God uses men to carry on His work on earth. Sacred history is replete with their leadership exploits. In every significant Biblical event there was a bold leader and a given task.
Look them over: Noah and the Flood, Joseph and the famine, Moses and the Exodus, Joshua and the conquest of Canaan, David and the unifying of a nation, Elijah and the apostasy, Ezra and Nehemiah and the restoration, Peter and Pentecost, Paul and the Gentile world, and many others.
Men they were, but leaders also. The rank and file of the church in their day accomplished much because they followed the lead of exceptional men. When such leadership was missing, the great church organization slowed down and finally ground to a halt. When leadership was restored, the church moved forward to mighty victories and glorious conquests.
God needs such men today. Every phase of His work requires guiding hands, hearts, and minds. The church stands poised on the threshold of its mightiest achievements, waiting for leaders to lead.
It is a mistake to assume that leadership is a quality confined to high office. A man possessing a leader's qualifications does not need promotion to high office in order to demonstrate his ability. He will manifest it in any position, be it high or low.
No sadder spectacle can be found than that of a person planning and scheming for a high position in order to be termed a leader. Little does he recognize that the position is powerless to endow him with the qualifications that his maneuverings eloquently testify he does not possess. Experience teaches that promotion adds nothing to a man, but merely transfers that which he already has.
Leadership does not mean domination. The world is filled with little men who want to be dictators. The Christian leader is different. He seeks constructive activity by inspiring and leading others toward a beneficent objective.
Just what are leaders made of? Besides being very much like the rest of us, they have standards and characteristics by which they judge themselves, and by which they are willing to be judged. They raise their aim, both for themselves and the group they lead. They develop with energy their own knowledge and skill so as to reach the standards they have set. This is how they get out in front and stay there.
What are the standards and characteristics that mark a leader in God's church? Rather than ponder over human speculation, let us study the list the servant of God sets before us:
In order for a man to be a successful minister, something more than book knowledge is essential. The laborer for souls needs consecration, integrity, intelligence, industry, energy, and tact. Possessing these qualifications, no man can be inferior; instead, he will have a commanding influence for good.—Gospel Workers, p. 111.
Since none wish to be classed as "inferior," and since all desire to "have a commanding influence for good," it would be well to briefly analyze the qualifications for successful Christian leadership.
Consecration is the first and prime requirement for leadership. All others are important, but none supersedes this one. Its priority in the listing is not accidental. If a person lacks consecration, he can still be a leader, but not a Christian leader. Consecration gives spiritual emphasis and direction to all other qualifications.
There are many definitions of consecration, but none better than this one:
Christ brought His desires and wishes into strict abeyance to His mission. . . . He made everything subordinate to the work that He came into this world to accomplish. . . . The same devotion, the same consecration, the same subjection to the claims of the word of God, that were manifest in Christ, must be seen in His servants.—Ibid.
Obviously, this degree of consecration calls for more than lip service. It is exacting. It costs much in strict self-discipline. It involves restraint, control, and moderation at all times and in all places. It means avoiding not only evil but even its appearance, or anything that would cause a brother to stumble.
Why is it necessary for leaders to submit themselves to a stricter discipline than is expected of others? Simply because those who are first in place must be first in merit, as God counts merit. They are leaders because they themselves have learned the art of obeying. Their prompt and willing obedience to God makes it easy for them to win and hold the confidence of their followers. They are all they expect their people to be. That is why they are respected and followed.
A leader is not only true to God, but also to himself, his family, his church, and his fellow men. Possessing integrity, he is a man of moral soundness, honesty, free from corrupting influences, strict in fulfilling contracts and agreements, and prompt in discharging assigned duties.
Above all things, he is a man you can depend and count on. In a crisis you know where he stands. He is, as a hunter said of his companion, "the kind of a man to go tiger hunting with in the dark, because you can always reach out and be sure he is there."
In matters of finance a leader will deal strictly and honestly with denominational funds, and with those who come to him seeking counsel regarding the disposition of their funds. Never once, either by hint or suggestion, will he infer any personal advantage.
He will studiously avoid channeling into his own pockets any funds intended for the Lord's treasury. Any temptation to profit financially from his position as a leader he will strenuously resist. He will direct to the conference officials those who wish to give or will their means to the Lord's cause. All of his dealings with denominational finance will always be directed by the following counsel:
To every laborer I would say, In all your official duties, let integrity characterize each act. All tithes, all moneys entrusted to you for any special purpose, should be promptly placed where they belong. Money given for the cause of God should not be appropriated for personal use, with the thought that it can be replaced later on. This the Lord forbids.—Ibid., p. 141. (Italics supplied.)
Someone has said that "the wisest in counsel, the ablest in debate, and the most agreeable in commerce of life, is the man who has assimilated to his understanding the greatest number of facts."
Should not this be true of preachers in regard to the work they are called to do? First, and above all, we are preachers of the Word. In this we are to be intelligent above all other men.
Men will forgive us our other deficiencies, but not our poor preaching. They do not expect us to be psychiatrists, physicians, or statesmen, but they do demand that we be able preachers.
And why not? Doctors are expected to practice medicine intelligently. Farmers are expected to farm successfully. Businessmen are expected to conduct their businesses profitably. If, as preachers, we expect other men to be intelligent in their business, should they not expect the same of us?
In addition to growing in Biblical knowledge and preaching ability, a leader will keep himself informed as to the church's objectives and progress. He understands the relationship of church to conference, conference to union, and union to the General Conference, besides understanding his personal relationship to those around him, above him, and under him. This knowledge keeps him from being inflated or deflated, overconfident, or discouraged.
Likewise, his understanding of the Scriptures, the Spirit of prophecy, and denominational policies keeps him not only in proper and consistent methods of conducting his work but also helps him maintain the unity of the church and faith. To him every phase of the work is an important part of the whole.
As a capable leader he does not flounder around in confusion when something goes hard or when he meets a problem. He knows what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. So rather than creating excuses, he brings about a solution.
There is no substitute for consecrated intelligence when confronted by a problem or apparent failure. Prayer and faith are indispensable, but they are not substitutes for the intelligence that God expects us to use when confronted by the unexpected. Somewhere I have read that "quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort."
Industry and Energy
Failure is the only thing that can be achieved without effort. All other things cost in time, sweat, and tears. A strong will, a settled purpose, accompanied by hard work, can accomplish almost anything.
Success is not a question of size, looks, race, or prestige, but of making continuous efforts. How many times has a man thrown up his hands when a little more effort would have brought results. We quit too soon. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within. And there is no really insurmountable barrier except our own lack of purpose and determination.
Young leaders aspiring to leadership would do themselves a favor by facing up to and tackling hard assignments. One is tempted to question the future of a college or seminary graduate who applies for employment with a list of conditions spelling out how little he should do, how much he should be paid, and when he should be promoted. Somewhere along the line he missed a vital training; namely, in the application of thought and energy to hard jobs.
Of course, there are always some features to any work that are disagreeable, but it would be well to engage in it for no other reason than that we would rather not do it.
There are many people in the world today who detest getting up at six o'clock in the morning, but who must in order to earn a living. They simply have no choice in the matter. There are others who would rather stay home and rest, but they must get out to the farm, shop, or office in order to support their families. Toil is their lot.
Toil is the law of life. God so ordained it. Preachers and conference workers are not exempt from toil, for by toil comes bread, security, and success.
There is no power on earth, no school or college, and no conference committee that can take a lazy man and mold him into a leader. Leadership and self-advancement are still powered by one's own initiative and perseverance. A man has to do his own growing, even in these days of mechanical wonders.
Leadership not only accepts responsibility but sees it through to a successful conclusion. It means taking an assignment at a workers' meeting and then using God-given strength to fulfill it. It means that the worker has trained himself out of the fear of making mistakes or failing. His church or department leads, because he has leadership attitudes.
Whatever your work, do it with exactness, with diligence; overcome the inclination to seek an easy task. . . . Many become inefficient by evading responsibilities for fear of failure. . . .
Man can shape circumstances, but circumstances should not be allowed to shape the man. We should seize upon circumstances as instruments with which to work. We are to master them, but should not permit them to master us.
Men of power are often those who have been opposed, baffled, and thwarted. By calling their energies into action, the obstacles they meet prove to them positive blessings. They gain self-reliance. Conflict and perplexity call for the exercise of trust in God, and for that firmness which develops power. —Ibid., pp. 291, 292. (Italics supplied.)
Do we wish to succeed? Well, let us stop talking about success and go to work! In the brief time allowed us on earth we must apply ourselves with a zeal and fervor that to the unconverted seems like insanity. There is no other way to get ahead and stay there. There is no other way to lead.
We have come to the last qualification in the list. Its place on the list is not accidental. A worker may have consecration, integrity, intelligence, industry, and energy, but if he lacks tact, he is like the cow that yields a good bucket of milk and then kicks it over with a thoughtless swing of her leg.
Like a lubricant, which reduces friction and wear between meshing gears, tact reduces friction and wear between people. Since leadership means leading people, tact is essential in a leader's make-up. At its highest peak, leadership consists of getting people to work for you when they are under no obligation to do so. To achieve this calls not only for the force of character but also the courtesy and tact to inspire a following.
Many a worker has neutralized his otherwise excellent efforts by a lack of tact. Who among us cannot look back and see where some good common sense might have saved us many a heartache and headache? Our success might have been greater had we heeded this counsel of God's servant:
Tact and good judgment increase the usefulness of the laborer a hundred-fold. . . . The religion of Jesus softens whatever is hard and rough in the temper, and smooths whatever is rugged and sharp in the manners. It makes the words gentle and the demeanor winning. . . . Christianity will make a man a gentleman.—Ibid., pp. 119-123.
Here is the most subtle challenge to the man in authority over others. The challenge constitutes being firm yet kind, of steering a wary course between keeping a finger in every pie and yet seeing that the job is done, of dictating the details and yet slackening the reins enough so that the subordinates may learn by experience, even at the risk of making mistakes.
The more dynamic the leader, the more he needs to control the irritability that arises in him when projects are delayed, thrown off the track, or botched. He needs to seek patiently the reason for the failure, listen carefully to ideas for improvement, and then get the people back to work again with enthusiasm and relish.
A leader who rides roughshod over his people and does not take the time to listen, to explain, and to gain their support pronounces thereby his lack of leadership. He refuses to hear his people's side of the question because he fears they may prove to be right, and thus cause him to lose face. His tyrannical manner provokes dissension and soon he loses the confidence and support of his followers. At such a time the conference committee is usually called together to consider his successor.
Much more successful is the tactful leader who approaches his job in the spirit of a coach. He kindles interest, teaches, aids, corrects, and inspires. He seeks the special talent of each church member and puts it to work. He has no favorites or cliques, but treats all fairly and equally. He suppresses his own ego, gives credit where credit is due, and encourages individual and collective progress.
Good judgment makes it imperative that he make known to his subordinates just what he plans to do, how to do it, and when to do it. His people have a clear notion of what is to be done and what their particular part of the task is.
It is said that Lord Montgomery, as commander of the famous Eighth Army of World War II, made it a rule that the plan of campaign was known not only to the general staff, but also to every common soldier. Thus he created a sense of mutual effort directed toward a specific goal, and consequently won his battles.
We, too, have a plan of campaign outlined by God in Revelation 14:6-12. God now calls for us by our consecration, integrity, intelligence, industry, energy, and tact to lead an informed and dedicated people into the completion of the gospel task. "God desires that the receivers of His grace shall be witnesses to its power."—The Desire of Ages, p. 826.
The battle is certain, the conquest sure. Let us lead!