Adequate Leadership

Leader­ship acceptable to God at this moment calls for something more than ability merely to keep the wheels of our great organization moving.

LOUIS K. DICKSON, Vice-President, General Conference

One of the greatest clan­gers the church faces today is its seeming grow­ing inability to find adequate leadership for the hour to which we have come. Leader­ship acceptable to God at this moment calls for something more than ability merely to keep the wheels of our great organization moving. It is not enough just to maintain the status quo of our church program and to count the heights of achievement to be simply the piling up of ever-mounting records, to which men point as signs of progress.

To be sure, the steady momentum of a triumphant, advancing, expanding move­ment such as is represented by Adventism will show many material gains and great growth of means and men. But, along with these, there is great danger that her heavenly records of apathy and compla­cency, of waning faith and piety, will just as surely mount higher and still higher.

Adequate leadership now demands a clear vision of the spiritual state of the church and sufficient courage, faith, and spiritual power to change the course that it is taking. It will take the faith of Jesus and the courage of the martyrs to now stand up as leaders and, under God, to "sound an alarm in my holy mountain." But this must be done, can be done, and will be done, and leaders will be found who will be willing to sacrifice all their personal ambitions, if need be, to attain it.

Acceptable leadership today calls for more than taking only those positions before our fellows that will ensure the approving smiles of those who we feel can enhance our promotion or secure our re­election or our reappointment. God calls now for men of stamina, men who cannot be bought or sold, men of conviction and heroic spirit, like John Knox, by whose grave it could be said, "Here lies one who never feared the face of man."

It takes only a casual survey of the level of our spiritual attainments to arrive at a clear understanding of the fact that some­thing must be done and done quickly about our seemingly diminishing number of lead­ers of outstanding spiritual power.

What if our establishments mount to the skies? What if our numbers reach to the tens of millions? What if our treasury and its budget should scale billions of dollars a year? What, we ask, would all this mean if our spiritual life continues on its present low level and the demon Apathy and the destroyer Complacency hold the throne?

What if our expansion takes us to the very ends of the earth, and every nation, kindred, tongue, and people hear our mounting voices speak forth a message, and altars are erected with little or no fire upon them? It was Jesus Christ Himself who made very clear the possibility of those called by His name doing many wonderful works, but without knowing Him.

Are we not right in holding that to secure adequate spiritual leadership for the church today in any or all of its parts is an object of transcendent, urgent, and world­wide concern? In such a day as this, which calls for the uprising of a spiritually fitted church for the finishing of God's work, in a day when we all recognize without debate that this is the most-needed achievement called for in order that the fullness of Heaven's power may fall upon the people of God, why are we lingering on such low levels of spiritual attainment?

Is not an awakening of leadership in this direction now called for among us? Is it not time that we burst the bands of fear, lack of courage, self-interest, or whatever it is that is holding us back from leading the people of God under the deep movings of His Holy Spirit, and that we enter into a great advance to higher levels with God?

Forgotten Wells

Have we reached the time when the wells of living water, which were at the center of our beginnings, are being hidden by human effort and the "things" we have built up around them? The story is told of a town in England that had its beginning around a well of water with curative prop­erties. People who drank the water found restored health. In the course of time an inn was built near the well, then a black­smith's shop, a store, and some homes, until the village grew into an organized community. But years later, when a traveler asked the village clerk for the location of the well, the clerk shook his head in embarrassment and said, "That is the un­fortunate part. We have forgotten the location of the well."

It is the nice work of leadership to guide in such a way that these forgotten wells will be remembered, and will be glorified in the midst of the interests of the church.

More and better leadership of this type is needed now. We have done much to develop leadership among us, but we need and have a right to expect a greater inter­nal harmony and unity of leadership now that will, under God, successfully shepherd this great movement rapidly into a stronger spiritual position than we see today. A new emphasis on this need is imperative if we move out of the dead level into which we have fallen.

Our policies and plans for the promotion of our work are good and are developed soundly, but they are not adequately emphasizing the richer, deeper experience we must now seek after in order to be prepared for the grand climax hour to which we have come.

Were we all, as executives, giving the spiritual leadership that is now called for, were we interpreting correctly God's ear­nest call to higher levels of Christian ex­perience, which would give the church the needed preparation for the latter rain, mightier deeds would be wrought and an attitude on the part of God's people would be created that would astound the world and bring into our midst the fullness of power now awaiting "our demand and reception."

Probably never before in our history has the average church member been so aware of the need of the church to be led to deeper spiritual things. Today that leader in the church who does not devote himself to guiding the flock to an enrichment of its spiritual life has already disqualified him­self in the minds of the membership to a very large degree. From this obligation he cannot absolve himself either in the eyes of God or with the rank and file of God's people.

Because of this conviction and expect­ancy in the hearts of our membership everywhere, the opportunities that we are facing for revival and reformation in the church are as bright as our duty is com­pelling. The present hunger and longing of our faithful people have endowed us with great possibilities, which enable us confidently to plan such an important spiritual mission as that to which God is calling in this important hour. We are the possessors of opportunities for achieve­ments of spiritual importance beyond price and unprecedented in urgency.

Unprofitable Shoots

We are a church with a deep spiritual foundation and significance, which involves devotion not merely to increasing assets and numbers but particularly to the deepening of the spiritual life of every member of the movement. In the simplest conception of that mighty task we are consecrated to the finishing of a great spiritual work. This consecration is not to be merely to main­tain and expand the appurtenances of our religious life but particularly to increase the candle power of our lives by finding access to the fulfillment of God's great promises to His people for this hour. To this purpose all our work and activity must be subsidiary. As we plan for a great ad­vance we must subject every proposal to the test of its contribution to this one central design. We must carefully prune away unprofitable shoots so as to foster the main growth. Our criterion must be the quality of the fruit rather than the size of the plant or the magnificence of early-decaying blossoms.

We will not achieve this purpose by revolutionary steps, whether of administra­tive reorganization or promotional strategy. We are at a point in Adventist history where violent deflection from the charted course is not desirable or necessary.

The need before us calls for emphasis on deeper devotion and spiritualization as much as on expansion. It calls for the concentration of effort and time upon the enrichment of our establishments to the point where they will more clearly demon­strate the presence of God in our midst. Such a program will not be spectacular, but deeply earnest and lasting. This, we are convinced, is what is most needed now, and it is the objective of wise leadership for this strange hour.

Our great movement needs to be more certainly spiritually developed, reinforced, and re-energized. These are what we may term the more essential and important in­terests of the cause.

We must multiply our efforts for the final preparation of God's people. A great res­ervoir of strong, well-developed, conse­crated, spiritual men and women is needed upon which to draw for our future leader­ship. This need is second to nothing in importance as we lead the forces of the church in these final hours. We must seek in every addition to the leadership of this movement an assurance of improvement in spiritual quality. This must be the alpha and omega of our policy and planning. Upon such strengthening every suggestion of a better service for God depends, and in place of it no paper program or administra­tive admonition by resolution will ever suffice.

The primary test of the men we call and appoint must be a consuming devotion to advance in spirituality and spiritual leadership and to uphold the original ideals of our great message. By "spirituality" we mean a disciplined and instructed enthu­siasm for spiritual living, so devoted and intense that it must be imparted to others consciously and unconsciously, whether by the mere force of example, or through preaching, teaching, or writing.

Such a spirit in our leadership is the one sure defense against the greatest danger the church faces—the insidious virus of com­placency, self-contentment, self-satisfaction, and self-seeking. We, as leaders, must be incessantly on our guard against the hyp­notic drug of apathy regarding the building of a spiritual house. We must ever be very critical of ourselves, vigilantly self-critical. Always there prowls around us the tempta­tion to sink back into mediocrity and the commonplace.

As leaders in this great movement we have been given positions of extraordi­nary privilege with the obligation that we justify it by our extraordinary devotion, faith, courage, and understanding. We must ever remember that we are all mem­bers of a body dedicated to a single cause. There must of necessity be among us dis­tinction of functions, but there can be no division of purpose—"to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

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LOUIS K. DICKSON, Vice-President, General Conference

May 1956

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