Source: Adventist News Network
[June 18, 2007] The Seventh-day Adventist Church's Elder's Digest magazine editor Jonas Arrais is described by colleagues as an easygoing, funny man -- a native of Brazil, his jokes are accentuated by his colorful English, which is his third language.
"Don't have your funeral same day as Brazil soccer team play -- your funeral five, 10 minutes, maybe."
Once a church administrator in South America, Arrais was elected as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist world church's ministerial department in 2005 to train pastors and elders.
And jokes aside, he's serious about his ministry, usually traveling about 200 days a year empowering these unpaid church leaders. Arrais has helped to grow subscriptions of the English version of the quarterly Elder's Digest magazine to 60,000, up from 3,000 just 15 months ago.
The following are excerpts from an interview with some modifications.
ANN: Why have you said the future of the church is in the hands of laypeople?
Arrais: "When God gave the mission to the church, He didn't give it to just pastors or just lay leaders, he gave it to the 'church.' That involves everyone. In those countries where the church is growing fast is where we have one pastor pastoring many churches and those churches are in the hands of local elders."
ANN: So some churches only see their pastor every two or three weeks?
Arrais: "Two months, man. In Brazil, Africa, Philippines ... we have places, for example where the pastor has more than 40 churches and companies under his care. How is it possible to lead and administrate one large district? By training. [Adventist Church co-founder] Ellen White said pastors should spend more time educating than preaching. But what are local church leaders receiving? In some places around the world they may not have a Church Manual, Elder's Handbook, maybe some may not even have a Bible. So we need to equip those people, train those people. Because when we train, we are saying 'thank you so much for everything you are doing in this church.'
ANN: How many Adventist pastors are there worldwide?
Arrais: "About 25,000. You know how many churche elders there are? Ten times that - 250,000. On any given Sabbath you've got elders and local leaders running the operation of a church. Many don't have leadership training or theological training, especially in some parts of the world. The key word is training. Do you think 25,000 pastors alone will finish the work of preaching the gospel?"
ANN: Why has Elder's Digest magazine grown so fast in the last few months?
Arrais: It cost $18 for an annual subscription, but by working with the regional church administrators we've been able to lower the cost to 80 cents. We can deliver to the different administration levels who order in bulk. They are sponsoring the magazine so they can give it to the local church elders for free.
ANN: What can people find in the magazine?
Arrais: "Who is doing the pastoring of those churches? Local church elders. So every edition has four sample sermon outlines. We have interviews with local leaders, and short, practical articles about worship, mission, how to speak effectively, how to do administration. Programs are in here straight from the world church headquarters; all the departments are placing articles here to tell people about church programs - family ministries, youth, Sabbath school, children's ministries, you know. Sometimes we tell the pastors or the administrators, but the local church leaders, they do not know about the Adventist Church's programs.
ANN: What are you planning for the magazine's future?
Arrais: "I am hoping that we will get more international advertising and events in soon. And many people are trying to write for other magazines, but now we are getting more good articles for Elder's Digest. We are also having it translated into more languages for different parts of the world.