So, because you’re not a church leader, you think the following article is not for you? But it is—because everyone is a leader in some area of his or her life. Every mother and father is a leader, and so is each church officer and committee chair, and every person to whom someone else looks for advice and guidance.
God’s people are organized—at the church, field, union, division and, finally, the General Conference levels. “Let none entertain the thought that we can dispense with organization. It has cost us much study and many prayers for wisdom, that we know God has answered, to erect this structure. It has been built up by His direction, through much sacrifice and conflict.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 27-28. Throughout the church leaders are needed—men and women such as Noah, Moses, Gideon, Daniel, Paul, and James and Ellen White.
Leaders lead. “The minister should not feel that it is his duty to do all the talking and all the laboring and all the praying; he should educate helpers in every church….
“In some respects the pastor occupies a position similar to that of the foreman of a gang of laboring men or the captain of a ship’s crew. They are expected to see that the men over whom they are set, do the work assigned to them correctly and promptly, and only in case of emergency are they to execute in detail.” —Gospel Workers, p. 197.
A leader should be:
- Spiritual—One does not become a spiritual leader by birth or social rank or education, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- A man of vision—“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18.
- A man of the Word—“Those who are thus appointed as overseers of the flock should be men of good repute; men who give evidence that they have not only a knowledge of the Scriptures, but an experience in faith, in patience, that in meekness they may instruct those who oppose the truth.” —Gospel Workers, p. 413. When a leader is too busy to spend time with God and His Word every day, he is busier than Heaven ever intended him to be!
- Humble—“For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Galatians 6:3.
- Patient—“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” James 1:19.
- Kind and understanding.
- Meek—“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1.
- Loyal to his God, his church, and his brothers and sisters.
- Happy, with a sense of humour!
Jesus, our ideal leader, identified Himself closely with the interests and needs of others. “I have compassion on the multitude,” He said, then set about multiplying seven loaves and a few small fishes into fare for 4,000 men and an uncounted number of women and children. Matthew 15:32.
Like Christ, leaders should seek to avoid giving offence. “Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them,” He instructed Peter, “go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up.” Then the disciple was told to take the fish to the tax collectors, not because Jesus owed tax but to prevent hurt feelings. Matthew 17:27. “In every gentle and submissive way, Jesus tried to please those with whom He came in contact.” —The Desire of Ages, p. 85.
Leaders may practice the golden rule in many ways. One way is to allow men to “fight in their own armor.” Remember how much better David did with his own slingshot and small stones than with Saul’s sword! Encourage those who work for you to think for themselves. “None should consent to be mere machines, run by another man’s mind. God has given us ability, to think and to act, and it is by acting with carefulness, looking to Him for wisdom, that you will become capable of bearing burdens. Stand in your God-given personality. Be no other person’s shadow. Expect that the Lord will work in and by and through you.” —Ministry of Healing, pp. 498-499.
A good leader will seek as well as give counsel. “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14.
Leaders, work closely with your committees. Be sure you know where you are going before steering your committee there! Allow ample opportunity for committee members to speak (listen well) and know when to crystallize the thinking of the group. Be willing to yield your own plans and opinions sometimes. Be adaptable: “If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.” Remember that even a chairman can be wrong.
Good leaders give second chances. The Apostle Paul threw up his hands over John Mark and insisted that the young man stay home. Barnabas, on the other hand, took Mark in tow and “sailed unto Cyprus.” Acts 15:39. “In after years his solicitude in Mark’s behalf was richly rewarded, for the young man gave himself unreservedly to the Lord…. Under the blessing of God, and the wise training of Barnabas, he developed into a valuable worker.” The Acts of the Apostles, p.170.
The good leader will not ask others to do what he is able but unwilling to do himself. “Let’s go,” he’ll say, instead of, “You go.”
To make a good decision, the leader will be sure he understands the problem. Then he will pray earnestly for wisdom—and obtain, write down, and study the facts carefully. To avoid repeating mistakes, he will rely upon his experience. Sometimes he will sleep over the matter and/or talk with a trusted friend. After a decision is made, the leader will accept responsibility for it.
A wise leader values time. “Only let the moments be treasured. A few moments here and a few there, that might be frittered away in aimless talk; the morning hours so often wasted in bed; the time spent in traveling…. the moments of waiting for meals, waiting for those who are tardy in keeping an appointment—if a book were kept at hand, and these fragments of time were improved in study, reading, or careful thought, what might not be accomplished.” Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 343-344.
The Bible provides useful guidelines for leaders, who inevitably face problems and problem makers. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1.
Leaders listen. “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” Proverbs 1:5.
No leader expects to please all the people all the time. He knows criticism will come but learns from it rather than becoming upset. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalm 119:165. Criticism may be countered with kindness: “Overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21. Critics may sometimes curse even the kindest leader, but Christ said to “bless them that curse you.” Matthew 5:44.
“Cultivate the habit of speaking well of others. Dwell upon the good qualities of those with whom you associate, and see as little as possible of their errors and failings. When tempted to complain of what someone has said or done, praise something in that person’s life or character.” —Ministry of Healing, p. 492.
The patient leader will not be stopped by criticism. He will consider its source and keep doing his best. He will forget or ignore unjustified criticism, leaving the criticizer in God’s hands. “Everyone who has been free to condemn or discourage, will in his own experience be brought over the ground where he has caused others to pass….” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p.136.
A leader becomes wise only by association with the Source of Wisdom. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5.
A sermon delivered by Elder Henry Dering and recorded by Evelyn Holmstroem
By A. W. Staples
“My heart is toward the governors of Israel, that offered themselves willingly among the people. Bless ye the Lord.” Judges 5:9
A leader loves his men and his people. Love teaches how.
A leader is not a hireling. He offers and gives himself for the men, the work—success.
A leader is not suspicious, but shows confidence in his men.
A leader identifies himself with his men and people.
A leader will visit and stay with his men.
A true leader will bear the weak on his heart and shoulders.
Where adversity strikes, the leader will be there to take the blow.
A leader anticipates the needs, and serves.
A self-centered man is unworthy of leadership.
A leader believes in his work as a calling, not a job.