James A. Cress

When Jesus called His disciples to leave their nets to fish for souls, He called them to a greater venture than they had ever imagined. He called them to harvest a great catch and to preserve them for His coming. His great commission of evangelism is threefold--proclaim new life, produce new converts, and prepare new believers for discipleship in service to Christ's kingdom.

The General Conference Ministerial Association (GCMA) exists to motivate, encourage, resource, equip, and train pastors and lay leaders for their important function in this great task of preparing people to meet our soon-coming Savior. In essence, the work of the GCMA is to make the work of ministry more effective.

Our target audiences demonstrate the crucial necessity of ministering to those who minister. Within the Seventh-day Adventist Church we serve ministers, pastoral spouses and families, local church elders, and conference/union ministerial secretaries, who themselves are given the responsibility of "pastoring pastors." Beyond our denominational boundaries, we also serve thousands of ministers in every denomination with quality resources and training opportunities for professional development.

Pastoring Pastors
Everything we do is focused on helping pastors minister to their congregations more effectively. Whether encouraging deeper spiritual formation, affirming great doctrinal truths, equipping with practical, affordable resources, energizing for better preaching, or providing resources for recruiting and training others to serve in lay leadership, we first direct our attention to the pastor who serves as the central leader for development of life in the congregation. We view the local congregation as a miniseminary where every member is prepared for service. The pastor serves as the dean of that seminary, and we help equip "the dean" to more effectively accomplish the task.

Pastoring Pastoral Spouses and Families
Our ministers' first mission field is their own home; their first converts their own spouses and children. If a pastoral spouse is involved and enthusiastic about ministry, the overall service to the local church, as well as to the cause worldwide, is enhanced. Team ministry is the present-day fulfillment of Christ's method of sending His disciples into the field of labor in pairs.

Pastors' kids who are motivated to respect and enjoy serving others are likely to see their own spiritual development mature.

Adventist pastoral spouses are the single largest group of unpaid volunteers to serve the church, and their financial contribution is beyond calculation when it is considered that most provide their voluntary work after they have labored at full-time employment that allows their families to live on a denominational wage. Providing nurture and resources for pastoral spouses and families is not a cost, but rather a solid investment.

Pastoring Church Elders
Since 1990 the GCMA has been tasked with equipping local elders to effectively minister as part of the leadership team for local congregations. The need to assist pastoral leadership in managing the work of the church means that local church elders must accomplish more than platform duties. Their role of spiritual leadership, teaching, managing, mentoring, and yes, even proclaiming the message, is essential for the health of the local church. Especially in areas where pastors supervise multiple-church districts and seldom occupy the pulpit every Sabbath, church elders must function as cooperative and capable partners in pastoral ministry.

Pastoring Clergy in All Denominations
Blessed with abundant and high-quality publications and resources, the GCMA has a burden and responsibility to share our good blessings with pastors across denominational lines who also seek greater effectiveness in ministering to their parishioners. Our responsibility can never be doubted when prophetic guidance mandated, "Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ's messengers we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 78). What a blessing to enjoy fellowship and professional development with ministers of all denominations as we jointly seek excellence in ministry.

Ministerial Association Team
The GCMA is ably coordinated in the world divisions by ministerial secretaries and Shepherdess coordinators who devote their energies and talents to the specific tasks necessary in their territories. Emphasizing evangelism, theological education, training events, and pastoral conferences keeps our division leaders on the forefront of delivering meaningful services through the unions and conferences they serve. At the General Conference, we are tasked with developing and providing a variety of resources. Our team of associates consistently delivers the highest quality, most affordable, and most practical resources possible.

Sharon M. Cress serves as an associate for pastoral spouses and families, with the assignment to foster affirmation, nurture, development, encouragement, and resources for the spouses and children of ministers. Shepherdess International's quarterly magazine, SI Journal, delivers practical, real-life articles by pastoral spouses directly impacting life, family, and ministry activities in the parsonage. Special projects have included evangelistic initiatives by pastoral spouses, curriculum development and training events to enhance the service of these paraprofessional pastoral partners, and a variety of special events in every division of the world church.

Willmore D. Eva serves as an associate for Ministry, our monthly international journal for clergy, which provides articles on theological trends; issues confronting clergy; subjects of import to leaders in the congregation; topics of science, pastoral nurture, preaching, and administration; plus reports of evangelism, as well as book reviews and "shoptalk" information about ideas from pastoral readers. Assisted in management by Julia Norcott, Ministry has also begun an embryonic venture that we hope to expand to a quarterly translation in French of some articles from the monthly magazine that will serve specific areas of at least seven divisions of our world church. Editions of Ministry are also published by the divisions in Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Peter Prime serves as an associate for evangelism and church growth, with the assignment to encourage soul winning as a natural part of everyday life in the congregation, as well as special denominational initiatives for the global church such as 2004--Year of World Evangelism, which produced more baptisms for the Adventist Church than any evangelistic initiative in the history of our church. He also has led out in developing a specific curriculum for a grace-based evangelistic series, methods of involving every member in preparing for and following through on evangelistic projects, and pastoral leadership in every facet of soulwinning--preparation, proclamation, and preservation.

Joel Sarli, has recently retired after serving for nearly a dozen years as an associate for elders and theological education. He ably led in producing our quarterly resource magazine, Elder's Digest, as well as a variety of resources to equip and motivate for excellence the service of church elders in the leadership of local congregations. Among Sarli's outstanding accomplishments is a curriculum and certification process for church elders, and a seven-year series of worship-planning guides that provide a lectionary-type menu of balanced sermon outlines accompanied by appropriate hymns, inspirational readings and texts, hymns, illustrations, and children's stories.

Nikolaus Satelmajer serves as an associate for continuing education and PREACH, our initiatives to share with pastors of other denominations. In addition to coordinating Ministry magazine subscriptions to thousands of clergy in other denominations, our Ministry professional growth seminars by satellite attract an annual audience in the thousands as ministers gather to fellowship and learn together in hundreds of downlink locations in virtually every time zone of the globe.

Practical, cost-effective resources are coordinated by Cathy Payne, who coordinates the development, production, and delivery services of our Ministerial Resource Center, a joint venture with other departments of the General Conference, such as Family Ministries, Youth Ministries, Children's Ministries, and Health Ministries, in bringing fresh new resources on a variety of subjects of practical importance for effective ministry. View all of our resources and activities at www.ministerialassociation.com.

Don't Miss the Boat
For nearly three decades I have been collecting Noah's arks, and our display continues to be one of the favorite stops on tours at the church's world headquarters. "Don't Miss the Boat," the theme of our display at the session in St. Louis, will feature this collection plus The Invitation, a painting of Noah's ark by world-renowned Adventist artist Elfred Lee. We are also featuring a boatload of resources and ideas for practical ministry, plus a photo opportunity for every family at the big boat with Noah and Mrs. Noah. Ministry will also sponsor professional pastoral counseling.

So whether it's the best in ministerial resources, an exciting adventure at the General Conference session, or the finest opportunities for professional development online, in live pastoral meetings, or by satellite downlink . . . don't miss the boat!

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