Play the Man!

God and the Church Challenge You

ROBERT H. PIERSON President of the General Conference

NAHASH, king of Ammon, was dead. David, grateful for the kindness Nahash had shown him in the hour of need, sent royal messengers to comfort his son Hanun, the new king. As is too often the case, his solicitude was misunderstood. Hanun's counselors poisoned his mind against David.

"Do you think David is sending his messengers merely to honor your father?" they sneered. "David intends to overthrow the city. These men have come to look things over, to spy out our defenses. Don't be deceived by them."

Hanun listened. Hanun acted. He "took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle" (2 Sam. 10:4), sending the ridiculous-looking miniskirted messengers back to their country in disgrace.

The fat was in the fire. David, stung to the quick by this insult, prepared his revenge. The Ammonites reacted in kind. Hanun soon had an army of Syrian mercenaries and other allies ready for the battle that was sure to come. The Lord and Joab were too much for the hosts of Hanun, however. In his order of the day Joab sent his men into battle with words of courage that ring down even to our day.

"Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the Lord do that which seemeth him good" (verse 12).

"Be of good courage." "Play the men." "The Lord do that which seemeth him good." Here are the words of a real leader. Under the blessing of Israel's God they proved the catalyst of victory. The results of battle? The inspired Word describes the end effect of each contact of the Syrians and Israel in these words, "The Syrians fled." The story concludes with this cryptic statement: "So the Syrians feared to help the children of Ammon any more" (verse 19).

"Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people." These words inspired Israel of old in an hour of threat. They challenge the leadership of last-day Israel in an hour of great potential advance to a finished work, and yet an hour of indifference and lukewarmness fraught with fearful defeat.

Final victory or discouraging defeat? This question of destiny for God's remnant church may well rest in the hands of His leaders! Because you are a lead er, you are faced with a moment of truth you dare not ignore. The cause of God needs leadership in this challenging hour—courageous leadership, leadership willing to venture for God, determined to "play the men for our people."

Leadership and laity alike in the Laodicean church need to be stirred, aroused to a new commitment, to a new sense of mission. Don't apply this to anyone else right now. Think of yourself. You are a leader. This ringing challenge is directed to you now as you read this message. It is a call to action, a call to "play the men for our people." These nerveshattering times demand that we get down on our knees in renewed consecration. Then God will get us on our feet in a renewed commitment to the finishing of the work.

You are a leader! You may be a teacher, a hospital worker, an evangelist, a pastor, a dedicated medical missionary, a department secretary, a conference or union president. You may be a publishing-house worker or an office worker. Whatever your responsibility, God expects you to lead— to play the man—to get the job done and to do it well.

God is looking for leaders to day who will truly lead—both men and women—who will be out front setting the pace, facing the problems, finding solutions, surmounting the difficulties, and not acting as if we have a century to get the job done. God is looking for leaders who will not be daunted by difficulties or dismayed by occasional defeat— leaders who will, with His help, fight their way through, over, or around the obstacles to success.

In an interesting cartoon I saw recently, a little man was dashing frantically after a crowd of people who were running ahead of him. The distraught figure behind was shouting breathlessly, "Wait a minute! I am your leader!"

The church of God does not need leaders today who are trying breathlessly to keep up. What the church must have in this climactic hour is leadership that will be out in front—showing the way, setting the example.

I want to talk about men, strong men, dedicated men. When I say "men," please understand it in the generic sense, for I thank God for the consecrated women in this church who are strong leaders— God's heroines. You will find them in every Seventh-day Adventist church around the world.

"Let us play the men"! Men and women are more important than budgets or equipment or gadgets or supplies or devices or buildings or any other material things. Man is the raw material of which success is made. Leaders determine whether or not a project or an institution or a conference or a local church or Sabbath school succeeds.

A publishing secretary came to talk over some problems in his department. His main concern was books. Now I understand full well that we need the right books to Increase our sales and to make our soul-winning program more effective. Perhaps many of my brethren in leadership will not agree with the counsel I gave my friend. "Get good men and women in the field, and the books will take care of themselves!" I counseled. I believe in men and women, good men and women, committed men and women in any endeavor.

Need for Top Leaders

Since being in the General Conference I have been especially impressed with the great need for top leaders—men and women who do not have the word failure in their vocabulary. All over the world there is a great need for such leaders. We discuss this problem frequently on our boards and committees.

God's work needs men who are willing to pay the price of leader ship. The price demands long hours, strict regimen, an application to duty that permits no intrusion. The price of true last-day leadership in God's church demands a willingness to set the example in upholding the standards of the church. It sometimes requires the leader to refrain from doing some things or going to some places that might not be wrong in themselves. But as a leader you refrain lest you cause a weaker brother to stumble and fall.

Leadership in our day demands workers with wisdom and courage—wisdom to know what to do and courage to do it. To prepare a people for the coming of Jesus will require some changes in our churches and in our institutions. These changes will be strongly protested—and no doubt honestly. When leaders move in to initiate such changes much wisdom and courage will be demanded. Only fearless leaders whose own lives are above reproach and who are more concerned with carrying out the counsel of the Lord than they are in personal approbation will do what needs to be done at this time!

As leaders you must under stand that your first work is to wake up and to galvanize into action a Laodicean church that will go forth conquering and to conquer in these last, stirring days of earth's history. You have in your hands just exactly that potential, but too much of it is latent, needing to be aroused and harnessed for God! The greatest responsibility for finishing the work in this generation rests upon your shoulders because you are a leader! What an awe-inspiring commission to arouse a sleeping church and lead its members victoriously through the trials and the triumphs of the last days and into glory land in this generation.

Our God is depending upon us. Our church is depending upon us because we are the leaders. "Let us play the men for our people." And in doing so let us be leaders noted for our impeccable integrity.

Impeccable Integrity Essential

Years ago I knew Elder Shifty. Now Elder Shifty was a man of parts. He got things done. His record was above average. But we were never quite certain about Brother Shifty. We wished he would look us more squarely in the eyes and that those whom he led did not have so many questions about the methods he employed. His financial relationships with his church members left something to be desired—never crooked, you understand, but sometimes on the borderline.

We would never accuse Brother Shifty of fraud or criminal action, still his circumvention of policy and the means he used to gain some of his ends left questions in too many minds. In the end Brother Shifty left church leader ship—and later the church. Fortunately, the Elder Shiftys are rare birds in the remnant church. They should be as extinct as the Mauritius dodo bird!

Leaders in God's church today, denominationally employed or laymen, are to be men and women of impeccable integrity and high principle. Leaders who practice, as well as preach.

Speaking at the management conference of the Pacific Union Conference in 1964, Elder John Osborn said: "The Christian administrator should possess an integrity that is not for sale. It has been said that every man is for sale at a price. It may be high or low. On the basis of this concept Simon the sorcerer, who had been nominally converted to Christianity, offered to pay the disciples for the power of the Holy Spirit. Seeing the signal demonstration of this mighty power, Simon said, 'Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou has thought the gift of God may be purchased with money' (Acts 8: 19, 20). It is true that many men have a price at which they will sell out. But no price tempts the man of high principle. Hardship is more preferable to him with God's approval than great fame with man's approval."

"Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder," George Washington is quoted as saying. May it be said with assurance that every Seventh-day Adventist worker, be he preacher, teacher, or in more general service, is among the "few." Seventh-day Adventist workers are not for sale!

"When you lose your conscious integrity, your soul becomes a battlefield for Satan; you have doubts and fears enough to paralyze your energies and drive you to discouragement." —Our High Calling, p. 94.

Ellen White magnificently states that the world's great need is for "men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose con science is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall." —Education, p. 57.

When I read these inspired words, holding the standard of integrity so high in the ranks of God's last-day leaders, such names as Dr. Trueblue, Elder Upright, Brother and Sister Open, immediately come to mind. Here are men and women who are absolutely incorruptible. To know them is to trust them implicitly. One has not the slightest suspicion concerning their motives or their actions. Everything is clearly above board. No selfish interests lurk in the background of their decisions. Everyone knows these men for what they are, in the darkness, as well as in the daylight.

Thank God the worker ranks of His remnant church are replete with thousands of Dr. Trueblues, Elder Uprights, Sister and Brother Opens. In our ministerial, educational, medical, publishing, and other worker ranks God has raised up men and women to man ram parts of this church in whom the lay members and workers can have complete confidence. Out of some sixty-eight thousand workers in this church it would be strange indeed if the evil one didn't slip a few bad apples into the bushel, but these are rare fruit indeed. By God's grace and help, as we near the harvesttime of this world's history let us keep it so!

Calebs Needed

"We want Calebs now," Ellen White writes, "who will press to the front—chieftains in Israel who with courageous words will make a strong report in favor of immediate action. When the selfish, ease-loving, panic-stricken people, fearing tall giants and inaccessible walls, clamor for retreat, let the voice of the Calebs be heard, even though the cowardly ones stand with stones in their hands, ready to beat them down for their faithful testimony." —Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 383.

These are days when the church of God must move at an accelerated tempo and keep moving until the work is done. We need bold, dynamic leaders who are willing to venture something for God. They doubtless will make some mistakes. Who doesn't? The only person who never makes a mistake is the person who never attempts anything big for God!

Leaders today are to be men of dynamic action, men who will move! The status quo may be, as the man from the Southland once defined it, "Latin for the mess we're in," but status quo leader ship has no place in the work of God in our day. This is the Advent Movement and we need to move —any way, just so it is forward!

Of course there are problems and frustrations. There are endless reasons—some good ones—why you can't meet the problems, solve them, and move ahead. But "we are not to let the future, with its hard problems, its unsatisfying prospects, make our hearts faint." —The Ministry of Healing, p. 248.

Pastor Mukotsi Mbyirukira is a chief in his own right. He is a dynamic leader of man. During the worst days of fighting and political upheaval in the Congo, Pastor Mbyirukira moved right ahead with his work as president of the East Congo Field.

With the bullets flying, Brother Mbyirukira sent out word to his workers in his war-torn field, "Don't think trouble! Don't talk trouble to anyone in any place under any circumstance. Talk hope! Talk faith! Talk courage!" During those times of anguish and turmoil Pastor Mbyirukira's field reached its Ingathering goal in one week and immediately launched into a missionwide evangelistic program involving every church worker and scores of laymen.

When Pastor Mbyirukira took over the East Congo Field as the first African president in the Trans-Africa Division some years ago, the membership was just over two thousand, when he left to be come a division field secretary it was over thirteen thousand! God bless Pastor Mbyirukira. He is a modern Caleb! May his tribe in crease!

"Men of stamina are wanted, men who will not wait to have their way smoothed and every obstacle removed, men who will inspire with fresh zeal the flagging efforts of dispirited workers, men whose hearts are warm with Christian love and whose hands are strong to do their Master's work."—Ibid., p. 497.

Because you are a leader who leads, "Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people." Be men of the Book, men of faith, men of prayer, men of action—most of all, men of God! Be leaders who are able to rally your church members to the work and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers— then, praise God, the work c \n be finished in our generation!

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ROBERT H. PIERSON President of the General Conference

January 1975

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