Christian honesty requires that an elder be loyal to his denomination. Whether an elder is for, against, or in the middle of an issue doesn't matter; his position will be attacked. Those who intend to be the "Middle-of-the-Roaders" will come under the fire of different groups within the congregation. Some accept the responsibility of eldership in an Adventist congregation, and at the same time, try to undermine the confidence of the members in the doctrines and administrative system of their denomination, and show a lack of Christian character consistent with the teachings of Jesus. Every elder must make some decisions about his denominational loyalty and be prepared to face the consequences of those decisions.
Too many elders practice things in the congregation which they condemn in their own lives. Denominational bickering and personal ambitions of religious politicians have unnecessarily spawned and promoted an anti-Adventism attitude in some congregations. Careful consideration here will prevent an elder from making the denomination a playground for ministerial maneuvering to promote personal or group satisfaction.
Church members, congregations, conventions, general assemblies and boards have painstakingly and laboriously carved out plans and systems which have become masterpieces and have delivered them to the present generation of Adventists on silver platters. As E. G. White said, "In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader" (3 Testimony Treasures, p. 443). Even though these masterpieces contain flaws and weaknesses, they are still masterpieces of the first magnitude in their realm.
Leaders of other generations suffered persecution in order to establish the administrative system which, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has been responsible for the solid growth the church has experienced since its beginning.
The church is not perfect and it is therefore easy to fall into the trap of criticizing the way it is operating. Problems in the church are not a new phenomenon. "The church was defective and in need of stern reproof and chastisement, and John was inspired to record messages of warning and reproof and entreaty to those who, losing sight of the fundamental principles of the gospel, should imperil their hope of salvation" (Acts of the Apostles, p. 587). It is the responsibility of every leader in the church to be an instrument through which God can correct His people and prepare them for His kingdom.
There are some simple rules which will help you, my dear elder in the local congregation, maintain a right relationship with our denomination and keep your honor with God.
1. Depend on the Lord to guide you. He leads you through the Bible, the messages that came to the remnant church through the prophetic ministry of Ellen G. White, and the consensus of your brothers and sisters around the world.
2. Remember that the denomination has done much for you. Love it and defend it.
3. Be cooperative with your pastor without becoming a blind follower or a dumb slave.
4. Don't become involved in any conflicting political maneuverings of men.
5. Always remember that God doesn't guide a man but a people.
6. Your denomination did not come into existence by the will of men. God, Himself brought it about in fulfillment of Bible prophecies.
7. According to the prophecies of the book of Revelation, there will be no other church in these last days. This is the final one.
In conclusion, I urge you to keep yourself obligated only to God and stay in His "ship." Even if you see some mistakes made by other leaders, try to help correct the faults rather than get out and start another church which is less "seaworthy."
In this issue of Elder's Digest, we focus on the prophetic credentials of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, our denomination, and God's church for this time. It seems that some have been confused and deceived by clever words spoken here and there. It is time for elders to know the foundations of God's people. I invite you to review the biblical marks of authenticity of the Adventist movement and remember that Jesus Himself warns us in relationship to these last days: "Many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many" (Matt 24:5 NIV).