Principles, Problems, and Policies No. 2

Countering the questioning of authority and the breaking down of responsibility.

By J. L. McELHANY, President, General Conference

Attitude Toward Leaders

Now I come to another thing I want to speak about. It is a spirit that exists in the world, which I might refer to as an attitude toward leadership. In the last few years the world has been permeated with the idea that "if the leaders do it, it must be wrong." Isn't that spirit prevalent in the world today? The questioning of authority, the breaking down of responsibility, is seen everywhere. Sometimes it gets into the church, and people are ready to pick up something and say, "Well, if the leaders did it, it must be wrong." Now I believe we ought to live and act and work in a way that would allay any such criticism when it arises. But that attitude leads to unjust criticism, and many times I have heard men unjustly accused and criticized. Brethren, I plead today that, so far as our own personal example extends and so far as our influence reaches, we help our people and our workers to overcome in this matter of criticism.

I recognize that any man who accepts pub­lic office must expect criticism. He ought to be Christian enough and man enough to accept criticism without resentment or retaliation. This cause can best be carried forward when those working in it are actuated by a sweet Christian spirit and attitude. I know of no better way of expressing it than to say that we all ought to relate ourselves toward one another as Christian gentlemen, and leave out of our attitude and conduct anything that the Lord cannot bless.

In some fields I see a manifestation of this spirit of criticism. It gives me concern. Do you know, brethren, that when this attitude is maintained, it leads to loss of confidence and to serious consequences, even in carrying for­ward the Lord's work. I plead for a correction of this attitude. I know that this Executive Committee has no disposition to ignore any suggestion that comes to it from the officers simply because they are officers. We must have leaders. We must have them in our depart­ments. I believe that we ought to respect every man in his office, and that all should work to­gether to make one's work strong and helpful.

Although this spirit of criticism ought to be allayed, at the same time, brethren, we all ought also to remember that we should be easily approached. No man should set himself up stubbornly in opposition to the counsel of his brethren. We ought to work together in all these things. Good leadership is not synon­ymous with dictatorship. I want to raise my voice in protest against the encroachments of the dictator spirit anywhere among us. I must tell you, brethren, that I do not like to hear a conference president referred to as "The Chief." "All ye are brethren." I think that attitude is better than putting some man up on a pedestal as being above his brethren. I some­how cannot harmonize that attitude with the spirit of Jesus.

Responsible Leadership

Before leaving this matter of leadership, I want to add a few more thoughts. We need leaders in this cause today very, very much. Do you know that the problem of leadership, of finding leaders, is one of our most serious problems today? We need more men endowed with the true spirit of leadership, and it is our duty to train men in these principles. Years ago the Lord rebuked this people for gathering or allowing to be gathered into the hands of a few men the control of the whole movement. That same danger exists today. We ought to guard wisely against it.

I must tell you frankly that I feel much con­cerned over the growing tendency to refer so many matters to us here in Washington, asking us to decide so many questions. I believe it ought to be our studied purpose to give strong leadership in all matters out in the field. In each department there should be strong, stal­wart, resolute men—men led by the Spirit of God, men in touch with the Lord Himself—able to meet and solve their problems without getting a decision from Washington before they are willing to act. Is that a wrong view of the question? [Voices: No.] I think that the tendency to shift responsibility which has been spoken of in so many quarters, ought to be corrected. We must pass back to the men in the fields the responsibilities they should bear in leadership.

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By J. L. McELHANY, President, General Conference

April 1937

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