The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America held a certification program for thousands of local church elders across the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory during an online event streamed from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico, on February 16, 2019.
The two-and-half-hour session is part of a comprehensive certification training program aimed at equipping church elders to better nurture members throughout the more than 22,000 churches and congregations across the IAD.
Coined as Every Elder Involved, the initiative has reached the second of three levels of the training and development program focused on empowering and providing tools to church elders for making disciples of others.
IAD president Elie Henry challenged the more than 2,000 attendees, those at the Chiapas Convention Center and the online viewers, to redouble their efforts in motivating more members to be involved in the mission of the church.
“To be effective in discipling others you must first seek God with all your heart,” Henry said as he quoted Jeremiah 29:13. “You as church leaders in the church must build a daily relationship with God, take the mission call of making disciples seriously, and take the time to nurture, to feed the members and new members in the church.” And he added, “As church elders, we have the responsibility to care for all those God has entrusted us with in the church, grow in Christ, and move forward in making disciples.”
If every church elder who assists pastors in shepherding the flock in each congregation could get more involved in making disciples and training active members in discipleship, the church in Inter-America would grow stronger, said Josney Rodríguez, ministerial secretary for the church in Inter-America and the main organizer of the training certification program.
“We need you to be committed to going for more for the kingdom,” Rodríguez said. “There’s a great challenge to have every member become a disciple of Christ Jesus and transform the thousands of churches in Inter-America.”
It’s about getting 30,000 active church elders to preach the Word, nurture members, and motivate the ministries of the church into joining forces for a powerful revival for the glory of God in reaching the community with the gospel, Rodríguez explained.
Jose Rizo Castillo, of the La Trinidad No. 2 Adventist Church in Esteli, northwest Nicaragua, is among the 1,750 church elders enrolled in the church elder certification program in the South Central American Union. Castillo works alongside his pastor to offer discipleship and run the 150-member church every week. “The certification has helped me grow a closer relationship with God and to be more intentional about testifying inside the church and outside the church as well, which has also improved as I prepare sermons,” he said.
Erik Hernández, a local church elder in Caracas, Venezuela, shared that he is happy to be part of the great task of training and developing young people, children, and adults to be involved in the work of reaching others for the gospel.
At 16 years old, Norma Castellano Espinoza of the Grijalva Mission in the northern outskirts of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, in Chiapas, stood with her certificate of completion during the online training program. She took in the day’s presentations and expressed happiness at the fact that she belonged to such a large group of fellow church elders passionate about their role and responsibility in the spiritual leadership of the church.
Norma is one of many young church elders who are in the process of being mentored and guided to work hand-in-hand with the pastor to serve and assist in the discipleship ministry of her church, said Rogelio Morales, ministerial secretary for the church in Chiapas. “This certification program allows for more integral work in the church, highlighting the role of the church elder as the right arm of the pastor. And training and mentoring young people is important in the pastoral leadership of the church,” he said.
So far, 2,740 church elders are enrolled in the certification program that is helping them be clear on their responsibilities and their calling, said Morales. “The average Adventist pastor in Chiapas has 15 to 20 churches per district, and that means he needs to rely on dedicated church elders to keep the church running with the ministries leaders every week.”
“We are so impressed to see how committed our church elders are in the mission of the church, “ said Rodríguez, who is scheduled to visit training sessions across most of the 24 unions in the IAD this year. Getting every elder involved is about strengthening church elders to better minister in churches, keeping members active in discipleship, preaching the Word of God, and understanding their ministry in reaching out to their communities, he said.
Thousands of church elders viewed the online program and received completion certificates at churches, local fields, and union offices across the IAD. The live online program drew some 1,260 connections in 37 countries around the world.
The program also highlighted the need for churches to seek out former members, to set a plan to help the poor and the needy in the church and the community, to get the youth and children involved in discipleship, as well as where to find resources, and more.