The elder as ‘discipler’ (Part 1)

Pastor Glenn Townend expresses his gratitude for a kindly elder who had his back . . . out in the Outback.

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(Credit: Unsplash)

I had just completed two years of internship with a senior pastor and was pastoring my first church on my own. I was excited at the opportunity to shepherd and lead God’s people. The church district was on the edge of the great Australian Outback and covered many thousands of kilometres. It had one larger regional town with a church and many smaller towns with small groups or individual members. I had many ideas to share the gospel and Adventist truths with all in the community. Immediately and enthusiastically I shared my ideas with the church leaders in a board meeting. However, there was little discussion on my concepts, and what was said did not encourage me at all. What could I do?

One of the elders in the church noticed my disheartened response to my evangelistic ideas. He asked me to visit him while he was at work. Owen made and repaired saddles for horses. I went over and, while he worked, moulding and stitching the leather, I talked. He finally said to me, “I love your enthusiasm for spreading God’s Word, but it may take a little time understanding how it is best shared in this area.” That made sense to me. For the next three years that I pastored in that district I would often go over and talk with Owen about the challenges in ministry. He listened as I did most of the talking, but he guided my thinking in a way that connected with the outback people.

Owen, as an older elder, discipled me. He made me a better follower of Jesus.

Disciple in Greek is mathetes, from a verb which means to learn. As we go, as we teach, and as we baptise, the goal is to make disciples.