We have looked at stories of elders who have reached out to their congregations through prayer and the ministry of presence. Now we turn our attention to elders who are intentional about evangelistic ministry and sharing Jesus in order “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). It is our desire that you will be as inspired as we were by these elders.
SHARING JESUS AT HOME
One pastor divided his church into groups of 10 families,
with one elder assigned to each group. Randy and Janelle
started a small group in their home for the families they were
assigned. Weekly potluck dinners are followed by study groups
for adults and children. These groups provide spiritual growth
and strengthen relationships between members. The group engages
in local or global outreach once a month and commits
to praying for new people to join them. They also connect with
former church members. Several former members have started
coming to the small group, and some have returned to church.
When asked about the amount of time he invests in the group—
in addition to his work, Sabbath duties, and family responsibilities—Randy
said that he wouldn’t give it up as the group is his
favorite part of the week and provides a much-needed spiritual
Likewise, Dennis and Annie want to reach the professionals
in their city. Once a week, they provide dinner for their small
group, followed by a short Bible study. They understand the
pressures of work and life and knew they could provide a way
to help those pressed for time not to feel burdened by adding
another activity to their schedules.
Both couples saw a connection between personal relationships
and spiritual growth. They saw the human need for belonging
and made their homes a welcoming place.
SHARING JESUS THROUGH MISSION TRIPS
Steve is an elder with a love for mission; he has coordinated
almost 20 mission trips. Working with several area churches, he
has been able to provide medical and dental care, Vacation Bible
Schools, and evangelistic series while also building churches. It
is easy for people, even non-members, to give money to these
projects to cover expenses or to pay Bible workers to stay there.
It is not just lives overseas that are changed; church members
who go on these trips often feel a sense of rejuvenation in their
spiritual lives, too. These mission trips keep Steve strong in his
faith as he sees the changes God works in the lives of both the
people they are reaching and those who go on the trips.
Steve has taken to heart Jesus’ command to “go and make
disciples” (Matt. 28:19). He feels called to leave the comforts
of home to share the gospel and to help other Christians benefit
from the same faith-building experience. But you don’t need to
travel the globe to find a mission field. There are plenty of opportunities
close to home.
SHARING JESUS IN THE COMMUNITY
Elders all over the world have taken on the task of leading
churches. Hundreds of elders in North America alone function as
lay pastors and church planters. Tim is a successful businessman
who works full-time, yet he was able to plant a church. That
plant has grown to over 200 people in attendance. Tim coordinated
leadership teams to help care for the congregation and
plant another church.
Hannah loves to give Bible studies. After a personal revival,
Hannah prayed that through the giving of Bible studies, she could
help 2-3 people a year come to Christ. Over the last decade, she
has brought 21 people to the Lord. Seeing how God is working
energizes Hannah and strengthens her prayer life. With every
Bible study she gives, she gets to know her Bible even better.
You don’t have to be a pastor to reach the community; you
only need to have a heart for people. Whether you are working
with a group or just with one person, your impact on individuals
will be felt for eternity.
We encourage you to intentionally spend 3-4 hours a week,
in addition to Sabbath services and committee meetings, in
ministry to your church and community. Humbly allow yourself
to be led by the Spirit. “Each of you should use whatever gift
you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s
grace in its various forms” (1 Pet. 4:10). Our ministries may not
be the same, but our hearts should have the same calling to
serve people. This can only be done if you are connecting daily
to Christ through prayer and the Word. Being an elder is not
about rank or prestige; it is about taking up the banner of love
in service to others.
S. Joseph Kidder is a professor of church growth and leadership
at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.
Kristy L. Hodson is a student at Andrews University
To avoid confusion, in this series we will refer to S. Joseph Kidder with the
pronoun “I” and reference Kristy by name.