Israel Leito is the president of the Inter-American Division.

There is no greater privilege and no better opportunity to serve the church than to be chosen for the office of Elder. To understand that, we must first recognize that it is a great honor for us to work in the congregation of God’s children. Let us compare the responsibilities of the elder and the pastor so that we can understand them better.

The pastor is the spiritual leader with the greatest responsibility and authority in the church. The church, through the Conference or Mission Conference, has sent him to provide spiritual guidance and to administer to the congregation under his leadership. Therefore, the pastor serves as a connection between the local church and the world church, for he represents the world church before the congregation. The length of his service to the congregation is subject to the decision of the local field which has sent him.

The elder, on the other hand, is not sent; he is elected by the congregation to assist the pastor in spiritual matters and in administering to the local congregation. He is the lay leader of the highest order because it is his office that requires the greatest humbleness to serve the people of God.

The ideal elder should be someone who is humble, no matter his place in society, how many assets he has, or his level of schooling. His greatest task will always be to serve, not to be served. He will recognize that he is not the church owner or someone who rules the members’ lives.

With humbleness, the elder recognizes the pastor’s authority and is committed, in harmony and in consultation with the pastor, to give the best service to the congregation.

The ideal elder loves the church members and treats them with respect, concern, and attentiveness. For the elder, the brother that drives the brand new car and the brother that comes to church barefoot have the same value in the Savior’s eyes; therefore, he treats all individuals with the same kindness, without discrimination.

The greatest joy for the ideal elder is to see people finding salvation through his congregation. He is concerned with having good worship services in his church. He plans the services with the pastor in such a way that all members receive good spiritual nourishment. As a pastor’s assistant, he participates in all church services and keeps the church in order and functioning properly.

As a spiritual leader, the elder enjoys seeing his church prepare for the Lord’s coming. As a leader he will do everything possible so that the words of Isaiah will characterize his ministry: “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain” (Isa. 65:25). The ideal elder will delight in assisting members in being faithful in everything, to love Jesus, to keep the Sabbath, to respect civic and ecclesiastical authorities, to study the Bible, to follow the instructions of the Spirit of Prophecy, and to support the church with tithes and offerings. He will also encourage church members to get involved in mission and to bring others to Jesus. His greatest joy, besides genuine service to the church, will be to see sinners humbling themselves at the feet of the Divine Master.

The ideal elder will protect his flock from the influence of Satan, which surrounds the church with the sole purpose of disturbing its peace and salvation. The elder will be careful with the sermons he preaches so that his messages will not provoke division or harm the people of God.

The ideal elder is someone who knows Jesus, walks with Him, and is determined to submit himself to God’s will. He will do everything possible so that God’s principle is followed in the congregation of the saints, because that is what God desires: “I will rejoice over Jerusalem [my church] and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more” (Isa. 65:19).

May the Lord bless His faithful elders, who together with the Lord’s faithful pastors minister day by day to God’s people. Maranatha!

Israel Leito is the president of the Inter-American Division.