SEC Elders', Deacons' & Deaconesses' Conference
23rd February 2018
Elders, deacons and deaconesses were told to 'crossover and reclaim the lost' at this year's South England Conference (SEC) Elders', Deacons' and Deaconesses' Conference, held in Daventry near Northampton during the weekend of 16-18 February 2018. SEC Ministerial director, Pastor Ebenezer Jones-Lartey, told the delegates to expect to be challenged to move out of their comfort zones as they work with God to reach out to the members of our Church who have gone missing.
The devotional speaker for the weekend was Pastor Sam Davis. The former SEC President, who now resides in Spain where he is building a lifestyle centre to meet the health needs of individuals, pointed out the characteristics of a reclaimer. "Reclaimers are watchful and strategic. They have eyes which are sensitized to the needs of the church and are not afraid to grab hold of opportunities to share the gospel with those who show an interest." Pastor Davis then added that the reclaimer has a heart which is perceptive and prayerful, realising that there is nothing which can be achieved without an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those who are called to cross over and reclaim those who are lost.
A number of empowering workshops took place which aimed to equip both the elders, deacons and deaconesses in the fulfilment of the roles to which they have been called by God. Delegates attended workshops which highlighted the processes and procedures of the church (Pastor Ebenezer Jones-Lartey); the paradigm shift for deacons and deaconesses (Mfakazi Ndebele) and an engaging session on practical ways to make our local churches more visible to the community by SEC Communication and Media director, Pastor Sam O Davies.
Addressing the millennial challenges faced in our churches today was Pastor Anthony Fuller. The SEC Youth director shared the concerns of the leadership regarding the disengagement of young people in church services. Known as Generation Y, the millennials, born between 1981 to 1995, are the predominant group to have left the Church. Delegates learned that this generation who are driven by technology and are being constantly challenged in a fast-paced world, have a strong desire to feel valued and respected not only in the professional working environment but also in church. This generation also look at the bigger picture, wanting to know where they are, what's expected of them and how they fit in to various organisations. Pastor Fuller drove the point home when he said: "People don't leave companies; they leave managers. Similarly, young people don't leave Jesus but rather the company of those who fail to demonstrate the genuine love and care of Jesus to them."
While there are no definitive solutions to this challenge, we have been encouraged to be open to change and innovation, present programmes and worship services which are relevant to young people and are time sensitive, as well as be authentic Christians who are not afraid to remove the masks and admit when we get it wrong.
SEC President, Dr Emmanuel Osei, explored the bigger picture, regarding the need to cross over and reclaim all missing church members. Delegates learned that for every 10 individuals baptized, 4 of those are currently leaving the Church, which amounts to an alarmingly 40% lost in church membership. Dr Osei asked the delegates to deeply consider how Jesus, who having left 99 sheep in pursuit of the 1 lost sheep, would feel about the 40% missing sheep in our churches today. The SEC President offered some practical steps to take in readdressing this challenge. Covering 4 phases, the President revealed his vision as to how the Church can go about reclaiming our long-lost members.
Phase 1: Awareness and Education involves a membership audit whereby a coding system will be used to ascertain the status of church members.
Phase 2: Training will be offered for those who form part of a Reclamation Ministries Team (RMT). These individuals will be those who have a genuine heart for people, are loving and non-judgemental and are good listeners as well as those with a cheerful disposition and encouraging spirit.
Phase 3: Reach out to reconnect will comprise of a visit and survey with missing members out of which can be devised small fellowship groups aimed at reconnecting individuals to the Lord.
Phase 4: Super glue the reconnected is the point at which the RMT find out from the missing member what support they need in making a permanent reconnection with the Church.
The initiative, which will be rolled out to all churches within the South England Conference on 10 March 2018, will conclude with a special reconnecting Sabbath especially designed to welcome our missing members who having reconnected through small group fellowships and benefitted from it, decide to return home to the fold of God.
Alongside this ministry, delegates were informed of the news that Adventist Radio London would be dedicated in a special service on Sabbath 7 April 2018 at the Brixton Seventh-day Adventist church before broadcasting live across the South East of England on 8 April 2018. Pastor Michael Hamilton, the Director of the station, solicited prayers that through the ministry of the station, lives across the UK would be touched and transformed for the glory of God.
In the last days, before the close of earth's history, Ellen White has said that thousands who once knew the Lord would return unto Him. It was with this thought in mind that Annell Smith, an elder at the Holloway Adventist church, charged the delegates to be convicted and empowered by the Holy Spirit so that when the call is made to step out of their comfort zones, they can cross over in faith, reclaiming and restoring the lost back into the precious fold of God.