A leader in any capacity in the cause of God is a watchman, and his office carries with it most solemn responsibility. He is directly accountable to God for the results of his work and influence, whether they gather to Christ or scatter abroad. He is also individually responsible, to the extent of the influence of his position, to those under his leadership. We are told that "the watchmen are responsible for the condition of the people."—"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 235. The old saying, "Like priest, like people," is literally true. Very few people rise to a higher spiritual level than that occupied by their leaders. Daniel Webster said, "The most solemn and awful thought to me is, Accountability." This should be doubly true of those who are responsible for the souls of men.
It is indeed a privilege to be one of God's watchmen. But a position of leadership should never be sought after, neither should it be shunned. The person who obtains office through his own efforts usually abuses the office thus obtained. Seeking for office in the cause of God is a sure evidence that the seeker is disqualified for leadership. All denials that a position was not wanted or sought are completely nullified by wounded feelings because the office was not obtained. While the responsibility of leadership in the work of God is too great to be sought after, it is also too important to be refused. In "The Desire of Ages," page 357, we are told that men may deny Christ by shunning life's burdens. Christ is the head of the church, and when He, through His church, lays the burden of leadership upon men or women, they should never refuse, lest they deny Him.
Qualification for church leadership does not depend nearly so much upon talent, education, training, or natural ability, as upon character. "A good name is rather to be chosen" than all other qualifications combined. Spirituality is the supreme fitness for spiritual leadership. "A man's position does not make him one jot or tittle greater in the sight of God; it is character alone that God values."—"Testimonies to Ministers," p. 362. It is for this reason that politics should never be tolerated in the cause of God. We are told that a leader "must not be a policy man," and that "whatever in our practice is not as open as day, belongs to the methods of the prince of evil."--I.d., pp. 321, 366.
Only those who possess this supreme spiritual fitness will help to complete, and will triumph with, the advent message:
"Those who have trusted to intellect, genius, or talent, will not then stand at the head of rank and file. They did not keep pace with the light. Those who have proved themselves unfaithful will not then be entrusted with the flock. In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged. They are self-sufficient, independent of God, and He cannot use them." "God will work a work in our day that but few anticipate. He will raise up and exalt among us those who are taught rather by the unction of His Spirit, than by the outward training of scientific institutions. These facilities are not to be despised or condemned; they are ordained of God, but they can furnish only the exterior qualifications. God will manifest that He is not dependent on learned, self-important mortals."—"Testimonies," Vol. V, pp. 80, 82.
Meekness and humility are qualities that are indispensable to leadership in the church. Note the following:
"The work will be given to those who will take it, those who prize it, who weave its principles into their everyday experience. God will choose humble men, who are seeking to glorify His name and advance His cause rather than to honor and advance themselves. He will raise up men who have not so much worldly wisdom, but who are connected with Him, and who will seek strength and counsel from above."—Id., p. 461.
Here is given the test of true leadership. What motive controls in the acceptance and performance of the duties of an office? Is it to honor and glorify self, or God? Regardless of a person's ability, his work is a failure if it centers in self, and if its purpose is to build up a personal reputation.
The true leader will seek counsel, not only from God, but also from his associates. All wisdom never centers in one man. "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety." Prov. 11:14. This proverb is as true now as when it was written. A real leader will seek for and welcome suggestions and constructive criticisms from his fellow officers and even from the humblest members of the church. He will never feel that things must be done only in a certain way. We constantly need new ideas and methods, for getting into a fixed rut is fatal to progress in any kind of endeavor.
There is no orthodoxy in methods. Our leaders and people should be orthodox in religion, but at the same time they should be pathfinding pioneers in methods of doing things. Methods are only means to an end, and it is the end that really counts. Character building and salvation from sin constitute the end or object of our work.
Leaders must not be dictators, for dictatorship is not leadership. Dictators command those whom they consider inferiors and subordinates; and they obey, not because they want to, but because they have to. A leader goes on ahead, and says, "Come, follow me." Someone has said, "A true leader is one who knows the way, keeps ahead, and inspires others to follow." He never asks others to do what he will not do, or go where he will not go. He obtains cooperation and willing service, and thus gets the maximum results. With a dictator it is rule or ruin; and ruin is the inevitable result. Of the death of Huey Long, Walter Davenport wrote:
"In Louisiana, when Huey Long died, a tyrant died. And few have reason to mourn a tyrant. The moment he was shot, Louisiana began to breathe easier Almost invariably news seekers wanted to know: Will he live?' Very few asked: 'Is he going to die?' He had very few friends—just camp followers. He was eminently the rowdy who, like the schoolyard bully, dominates because his associates are afraid he is as tough as he sounds."—Colliers', Nov. 23, 1935.
No person can read the warnings given in "Testimonies to Ministers," pages 301-304, 348, 360, 361, without realizing that dictatorships are not impossible or even unknown in the church. Any leader receives an authority with his office that makes it possible for him to use pressure if he so chooses. If he is stubborn and self-willed, he can have his way regardless of the counsel or feelings of his associates. Since there seems no hope of reforming him, most Christian people let him have his way rather than cross him and endure the results. In fact, about the only course possible when a dictator is in office is to cooperate to the best of one's ability under the circumstances, and patiently wait till his term of office expires. It is fortunate that all things earthly have an end.
(To be continued)