I wish to spend a few lines writing to the elders about our most important work. We are all leaders in God's cause. Leadership in this day and time demands something different from anything we have given before. First, leadership demands intrinsic value.
Note the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 55:4: "Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people." This was speaking primarily of David, and secondarily of Jesus Christ Himself. He was given for a witness to the people.
The Greek word "witness" comes trom the same root word as "martyr" and means "a willingness to die for the truth." He was not only a witness but also a leader, and commanded the people as one having authority. Before one can be a leader something must take place inwardly.
Someone has said: "Great men are those who find that what they ought to do and want to do are the same thing." -Country Parson, in the Register Tribune. When one can do the thing he ought to do because he wants to do it, he has gained an inner strength that has come from long hours of discipline, prayer, practice. A leader must be dedicated to the cause he has given his life to. Dedication means extra hours, extra thought, extra effort, and a will to succeed.
Leaders are those who must stand for the great objectives of Adventism in a world that is striking out against the old. Marchers and demonstrators and lobbyists all try to influence the President to do what they would want done. Everyone wants him to listen, to shape his policies by the petitioner's ideas. There are the pressures of capital, labor, black, white, rich, and poor. Certainly our President of our country needs our prayers today. Leadership cannot listen to every voice that is sounded. Charles L. Lapp and John W. Bowyer in their article, "Oral Hygiene " say: "Determined men working together make conditions. . . . They do not become victims of them."
There was a time when leaders were on a pedestal; they were respected because they held an office. Today a leader is someone to shoot down, to question, to differ with, to be against. Leadership represents the establishment in our day. Youth today are trying to shoot down the establishment. Leadership requires men of high caliber.
Note the words of inspiration: "God's cause at this time is in special need of men and women who possess Christ-like qualifications for service, executive ability, and a large capacity for work; who have kind, warm, sympathetic hearts, sound common sense, and unbiased judgment; who will carefully weigh matters before they approve or condemn, and who can fearlessly say No, or Yes and Amen; who because they are sanctified by the Spirit of God, practice the word, 'all ye are brethren,' striving constantly to uplift and restore fallen humanity." Ellen G. White, Manuscript 74, 1902.
A leader must be dedicated to the cause he has given his life to. Natural endowments for leadership are not enough. Mark W. Lee, in the Wesleyan Methodist, said: "Leadership is usually thought of as resulting from natural endowments and traits of personality. These may be helpful, but they are incidental. The real qualities of leadership are to be found in those who are willing to suffer for the sake of the objectives great enough to demand their wholehearted allegiance."
You elders are leaders who must stand for the great objectives of Adventism in a world that is striking against the old. True, we must be willing to yield to new methods and new ways and new opportunities for service, but we must ever cling to the fundamentals, the framework, that has made Seventh-day Adventism great, and the tenets that have been given to us by inspiration from God. To be respected leaders we must hold on to these fundamental truths that God has given to us. We cannot really lead unless we do demand respect. Someone has said: "Leadership will be reestab lished only if that leadership commands respect. We all know that respect for leadership can't be forced, it has to be earned." Albert Spendlove, Publication Management, September, 1962.
Leadership that is respected need not be concerned about loyalty. In our work we need loyal men and women. Our elders must not only be loyal to one another but loyal to the principles we hold dear, loyal to the message, and loyal to God.
Isaiah 55:6, 7 says, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
Today God is demanding loyalty of His leaders. We must seek the Lord as never before. We are to be His witnesses, His leaders, His commanders of the people. We cannot do so without the authority that comes from serving God with the whole heart. While leadership is a difficult role to play in our present world, we must recognize "that loyalty is no longer to be equated with blind obedience. The most loyal person may well be the most fervid member of the loyal opposition. The person who raises questions about how things are done, what assumptions are made, what changes have to take place, what is coming in the future, what things anger and discourage people, is the man who helps the organization survive. Provisions should be made for hearing his voice. Yea-sayers are agreeable, nay-sayers the yeast of growth.
"The fundamental conditions for loyalty, then, are simple: freedom for ideas to be examined, freedom to define the problems to be solved, and freedom for all in the enterprise to direct their energy to solving them. When those conditions are met, a manager will never have to ask where loyalty went." Think, January-February, 1966, p. 12.
Let us pray that we will be the kind of leaders that men and women can respect, the kind that can merit the loyalty of our followers. If we can be this kind of leader, God can use us in this demanding hour.
W. J. Hackett was general Vice-President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists when he wrote this article.