We would not be the people we are, and we would not be doing the extensive world-wide work we are doing, if we did not have organization. And this organization would not hold together a day without effective leadership to keep it functioning. Last autumn I was visiting with a minister at Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was attending an Autumn Council of the General Conference Committee for the first time. He had been called to administrative work as the president of a conference a few months before. He told me that he would not take anything for the education that he was receiving at the council. He had been assigned to one of the important committees, but had quietly slipped in once or twice to observe the work of one or two of the other major committees, such as finance and budget. He was leaving that council with a much larger conception of our world-wide work with its multitudinous interests, and with a greater appreciation of burdens being carried by the leaders of our world work. He could well exclaim with the prophet, "I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days!"
I have had instilled into me from the beginning of my contacts with this people a deep respect for the leaders of this movement. I believe God directs the affairs of this people through the leaders whom He has caused to be chosen for this purpose. Some men may be weak and some may fail, but that is no cause for us to doubt the leadings of the Lord in the choice of these men, nor does it give us any excuse to withhold our loyalty and our co-operation in the plans laid by our leaders for the advancement of this work. Even if we feel that leaders manifest poor judgment at times, we should be careful how we criticize them and question their motives and their call to the positions of trust which they occupy.
"The Bible specially teaches us to beware of lightly bringing accusation against those whom God has called to act as His ambassadors. . . . He who has placed upon men the heavy responsibility of leaders and teachers of His people, will hold the people accountable for the manner in which they treat His servants. We are to honor those whom God has honored."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 386.
"To. accuse and criticize those whom God is using, is to accuse and criticize the Lord, who has sent them."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 466.
"Our ministers in responsible places are men whom God has accepted. No matter what their origin, no matter what their former position, whether they followed the plow, worked at the carpenter's trade, or enjoyed the discipline of a college; if God has accepted them, let every man beware of casting the slightest reflection upon them. Never speak disparagingly of any man; for he may be great in the sight of the Lord."—Gospel Workers, p. 481.
We must be on our guard that we do not develop an independent attitude toward counsel and direction that comes to us from the leaders of our work. The other day a man was overheard to remark: "I do not have any faith in the leaders. There are only four men in the denomination that I trust." I am glad that this is an extreme and exceptional case, and does not represent the rank and file of our people and their leaders. One of our lay leaders, whom we had to disfellowship a few months ago, was actually advising his church not to follow counsel that came to the church from conference officials and ministers. Such conditions, though few, are a challenge to us as workers and leaders. They cannot be ignored and must be handled diplomatically, but decisively, in order that the cause of God may be protected. The spirit of loyalty to this organization and its leadership must ever be upheld and impressed upon our people.
"The spirit of pulling away from fellow laborers, the spirit of disorganization, is in the very air we breathe. . . . Satan would rejoice if he could succeed in his efforts to get in among this people, and disorganize the work at a time when thorough organization is essential, and will be the greatest power to keep out spurious uprisings, and to refute claims not endorsed by the word of God ! We want to hold the lines evenly, that there shall be no breaking down of the system of organization and order that has been built up by wise, careful labor."—Testimonies, vol. 9, Pg. 257, 258.
It is a serious thing for a conference worker, paid from the tithe, to indulge in criticism of this organization and its leaders. We do have a complex organization. There have been times when I have wished it could be simplified, but when I think of what is being accomplished through it by so small a group of people, I am led to thank God for a small part in helping to make the wheels go round. And my respect and admiration, and sometimes my sympathy, goes out to the men and women who are carrying the burdens of its leadership ; for "I sat where they sat" and am astonished at what God accomplishes through human instrumentalities.
"God has brought His people together in church capacity in order that they may reveal to the world the wisdom of Him who formed this organization. He knew what plans to outline for the efficiency and success of His people. Adherence to these plans will enable them to testify of the divine authorship of God's great plan for the restoration of the world."—find., vol. 6, p. 235.
Loyalty to One Another
My third point is that of loyalty to one another. I believe this is the kingpin of all the loyalties. With this I desire to emphasize the attitude a minister should, under all circumstances, maintain toward a fellow worker—that tie that binds our hearts together in Christian love. The most unpardonable fault that a minister of the gospel might have is, to my mind, that of disloyalty to his fellow ministers and the peddling of tales and gossip, or the giving of expression to prejudice or flack of confidence in a fellow worker.
I believe that gossip is the greatest curse in the church today, and with too many of our people it has become a besetting sin. There is nothing that can so quickly mar the influence of a minister of the gospel than to become a bearer of tales against, or be critical of, his fellow minister—or any church member for that matter. It is a sad thing that now and then there are workers who never seem to learn the lesson of loyalty to their associates. I once knew a minister who lost his responsible position because he could not refrain from passing on to others gossip and criticism which he picked up here and there, about some of his fellow workers and brethren. I read in the Spirit of prophecy:
"Men have no right to surmise evil in regard to their fellow-men. . . . They should not even express their prejudices regarding the erring; for thus they place in other minds the leaven of evil."—Ibid., vol. p. 260.
"Christians should regard it as a religious duty to repress a spirit of envy or emulation. They should rejoice in the superior reputation or prosperity of their brethren, even when their own character or achievements seem to be cast in the shade. .. . Those who possess the mind of Christ will have humble views of themselves. They will . .. be ready to sacrifice their own interests and desires rather than to cause dissension among their brethren."—Ibid., vol. 5, P. 242.
"He that taketh up a reproach against his neighbor cannot receive the approval of God."—Ibid.. p. 615.
"Ministers and lay members of the church displease God when they allow individuals to tell them the errors and faults of their brethren. They should not listen to these reports, but should inquire, 'Have you strictly followed the injunctions of your Sayiour?' "—Ibid.. p. 616.
One way we can show our loyalty to others is to rejoice in the success that is attending the work of others, and to pass along an expression of our confidence and esteem now and then.
"Cultivate the habit of speaking well of others. Dwell upon the good qualities of those with whom you associate, and see as little as possible of their errors and failings. When tempted to complain of what some one has said or done, praise something in that person's life or character."—Ministry of Healing, p. 492.
I am sure that you feel with me that it is a great privilege to be associated with the workers in this progressive union conference. I rejoice in the fine spirit of loyalty that exists among us in this field. Here we sit together, united, planning greater things for the future. I trust that this ministerial institute will be such a help and inspiration that each one will look to it in retrospect, and be able to say, "I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished."