“I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness” (Peter 5: 1-4)
The purpose of Head Elder position at Middletown Seventh-day Adventist Church is to “keep my finger on the spiritual pulse of [our community of faith]” (Chris Fajardo, Head Elder). It is a call to provide a general mechanism of support in assisting the pastor with “teaching his flock”. The head elder post is one focused on duties and responsibilities, training techniques for other church officials, and shepherding the congregation alongside the pastor. Our head elder is responsible for helping to give the church vision. That vision is one of the present while looking toward the future and respecting the past. That vision emphasizes Christ as the heartbeat of our little body of members. The privilege of maintaining such an office includes the nurturing of our membership, overseeing church programs, leading by example, and maintaining a fulfilling and enriched worship service. It is up to that individual to be the eyes and ears of the pastoral staff, to go to the Bible as a survival guide, to train and be willing to be lead, and to pray for the promise of each member and non-member in our local and global communities respectively.
Our head elder, Chris Fajardo, was attempting to find the right church for his family to attend. A church that would be the best fit – a fit desired and ordained by God. For quite some time, he was unable to find it. As he put it, the prospects were square holes; he, and his family, seemed to be, in essence, a round peg. Something, they weren’t quite sure what, was not filling the gaps. After much prayer, they felt “God leading and blessing them toward a church family that would uplift their walk with God”. Middletown was that uplifting church family.
When asked what the “it” factor was that kept him and his family returning to Middletown Seventh-day Adventist Church, Chris replied, “simply said, ‘acceptance’. From the moment that we first started visiting, it seemed as though the people were more interested in a relationship with us than [comparing us with a set standard]”. The impact of our community with its rumored status as “the friendly church” was verified in Chris and his family’s eyes. They all felt a sense of being wanted as members of a loving and serving church family environment. Chris was personally impressed by others that he was needed to help further Middletown’s growth. This initiated in Chris a sense to meet and greet others, welcoming them to the Middletown Church Family, with the word “family” being key. He says, “Families are not perfect and neither is our church. It is, however, a family in which we work things out with patience and love.”
Now, as our head elder, Chris wears many hats. He is responsible for scheduling speakers in the absence of the pastor, communicating with the other elders and the pastor about the spiritual and communal needs of Middletown, and working alongside the other officiates to recognize and dynamically resolve issues within our church family. When asked what the most rewarding aspect of being the head elder is, Chris emphatically states, “Oh, that’s easy. Instilling hope! I get several chances to do that.” As he leads worship and shares thoughts before prayer, he embraces his position, one that is really a gift. He relishes being a shoulder for those who may be hurting, enjoys visiting with newcomers, loves preaching when the need arises, and he is enlivened by the experiences with others with whom he shares God’s infinite love message. He absolutely drinks in the sharing of God’s love with others. Chris speaks clearly on the fact that if he never holds a church office again, never performs another worship service in his life, never preaches another formal sermon, he can always – always – share the Good News of God’s Love Message with another soul. As God uses him to directly impact the lives of others, he feels it, unfailingly. Our head elder succinctly illuminates that point.
As Head Elder of the Middletown Seventh-day Adventist Church, Chris shares that he is constantly amazed that God can take a sinner like him and use him in ways innumerable to bless others in his duties and at his station. He comes from a perspective of understanding what it is like to feel lost and hopeless. Implied in his statements is that it is a head elder’s charge to reach others with Christ’s message of faith, hope, and love. Chris’ interpretation of Middletown’s mission is wrapped up in two simple words. “Friendship Ministry”. He believes he was planted in fertile soil upon arrival and he claims he has been growing ever since. Through his growth, others have been influenced to grow too. As Jesus accepts us where we are and as He encourages us to fly beyond our wildest imaginations, Chris wholeheartedly believes in a spirit of welcome at Middletown. A final word from Chris is, “To know you are God’s hands and feet is to truly understand Heaven on Earth. I have been one of those lucky few that has been able to experience that firsthand.”