[EDITORIAL NOTE: The following message was presented at a meeting of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference Committee. It is felt that it should receive wider circulation through the pages of THE MINISTRY.]
SUCCESS in any business endeavor is dependent upon planning and organization. The administering of God's work in the various fields around the world is not to be regarded as small business. The program of soul winning through the many agencies of service in the Seventh-day Adventist Church calls for dedicated men who regard every decision as a challenge to an unfinished work. The responsibilities entrusted to consecrated ministers and laymen are far more involved than a common business venture. When the salvation of men's souls weighs upon our hearts and the needs of God's work confront us, the matter of administering His program becomes very sacred and serious.
A Motto to Remember
It is encouraging to know that Ellen G. White penned a motto for all who would be called to serve as committee members. This should constantly be kept before those who have the task of directing the most sacred work entrusted to mortals. "Let everyone who sits in council and committee meetings write in his heart the words: I am working for time and for eternity; and I am accountable to God for the motives that prompt me to action."—Testimonies, vol. 7, pp. 258, 259.
Then are added the words of David in Psalm 141:3, 4: "Set a watch, 0 Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to any evil thing." This inspired counsel should characterize every motive and action of those called upon to make decisions in this solemn hour of preparation and progress. We are to be God's men caring for His work with consecrated hearts and minds. To show the necessity of this need and the sacredness of this calling,, there is placed before us the first requirement—that of personal examination of self.
"Before our brethren assemble in council or board meetings, each one should present himself before God, carefully searching the heart and critically examining the motives. Pray that the Lord may reveal self to you so that you may not unwisely criticize or condemn propositions."—Ibid., p. 257.
An Intense Longing for Souls
After the death of Christ those who were entrusted with the responsibility of leadership and those inspired by their zeal were filled with an intense longing to carry forward the work He had begun. Their minds were energized with the thought that they had a debt to Heaven and were responsible for the success of God's work. Even their features expressed a full surrender to Christ, and heaven's peace filled their hearts. "The Spirit animated them and spoke through them. The peace of Christ shone from their faces."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 46.
The blessing of Heaven attended their labors. These were God's men, dedicated to one task, to reach "every creature under heaven" with the gospel. Nothing but death itself could keep them from fulfilling their heart's desire.
One of the first items of business among the leadership of the early church was the appointing of Matthias to the twelve in the absence of Judas. This decision was reached by opening their hearts to God in prayer and asking for Heaven's guidance. "And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen" (Acts 1:24).
What a prayer that must have been as they lifted their voices to God in simple faith. It was like talking with Him face to face. Those men whose hearts were charged with Heaven's power found prayer as natural as breathing.
If we are to build confidence in God's work and know that we are being directed from above, we must keep the line open to the Source of all true guidance.
Pastor R. R. Figuhr wrote of this great need in THE MINISTRY, October, 1957: "No one can make a contribution of any value to the church who is not Spirit-directed. Talents, experience, enthusiasm, hard work and even education are valueless unless through them all there is the breath of heaven."
Deciding for the God of Heaven
Every decision will be carefully made when we remember that we are deciding for our heavenly Director. If the leaders in the cause of truth are without zeal, are indifferent and purposeless, it will surely be reflected to the laity. It will result in carelessness and indolence. We must be "sanctified channels" of the Holy Spirit if the blessing of Heaven is to rest upon our ministry. The impact of our devotion and sense of urgency will be seen in the lives of those we serve.
A united, eager constituency catches the spirit of a holy purpose issuing from those who set the course of direction and who serve God and Him alone.
A Spirit of Unity Will Prevail
A constant reminder of the unity necessary for the success of the proclamation of the gospel is the heavenly power sent at Pentecost. They were of "one accord," of one heart and soul. The final requisite came under the Holy Spirit, and they set out to conquer the world for Christ with all hope of earthly importance extinguished.
This same spirit of oneness should characterize our meetings relative to the many areas of business relating to the church. Through the years my confidence in our brethren and the harmony among us has strengthened my faith in the Advent Movement. There may be various opinions, but the unity of decision is evidence of divine guidance.
"One test of Christianity, of the power of Christ's grace in the heart, is to be able to differ with others earnestly but kindly, to contend for principles and not involve men in the contention. Let us always distinguish between men and principles, and even if we abhor the principles and feel that we must denounce them, let us love the men who hold the principles. In this way only can we win for Christ those with whom we associate."—F. M. Witcox, in Review and Herald, Jan. 13, 1938.
Seeing the Needs of the Whole Field
The gospel commission to carry the message to every corner of the globe is the marching order of the remnant church. Fulfilling these responsibilities demands an honest appraisal of the needs of the whole field. The blessing of Heaven has attended the efforts of God's people because they have followed the sacred counsel of organization set forth in His Holy Word.
Building a Sacred Trust
In this movement to win the world for Christ the same spirit of unselfish service must distinguish every worker. The burdens of every office are borne with success only with the recognition that every man adds to another man's achievements. Those who administer God's work will build reciprocal trust among their fellow workers. No masterful spirit will be revealed, but the spirit of the Master will always manifest itself.
Standing for Principle
We must always remember that when Israel returned to God principle was associated with its faithful, godly leaders. At this time, when the hour is late and a spirit of urgency is so much needed, strong consecrated men who are positive in their thinking will meet with success in their endeavors. A negative attitude breeds distrust. To think success is to have success.
Standing for Right
The leader who will stand for his convictions in this age, when the spirit of compromise is so prevalent, is to be admired. Others may not always agree with his views, but he will be honored for his courageous stand. It is far better to be misunderstood than to take no stand at all. "Many are so fearful of provoking unfriendly criticism or malicious gossip that they dare not act from principle."—Messages to Young People, p. 400.
A Pledge of Loyalty
The call to Christian leadership demands utmost loyalty and integrity. That which is regarded as confidential will not be made public. Criticism of any nature concerning committee decisions will be completely avoided. The casting of hurtful reflections on the ministry and methods of fellow workers will never be done. The love of Christ will control the mind so that there will be no entertainment of the destroying element of professional jealousy. When the lay members place their confidence in me, I will consider this as a sacred trust and not betray it. This loyalty will be manifested among our laymen in the full support of all board and committee decisions.
Recognizing that I have been entrusted with the principles of truth and conduct that are to be held high, I will take Christ as my personal friend and constant guide. I will regard and guard this sacred trust, which my brethren have placed in me, until Christ returns.