Christian Leadership



A Council of Men—Not Just One Man—It has been a necessity to organize union conferences, that the General Conference shall not exercise dictation over all the separate conferences. The power vested in the Conference is not to be centered in one man, or two men, or six men; there is to be a council of men over the separate divisions. The showing by the past leadership of the conference is not after God's order. There has been a work done of a character that has not been approved of God. The result we have before us in the ruins where once stood that large printing plant, [The Review and Herald Office in Battle Creek] with its expensive facilities.... ChL 26.1

In the work of God no kingly authority is to be exercised by any human being, or by two or three. The representatives of the Conference, as it has been carried with authority for the last twenty years, shall be no longer justified in saying, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we.” The men in positions of trust have not been carrying the work wisely. ChL 26.2

The Lord calls for wise men to preside over His work and to be faithful shepherds of His flock.—Manuscript 26, 1903 (April 3, 1903 Re: The Work of the General Conference). ChL 26.3

A “Monkey Wrench” in the Wheels—The sixth chapter of Isaiah has a deep and important lesson for every one of God's workmen. Study it with humility and earnest prayer. The first and second chapters of Ezekiel should also be carefully studied. The wheels within wheels represented in this symbol was confusion to the finite eye. But a hand of infinite wisdom was revealed amid the wheels. Perfect order is brought out of the confusion. Every wheel works in its right place, in perfect harmony with every other part of the machinery. ChL 26.4

I have been shown that human beings desire too much power. They desire to control, and the Lord God, the mighty worker is left out of their work. The workmen feel qualified to hold the highest place. Let no man attempt to manage that work which should be left in the hands of the great I AM, and who is in His own way planning how the work shall be done. Know that God is the Instructor of His servants, and He will work through whom He will.—Manuscript 143, 1899. ChL 26.5

The Right Use of Authority—I wish to speak to my brethren who occupy positions of trust. As God's husbandry you are invested with the responsibility of acting in His stead, as His helping hand. Those who are placed in positions of trust must have the authority of action, but they are never to use this authority as a power to refuse help to the needy and helpless. It is never to be exercised to discourage or depress one struggling soul. Let those to whom have been given positions of influence ever remember that God desires them to carry out the mind of Christ, who, by creation and redemption, is the owner of all men.—Letter 7, 1901 (January 17, 1901 To Brethren Who Occupy Positions of Trust). ChL 27.1

Dealing With Men Like Ourselves—Let us all remember that we are not dealing with ideal men, but with real men of God's appointment, men precisely like ourselves, men who fall into the same errors that we do, men of like ambitions and infirmities. No man has been made a master, to rule the mind and conscience of a fellow-being. Let us be very careful how we deal with God's blood-bought heritage. ChL 27.2

To no man has been appointed the work of being a ruler over his fellow men. Every man is to bear his own burden. He may speak words of encouragement, faith, and hope to his fellow-workers; he may help them to bear their special burdens by suggesting to them improved methods of labor; but in no case is he to discourage and enfeeble them, lest the enemy shall obtain an advantage over their minds,—an advantage that in time would react upon himself.—Manuscript 29, 1907, pp. 9, 10 (Individual Responsibility & Christian Unity, January 1907). ChL 27.3

Don't Censure or Condemn—You are not even to allow yourself to think unkindly of them, much less to climb upon the judgment seat and censure or condemn your brethren, when you may be yourself, in many respects, more deserving of censure than they. Your work is bearing the inspection of God.—Letter 21, 1888, pp. 10, 11 (October 14, 1888 to Bro. Butler). ChL 27.4

The Spirit of Authority—In our several callings there is to be mutual dependence on one another for assistance. A spirit of authority is not to be exercised, even by the president of a Conference; for position does not change a man into a creature that cannot err. Every laborer entrusted with the management of a conference is to work as Christ worked, wearing His yoke and learning of Him, His meekness and lowliness. ChL 27.5

A conference president's spirit and demeanor, in word and in deed, reveals whether he realizes his weakness and places his dependence on God, or whether he thinks that his position of influence has given him superior wisdom. If he loves and fears God, if he realizes the value of souls, if he appreciates every jot of the help that the Lord has qualified of a brother-worker to render, he will be able to bind heart to heart by the love that Christ revealed during His ministry. He will speak words of comfort to the sick and sorrowing. If he does not cultivate a masterly manner, but bears in mind always that One is his Master, even Christ, he can counsel the inexperienced, encouraging them to be God's helping hand.—Letter 10, 1903, pp. 3, 4 (January 8, 1903, to E. R. Palmer). ChL 28.1

The God Given Personality of Men—The man-ruling power that has been coming into our ranks has no sanction in the word. Satan has stolen in to lead men to depend on men, and to make flesh their arm. I am instructed to say, Break every yoke that human invention has framed, and heed the voice of Christ, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls: for “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” ChL 28.2

The man who because he is president of a conference dares to take the responsibility of telling his fellow-workers what their duty is, is working out a wrong experience. The influence will be to destroy the God-given personality of men, and place them under human jurisdiction. Such management is laying a foundation for unbelief. The men who instruct their fellowmen to look to men for guidance, are really teaching them that when they go to the Lord for counsel and the direction of His Spirit regarding their duty, they must not follow that counsel without first going to certain men to know if this is what they must do. Thus a species of slavery is developed that will bring only weakness and inefficiency to the church of God. ChL 28.3

Those who bring in this unhappy chapter into the experiences of our work, and willingly accept the idea that the rulership of other men's conscience has been given to them, need to understand that they have made a grave mistake. Their office was never intended to give to them the responsibility which they have been led to think it bestowed. The danger signal is now lifted against this evil. Never, never let men consent to stand in a position which God alone should occupy.—Letter 344, 1907, p. 3 (October 1, 1907, to A. G. Daniells, G. A. Irwin, and W. W. Prescott). ChL 28.4

This Kind of Management Must Change—Did the Lord counsel you to devise the various means to work and control human minds? No, I tell you, no. The case of Elder Littlejohn has been strangely mismanaged. He has appealed to me to set things right, but I have done nothing about it; it was not the time. Your course in the treatment of him was all wrong. It bears the signature of the adversary of souls. Your treatment of Frank Belden in his work was not right; it is strange fire, not the fire of God's kindling. This kind of management must come to an end, else God will work in a way that will not be pleasing to those who have done this work. These men have not been right, they needed judicious management, but those who tried to manage them needed themselves to be managed. ChL 29.1

Did your devising in regard to the Gospel Primer meet the approval of God? No; the principle upon which you acted was wrong. Individual service is to be rendered to God, not to be controlled by man or by any set of men. Movements have been made which mean much in their outworking. An example has been given by men who are serving where they should not be, which is leavening your Conferences. The Presidents of Conferences are being imbued with a spirit to rule, to require men to bow to their judgment; if any refuse, the course pursued toward them is such as to fill heaven with indignation. ChL 29.2

How can God move upon the churches to contribute their hard earned means to be handled by men who are self-sufficient, selfish, and so arrogant and overbearing that the frown of God is upon them? Our institutions need cleansing as did the temple when Christ was upon the earth. Man lords it over men's consciences, man dictates to his fellow-men as God. Everywhere throughout the field this spirit is leavening hearts with the same narrow and selfish purposes. Reaction must come, and who shall then set things in order? Jesus says, “He that will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”—Letter 65, 1895, pp. 7, 8 (June 19, 1895). ChL 29.3

The President Sets the Example—You refer to your office as President of the General Conference, as if this justifies your course of action, which you deemed wholly right, but which, from the light the Lord has been pleased to give me, I deem to be wrong in some respects. The very fact that you are standing in a position of responsibility I urge upon you as the reason why you should show a forbearing, courteous, Christlike spirit at all times and under all circumstances. Your brethren in the ministry who respect you and your office, will be very apt to follow your example in the treatment of such cases. You are to be an example to your brethren, worthy of imitation. Your words, your spirit, your deportment, even the manner in which you treat your brethren are sowing seeds for good or evil. It is both your privilege and duty, especially in your position of trust, to be like-minded with God; then you will be strong in His strength and meek and humble as a little child. ChL 30.1

Cling close to your Bible, for its sacred truths can purify, ennoble and sanctify the soul. You must hold the truth and teach it as it is in Jesus, else it is of no value to you. Before the light of God's truth let human opinions and ideas and human wisdom appear as they are in the sight of God—as foolishness. Let no man feel that his position as president either of the General Conference or of a state conference clothes him with a power over the consciences of others that is the least degree oppressive, for God will not sanction anything of this kind. He must respect the rights of all, and all the more because he is in a position where others will pattern after him. ChL 30.2

Your position binds you under the most sacred obligations to be very careful what kind of a spirit you entertain towards your brethren. They are acting a part in God's cause as well as yourself. Will not God teach them and guide them as well as yourself? You are not even to allow yourself to think unkindly of them, much less to climb upon the judgment seat and censure and condemn your brethren, when you may be yourself, in many respects, more deserving of censure than they. Your work is bearing the inspection of God.—Letter 21, 1888, pp. 10, 11 (October 14, 1888 to Brother Butler). ChL 30.3