Have you ever tried to organise close to 500 pastors for a group photo? It’s a mission, that’s for sure. But what’s even more of a mission is the scenarios some of these ministers face on a daily basis. From Thursday Island in the north to Hobart in the south, Norfolk Island in the east to Broome in the west, and the remote Finke church in the middle of the outback, the call to minister in Australia can be challenging, tough, and thankless. But given the vastness of this country, with the challenges come opportunities for mission, and blessings far exceeding expectations.
Held every five years, the Ministers’ Meetings, organised by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia (AUC), provide a platform to hear such stories of mission. It’s a time where pastors from all across Australia can come together to be inspired, encouraged, and, as per this year’s theme, empowered.
“Our theme, ‘Empower’, was based on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church (Ephesians 3), and it was our prayer as a Union that our ministers would also ‘experience the love of Christ’ that Paul refers to in this letter,” said AUC president Pastor Jorge Munoz. “The purpose for the meetings was not only to encourage and empower our pastors to continue making disciples, but also to offer them a chance to network and connect with other pastors and learn from one another, but principally from God.”
Held at Avondale College (NSW) from February 6-10, the more than 15 keynote speakers included Dr Cedric Vine, associate professor of New Testament at Andrews University, Pastor Llewellyn Edwards, who recently retired from the role of Ministerial Association secretary for the British Union Conference, and Pastor Benjamin Lundquist, the Young Adult Ministries coordinator for the North American Division and Oregon Conference.
The daily schedule was jam-packed, beginning with 6 am exercise and prayer groups in the morning, and including plenary sessions, interactive SUM talks, and more than 20 afternoon workshops across 10 different streams. Lunch and dinners served in packs made catching up with friends simple and convenient during meal times, while an expo hall set up in the auditorium also provided opportunities for ministers to collect resources, have their professional headshots updated, and network with colleagues from around the Union and Division.
The special Partners in Ministry dinner on Wednesday night catered to the more than 170 pastors’ spouses who also attended the meetings, while the Women in Pastoral Ministry dinner sought to affirm and encourage the more than 40 women called to ministry in Australia. Most evenings included a book launch, with the program culminating on Sabbath afternoon with a gospel concert by the Institute of Worship orchestra.
“To hear more than 500 ministers and their spouses singing and praying together was inspiring,” said AUC Ministerial Association secretary Pastor Brendan Pratt. “It was wonderful to see pastors encouraging and supporting each other. We packed in a lot of professional development but still had time to praise God and spend time together.”
Organising a meeting of this size and calibre was a challenge two years in the making, and Pastor Pratt paid tribute throughout the week to members of the Ministerial Association who made the event possible.
“The ministerial secretaries from around the Union put a lot of time in to make it work,” he said. “However, to have pastors leave saying, they have been refreshed, inspired and empowered makes it all worth it.”
“We were deeply blessed and encouraged in our time here together at Avondale,” said Pastor Munoz. “We value the development of our ministerial staff and are eager for our entire team to be better equipped to share Jesus’ message of hope.”