Another test of one's ability to lead is found in his attitude toward his predecessor. We are all builders of a great spiritual temple that has been under construction for many centuries, and will not be completed till the gospel work is finished. Therefore it is inevitable that we enter into the labors and build on the foundations of those who have worked before us. Our success depends very largely upon the achievements of our predecessors, and therefore it is a sign of smallness of character to criticize them and their work. Paul reproved the Corinthians because they were divided over leaders and their abilities. He called them "babes," and said they were "carnal" because they failed to recognize that he and Apollos were workers together with God in the same work.
The person who tries to build himself up by tearing down, through criticism, the work of his predecessor, demonstrates his own unfitness for leadership. He may even make a spectacular showing, but he does not build wisely and permanently unless he works in cooperation with the builders of the past and in preparation for the builders of the future. A mushroom groWth that dies or dwindles when a person leaves office, is evidence of failure.
A wise leader will always build for the future. The test of his ability as a leader is the permanency of his work. Will it endure and prosper after he is gone or has ceased to direct? The ambition of a real leader is to see the work build up and prosper, regardless of who gets the credit. He therefore rejoices in the success of his successor, knowing that he himself contributed to it by building permanently. It is not so much what a person does while in the office that counts, but what he leaves to his successor. He who esteems others better than himself will gladly and cheerfully surrender a position to the one elected, to succeed him, and then render all the assistance possible to make the work continue to succeed. The person who is critical and envious of the work of his successor in office, is too small to be entrusted with a position of leadership.
Paul declared that "a bishop . . . must be blameless. . . . Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without." 1 Tim. 3:2-7. This should also be true of all officers, teachers, and musicians. It is necessary that we avoid the very appearance of evil, so as not to bring a reproach upon the church because of gossip. This is such a suspicious and talebearing age that a leader must be exceedingly careful of his language and conduct. Satan is on the alert to make the most of the mistakes of leaders, because their example has a powerful influence for good or evil. To Timothy, Paul wrote: "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 1 Tim. 4:12.
"It is of the utmost importance that leaders set a right example. If they follow lax, loose principles, their example is quoted by those who are doing wrong as a vindication of their course. The whole synagogue of Satan is watching for defects in the lives of God's representatives, and the most is made of every defect."—"Testimonies to Ministers," p. 188.
Loyalty is also demanded of a leader. First of all he should be loyal to Christ, the supreme Head of the church. This will include loyalty to and cooperation with his human superiors in office. A true leader will be honest in dealing with God in every way, including tithes and offerings. A person who withholds any part of the tithe is a robber, and is disqualified for holding any office or doing any public work. The same is true if he is dishonest in dealing with his fellow men and careless in meeting his financial obligations.
An officer in the church must also be an example in Sabbath observance, in healthful living, in shunning worldly pleasures, and in dress, which is an index to the character. Exhibitions of pride as manifested in unnatural make-up, beads, bracelets, and rings, including the wedding ring, can do only harm in the example of a leader. In the Seventh-day Adventist denomination these are tests of leadership, and unless a person is in agreement with them and is willing to live by them, he should not accept an office of any kind in the church.
Our standards are high, but they are none too high. In fact, we are divinely commissioned to "lift up a standard" and "cast up the highway" in order to prepare "the way of the people" for the coming of the Lord. The leaders and the people of the advent movement have not reached the true standard of living until they reach the goal of perfection by growing up to "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." May God make us leaders in deed and in truth, so that the church as a whole may be raised to a higher spiritual plane, and thus become "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners."