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Principles for Christian Leaders

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    Danger of dictatorial control

    God has not given men power over the church or over individuals. He has not given them power to treat the subjects of His kingdom as their perverse tempers shall dictate. Christ will not sustain any man, whatever may be his office, who exalts himself as superior, when by his actions he makes himself in the sight of God, inferior. O, it is the saddest sight in the world to see men and women, who have not enough of the grace of God to control themselves, seeking to control others. The work of God must be done in gentleness and true courtesy. O, how much out of place are pride, selfishness, covetousness, and dishonesty. The Lord will punish those who lift themselves up in haughtiness and self-sufficiency, who refuse to show love and compassion for their brethren, or to encourage them in any way. These self-sufficient ones are the cause of the dearth in the church of the prosperity and success given by the Holy Spirit.—MS 16, 1900 (February 20)PCL 277.3

    General Conference president to set example—You [G. I. Butler] 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.PCL 278.1

    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. 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 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 (October 14)PCL 278.2

    Majoring in minors—Those who are accepted as workers together with God are under the tutorship of God. He is just as willing and ready to lead and teach them as He is to lead those who feel like laying out the work for His workers in precise lines. This manner of action is not after God’s order, and is aside from His plan, leading the workers to weakness and inefficiency. This burden has been gathered to the soul, but it has not been given to men [by] God.PCL 279.1

    The Teacher said, “While you are so earnest to call to mind the details, the time that is of so great value has been consumed, and the prayer that was so necessary for invoking the presence of God to preside in your councils has been neglected; and the minds of the workers have been called to dwell upon nonessentials which should have been left for workers in the field to plan for themselves, for they understand the situation and circumstances and have reasoning powers to know what is necessary for the success of their labors. Many things that are too important to be set aside have been lightly dwelt upon, and many things that are of little consequence have been largely dwelt upon, when there is no reason why men should dictate concerning the matters they have laid out in detail.” . . .PCL 279.2

    Let men leave the work for the worker to do with an eye single to the glory of God. God may see that it is necessary to release every president of his charge who does not understand what is comprehended in his special work. He who mistakes his duties is in danger of working at cross purposes with God, and of imperiling the souls of his fellow workers as well as his own soul, because he does not recognize the fact that his fellow laborers are to be linked up with him. Christ said, “All ye are brethren.”PCL 280.1

    The position of president gives to no man liberty to be voice and conscience for his brethren, to leave some out of his confidence, and to take some into his counsel who he is sure will voice his words and plans. He is to embrace those to whom God has committed sacred trusts according to their several ability. One man may present a plan, and another may discern a fault in the plan, while still another may suggest another plan which needs to be fairly considered. But the details that have been laid out for those to follow who are laboring in the field are such as to make them blush with indignation, for they are of such a character as to suggest that they are not worthy to be trusted, when God regards them with love and tenderness and has committed to them His goods in endowments [and] talents to be improved. The communication is open between God and their souls, for they are workers together with God. . . .PCL 280.2

    Your prescribed rules concerning details are not inspired of God. You have wearied minds that were already worn by causing them to dwell upon these matters when more important matters were to be considered by all interested workers. That which pertains to the growth and advancement of the work has had to give place to these nonessential things. . . .PCL 280.3

    God never designed that one man’s mind and judgment should have a controlling power over His heavenly appointed agencies, or over any class or organization.—Letter 53, 1894 (November 11)PCL 280.4

    Dangers of micromanagement—Men, fallible men, are not to think it is their prerogative to control, to mark out, or to prescribe the labors of their fellow men. When God works upon the human instrumentality, let men be very careful how they intermeddle; for in its process, the work of God is divine. The work of God has often been hindered by men considering that they had power to say, “Go here” or “Go there,” “Do this” or “Do that,” without consulting the individual himself, or respecting his convictions as a laborer together with God. God has promised His presence to every believer; and let those who are in positions of authority— presidents of conferences and board councils, and everyone who has to do with the human mind—respect the individuality of mind and conscience. These workers are in copartnership with Jesus Christ, and you [J. E. and Emma White] may interpose yourself so as to interfere with God’s plans, for the human agent is under His special authority and dictation. . . .PCL 281.1

    God would have all such confederacies broken to atoms and remodeled upon Christlike principles. The foundation stone must be mercy. Human minds are not to be trammeled and harnessed and driven by human hands. . . .PCL 281.2

    We must ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance and expect to be led and controlled by it. The church organization is to be respected, but it is not to be made in any way a galling yoke. Men are not to assume the prerogative of God and think to rule and coerce and oppress the souls of God’s purchased possession. All heaven is indignant at what men, with complacency, will do to their fellow men, claiming at the same time to be representatives of Jesus Christ. . . .PCL 281.3

    Men in official position must realize that their position gives them no license to be unkind or uncourteous, no license to be oppressive and to let their tongues, which should be sanctified, speak words which will open a door of temptation and help the great adversary in his work of discouraging souls. God has given us a work to do in saving souls from the companionship of Satan.—Letter 119, 1895 (February 18)PCL 281.4

    If it were possible, the enemy would clog the wheels of progress, and prevent the truths of the gospel from being circulated everywhere. With this object he leads men to feel that it is their privilege to control the consciences of their fellow men according to their own perverted ideas. They dismiss the Holy Spirit from their councils, and then, under the power and name of the General Conference, they invent regulations through which they compel men to be ruled by their own ideas and not by the Holy Spirit.—Letter 83, 1896 (May 22)PCL 282.1

    It is seldom that the man who thinks he can be experience for another has a safe experience for himself; for he fails of forming a correct estimate of the character he should develop. Just as soon as a man who is placed in a responsible position supposes that he is to define the duty of his fellow men, and that the workers must obey his word without question, he proves that he is not worthy of his office. Such a man does not understand his own heart. We had far better have in our conference humble men whom God can accept and teach His way. God has given to every man his work, and this responsibility will not be taken from any soul; neither will it be given to another to tell him what that work is.—Letter 278, 1907 (September 5)PCL 282.2

    The oppression of fellow workers—Covetousness and selfishness are blinding men, so that they unwittingly make decrees that deprive men of their rights, and pass judgment on matters that cut them off from their privileges. In so doing they are as verily using oppressing as are the powers of the world in restricting religious liberty. Though their power is limited, yet they are actuated by the same spirit which rules the children of disobedience. They make decisions that repress individual action, and God frowns upon their decrees, methods, and laws that bind those whom God would have free to use the power He has given them as a precious endowment. . . .PCL 282.3

    Let those at the heart of the work see that they are clear from the practice of oppression. Let there be no lording it over God’s heritage. Let no man, or body of men, imagine that they have the prerogative of lording it over God’s people. . . .PCL 283.1

    Every time you [C. P Bollman] have made it necessary for men to come to your terms, and have so bound them that they could not do otherwise than to concede to your wishes, you have exercised a power which God has not permitted one man to exercise over another. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Has Christ given Himself for the rescue of man in order that man may be placed under human bondage? There must be a decided change in the policy of action that has been followed. . . .PCL 283.2

    God has singled out many that He would employ in His work; but there is no chance for them to come in as yet. The sentiments of men who are in positions of trust must change and the counsel of God be heeded, or they will not have the honor of being His instruments, nor will they receive the reward that is promised to His faithful stewards.—Letter 16, 1895 (June 18)PCL 283.3

    The spirit of domination is extending to the presidents of our conferences. If a man is sanguine of his own powers and seeks to exercise dominion over his brethren, feeling that he is invested with authority to make his will the ruling power, the best and only safe course is to remove him, lest great harm be done, and he lose his own soul and imperil the souls of others. “All ye are brethren.” This disposition to lord it over God’s heritage will cause a reaction unless these men change their course. Those in authority should manifest the Spirit of Christ. They should deal as He would deal with every case that requires attention. They should go weighted with the Holy Spirit. A man’s position does not make him one jot or tittle greater in the sight of God; it is character alone that God values.—Letter 55, 1895 (September 19)PCL 283.4

    A snare of Satan—The device to place man under the ruling of his fellow man is a snare of Satan to divorce men from God; and it has resulted in a sad departure from the Lord and the working out of a cheap experience. The men who have made such plans have revealed that they are defective in Christian experience; their short-sighted judgment has resulted in leading souls away from the path to holiness and perfection. Unless they are truly converted, unless lips and mind and heart are sanctified to God, they will hear in the day of final reckoning the words, Depart; you cannot have the overcomer’s reward.PCL 284.1

    So long as self-sufficiency and self-exaltation have a place in the heart, there will be a low standard of character and an inability to reach the high standard that God sets before His people. 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.”—Letter 344, 1907 (October 1)PCL 284.2

    Sound management principles needed—Did the Lord counsel you [O. A. Olsen] 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 rights, 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.PCL 285.1

    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 [one] 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.PCL 285.2

    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?—Letter 65, 1895 (June 19)PCL 285.3

    Repeating past mistakes—Those who take hold of the work at this time are not to repeat the mistakes that have been made in the past, when men have sought to control and rule their fellow workers. God forbids that this spirit shall come into His work. Another message than this is to be borne. Those who have felt a burden to place yokes on the necks of their brethren, who desired to labor, are called upon to repent and be converted.—MS 51, 1908 (May 21)PCL 286.1

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