Joel Sarli was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the second editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

Often, the relational tensions between pastors and elders, officers and members, children and parents, employees and employers, teachers and students, and men and women in our modern society are understood in terms of power and control. This semantic slant on the discussion often leads to the conclusion that leadership includes the forceful use of power by the one who is in command resulting in domination if not outright abuse of those dominated. This misconception of leadership has created a lot of unnecessary tension even in the church.

If we take a look at some Biblical injunctions we can correct this false assumption and its conclusion.

Jesus reminded the disciples in Luke 22:25-26 (NIV) "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves." Likewise, Peter describes leadership and authority as gentle service, "serving as overseers . . . eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you" (1 Peter 5:2-3, NIV).

In the home Paul does not command husbands to dominate, rather he instructs them to lovingly and sacrificially serve their wives as Christ does His church (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Along these lines, Diane Knippers of the Institute on Religion and Democracy declared in Beijing, "I am likewise skeptical of the use of the concept of power in the family. . . . What a sterile and bankrupt view of the most private and intimate human relationship! . . . The root problem is husbands who do not love their wives. Our goal should be to change their minds and hearts, not merely to restrict their behavior."

Love is the factor that makes the difference in any kind of relationship. Love, and not power, must be the basic characteristic of a leader in the Adventist church. Clearly, sacrificial service, not power and control, is what is desired and required in Jesus' pattern of leadership.

May the Lord help us to be the kind of leaders that He envisioned as He talked to His disciples about leadership for His church.