Many who aspire to positions of leadership in the church are unwilling to pay the full price entailed in this responsibility. Every leader in the Advent Movement should know the necessary qualifications for successful leadership and be willing to live up to the high principles that are involved.
The movements of church leaders are carefully watched; and well they might be, for by accepting a position of responsibility in God's great cause, an individual has dedicated his life to uphold the high ideals and principles for which this message stands. Any leader who by word or action or any inconsistency belittles his sacred trust and calling not only brings reproach upon himself but upon the cause which he had espoused.
In the language of the apostle Paul to Timothy, he should be an "example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12). Any inconsistency on the part of a leader will easily be detected, and his leadership will lose its force and power.
An elder as leader must be strict with himself, even to a point that may at times seem to border on the extreme, in order not to offend the ultraconservative─but withal earnest and self-sacrificing─believers in the Advent faith. It is far better to err on the side of conservatism than to be so liberal that one loses the confidence of many well-meaning people. Not for a moment and under no circumstances can a elder relax his vigilance or cease to maintain the high standards of his sacred calling.
If an elder takes the attitude that because he is leader he may do certain things that he would not be willing to allow others to do, he undermines his leadership, and will not be able to bring about disciplinary action if and when this is necessary. Under no circumstances should he take unto himself privileges that he would not be willing to give to those who follow his leadership. He must be careful and honest in his expenditures and render an exact report of money spent, the same as he requires of any member under his direction.
We believe that an elder, as well as other members should have a modest home, but a leader who multiplies houses and lands and speculates in property and collects high rentals and shows that the focus of his life is on material possessions definitely needs to reconsider his call to leadership. How can he encourage people to sacrifice for the cause and prepare as they should for Christ's second coming if he does these things? No amount of talking and sermonizing will undo the influence of a leader who is grasping and who is selfishly accumulating an unusual amount of things of this world. Every elder should himself actually be what he urges the people to become.
Gathering a large number of relatives and special friends about one is a definite mark of weak leadership. If a leader has to be surrounded with "yes-men" to maintain his position, he shows thereby that he lacks one of the greatest qualifications of successful leadership─the confidence and support of the people he is to lead. We believe this to be of utmost importance. Elders should be called to that position because of their consecration and ability. Friendship and kinship should not become a factor in such moves.
I once heard a conference president who had a brother-in-law in his conference say that this worker caused him much concern. On one hand, he had people talking about how he favored his relative, and on the other hand, his brother-in-law and family often felt that they did not get a square deal. How much better it is for a leader to be in a position where he can always act as he feels he should under the circumstances. As far as possible, help the nominating committee choose different people in your own congregation or department. This will build for strength, confidence, and goodwill.
There is a dignified honor in being a respected, able leader, but it entails responsibility and a price must be paid. There is more to being a captain of a great ship than being well-groomed or wearing a well-pressed uniform with gold braid and stripes. There is far more to this position than being saluted as captain and receiving the acclaim of the crew and others. In case of a storm or disaster, a true captain must be the last to abandon ship. It is a tradition of the sea that until all on board are taken to places of safety, the captain stays by his ship.
Looked at from this point of view, a position of eldership in the Advent Movement is a grave responsibility. In case of a crisis an elder must stand firm and remain at his post of duty if it demands life itself. As a leader in the Advent Movement, are you willing to pay the full price it takes to make your leadership magnetic and effective?
John Oss wrote this article when he was working in our publishing house in China.