Isaiah Pereira is an elder in the Luso-Brazilian Church in Toronto, Canada.

There is no such thing as a "born spiritual leader." Spiritual leader are made, not born, and it takes a lot of making to produce a leader for God. "

I was made a minister," declares the apostle Paul, "according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of His power" (Eph. 3:7). It is significant that Michelangelo always made his own tools and brushes. So are men made, who as tools in the hand of the Master are to shape the subjects of His kingdom.

It was on the Damascus road that Jesus met Saul of Tarsus. And when He laid His hand on him, it was for a definite purpose. Blinded and prostrate in the dust, that polished scholar heard a voice saying, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon they feet: for I have appeared unto thee... to make thee a minister" (Acts 26:15, 16). Paul's leadership stemmed from that experience.

When the God of heaven chooses His ambassadors, He must first curb all self-esteem and roll all human glory in the dust. The elemental business in leading God's people is, after all, not with the leading but with the leader. It is not the construction of the leadership style but the construction of the leader that is the most vital part of the preparation. The work is but the outrush of the soul in leading. Those who are fearful can never be leaders of courage; those who are unsympathetic can never bring comfort to bruised and broken hearts. Because the personal equation stands at the heart of everything they afterwards do, elders must therefore be God-made.

Such individuals will reveal that they are utterly dedicated to a lifework. "This One Thing I Do" will be their slogan. Anyone else can choose a profession and leave it at will, but elders are different. They have accepted a commission in a war from which there is no discharge. Physicians, teachers, businesspeople, or farmers can change their field of service without peril to their souls, but not so with spiritual leaders. They have been called to a lifework.

People take up professions because of certain training, but elders cannot be invaded in that manner, for theirs is not a profession but a calling a divine calling.

And they dare not accept such calls unless they are willing to pay the full price. They are to minster in Christ's stead. They are to point the way to salvation. Nay, more! In the Savior's stead they must become the way a bridge of flesh and blood over which lost souls may cross the chasm from eternal death. As Heaven's ambassadors they must enter into the redemptive experience with their Lord. They must know what it is to have the chastisement of men's peace upon him. Redemptive work is costly work, for "without shedding of blood [there] is no remission." Soul-winners must be willing to put some of their own lifeblood into their quest for souls. Like the first evangelist, they will be "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest." Their very lives will be lived to bring men to God; and of some who once knew the way of life turn form the path of peace, they will know how to "travail in birth again until Christ be formed" in their hearts.

Such work is hard and constant, but it is the most joyous work in the world. It makes bigger demands than any other service, but when soul-winners are consumed by a passion for the lost, no sacrifice will be considered too great. Their lives will be lived in utter abandon to the divine purpose. Like their Lord, they will say, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." Following their Master, they will be driven by the same compulsion. They will live to reflect the rays of divine light, asking no higher honor than to be tools in the pierced hands of the Savior. Sensing their responsibility, they will permit nothing to blunt the cutting edge of their spiritual power.

Slackness, that insidious peril which lurks at every elder's door, and which has sapped the promise of many a new elder, will be shunned as a plague. Only those who are utterly abandoned to their tasks, who are wholly dedicated to their lifework and who, like the apostle Paul, can say, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" can hope to succeed. Elders and leaders who have failed, have failed more often on that point than any other. Side issues and business interests for personal gain are master strokes of the devil to overthrow the man of God. Leader must be utterly absorbed in their tasks. But more, they must be Christlike in their attitude.

Robert McCheyne, whose prayers and godly ministry shook Scotland a century ago, says, "It is not great talents that God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. Holy ministers are awful weapons in the hand of God." How true! We are human, but we must be God's humans; holy, unblamable and unreprovable in His sight. "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." We are not golden vessels. Not the vessel but its contents give it value. "Less than the least of all saints" was Paul's estimate of himself. Such humility is a fitting garment for any elder to wear.

We must pause long enough in the presence of the Eternal that we might see the King high and lifted up. When we do, the result will ever be the same. We will cry out with one of old, "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the Lord of hosts." Life's whole panorama changes in the lights that stream from the throne. With prostrate Abraham we can exclaim, "Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes."

We need often to catch that vision of ourselves, for it is human to seek power as an overlord. The natural heart prides itself on its power to control. Yet the attitude we have toward the ones we lead is the real revelation of our character. God-made ministers can never be overlords. Peter's counsel to the elders is priceless: "All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." What situations could be averted were this counsel always be heeded!

The desire to be the greatest began with the first group of Christian workers. Unfortunately it is still with us. Pentecost, however, came only after that spirit had been uprooted. Those first heralds of the cross had to see themselves in the light of heaven. When they did, it changed their thinking. Gentiles exercise lordship over their subordinates. This is a Gentile characteristic. "But," said Jesus, "so shall it not be among you: for whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all." A hard lesson, this, harder perhaps for an elder to learn than for many another man, for the elder is thrown naturally into positions of leadership. But for his own soul's sake, and for the church's sake, he must resist the tendency to be overlord. "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren."

Pride of position is a subtle snare and must be resisted by elders, pastors, and church leaders. Organization and administration are daily becoming greater factors in our congregations, for we are daily growing larger. With this growth comes the tendency to control. This is natural, but it is perilous. A leadership built on the Gentile pattern will kill the cause of Christ.

The fact that the Spirit of Prophecy contains so many warnings and counsels on this point is evidence that the Lord is concerned for His remnant church. It will be easy for us to go the way other movements have gone before us─it is already happening in a few Adventist congregations in some areas of the world. We have no monopoly on wisdom except as we heed the counsels of the Lord. A leader's strength is in exact proportion to the ability and determination to be one of the brethren, to value their fellowship, to seek for and be guided by their counsel.

The same is true concerning evangelists, pastors, or institutional leaders. We sing, "One in hope and doctrine, one in charity," but are we living it? It may be that it requires less grace to be one in hope and doctrine than it does to be one in charity. But a faith which worketh by love is the only faith which can lead this movement to victory. We need just such a faith as that a faith that has overcome the world because it has overcome the human tendency to control; a faith that has discovered both a value and a safeguard in the counsel of those whose opinions may widely differ. One of the names of the Lord Jesus is "Wonderful, Counselor." His Spirit of directing in wise counsel and building up a sympathetic worldwide brotherhood will make the church of God invincible. Only God-made people can measure up to such a task.

Isaiah Pereira is an elder in the Luso-Brazilian Church in Toronto, Canada.

Isaiah Pereira is an elder in the Luso-Brazilian Church in Toronto, Canada.