver my best as an elder, not forgetting that the Lord leads the way.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO CHALLENGES WITHIN THE CHURCH FAMILY?

The challenges are just as varied as the church member. It is difficult to ensure that a balanced view is taken of these challenges and a solution found that is acceptable to all. As I mentioned earlier, Lyttelton is a multi-cultural church, so the challenges that present themselves are sometimes unique. Due to their differing backgrounds, church members see the same problem from different perspectives and therefore have different interpretations of the problem and its solutions. As an elder I have to be cognizant of these facts and respond appropriately. Before tackling issues, I often ask myself, “What would Christ have done in this situation?” This brings a totally different perspective to the problem. 

ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?

Being an elder in your local church should be a humbling experience. Matthew 23:11-12 says, “Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored” (CEV).

Being an elder is a huge responsibility because the Lord places His sheep in our care, and we are expected to care for them in the same manner as He would care for them.