Friday, July 27, 2018



Leadership is the theme of our lesson this week. We don't have to look too deeply into Scripture, church history, or even probably our personal experience, to discern the critical role that leadership portends for right or for wrong. With almost no exceptions, as the leadership goes, so goes the people. All throughout the Old Testament Jewish monarchy both in Israel and Judah, when the king was rebellious and an idol worshiper, the people largely followed suit.

In New Testament Judaism, the people were largely confined intellectually and experientially by the beliefs and dictates of Sadducees and Pharisees. In the Dark Ages, again, the people were limited by the thinking and proclamations of the clerical leadership.

In our own SDA history, we find frequent counsel regarding the impact for good or for error of leadership.

"Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator-- individuality, power to think and to do. The men in whom this power is developed are the men who bear responsibilities, who are leaders in enterprise, and who influence character. Instead of educated weaklings, institutions of learning may send forth men strong to think and to act, men who are masters and not slaves of circumstances, men who possess breadth of mind, clearness of thought, and the courage of their convictions." {Ed 17.2}

In our Seventh-day Adventist 1888 history we see the dramatic impact the errors in leadership can have:

"Now, this is the last ministers' meeting we will have unless you wish to meet together yourselves. If the ministers will not receive the light, I want to give the people a chance; perhaps they may receive it." {1888 152.6}. This was the last "up-front" presentation Ellen White gave at the 1888 minister's meeting.

"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and Jones. By exciting that opposition, Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." {1888 1575.2}

Leadership matters! And lest we be tempted to look at those "others" in leadership as the responsible parties and deem ourselves free and clear, let us remember that leadership includes elders, deacons and deaconesses, SS teachers down to the cradle roll, etc.

The message to Laodicea, as with all the messages to the churches in Rev.2-3, is primarily to leadership. The messages are directed to the "angels" of the churches. Revelation 1:20 says that the seven angels to the churches are the seven stars, and Ellen White says that the stars are the leadership:

"God's ministers are symbolized by the seven stars, which He who is the first and the last has under His special care and protection. The sweet influences that are to be abundant in the church are bound up with these ministers of God, who are to represent the love of Christ. The stars of heaven are under God's control. He fills them with light. He guides and directs their movements. If He did not, they would become fallen stars. So with His ministers. They are but instruments in His hands, and all the good they accomplish is done through His power." {GW 13.3}

So with this foundation regarding the critical role that leadership plays, let's appreciate the qualities that our passage in the Book of Acts brings out in regards to leaders – in this case deacons – of the early church.

"seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" Acts 6:3
"they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit" Acts 6:5
"Stephen, full of faith and power" Acts 6:8
In a similar vein, notice Peter's description of the qualities of Biblical leadership:

"Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;" 1Pet.5:2-3

So what do we see? Good reputation - full of Holy Spirit, wisdom, faith, power – leading not by compulsion – not leading for selfish reasons but with eagerness – not "lording" your position over others – being an example! I wonder how often these traits are the foundation of the discussion at nominating committee? In simplified form – full of faith and wisdom and the Holy Spirit, humble. Sometimes these are hard to quantify. But can we know it when we see it?

Stephen had these qualities. Stephen, when brought before a body of accusers with whom he shared common heritage, demonstrated his wisdom by reviewing their history as a people. Good leadership necessitates a knowledge of denominational history – and its meaning! Remember Moses, a leader who was described as a friend of God, also reviewed denominational history for the people. Whatever our leadership position, remember:

"The work is soon to close. The members of the church militant who have proved faithful will become the church triumphant. In reviewing our past history, having travelled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment and with confidence in Christ as Leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and his teaching in our past history. We are now a strong people, if we will put our trust in the Lord; for we are handling the mighty truths of the word of God. We have everything to be thankful for. " {GCDB, January 29, 1893 par. 8}

The greatest trait of leadership that we see in Stephen's life is manifested at the end of his life. The ultimate manifestation of leadership is following the example of Christ. At the end of Christ's life, as Jesus was being crucified, He had this to say about those who had positioned themselves as His enemies:

"Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Lk.23:34

Stephen said:
"Then (Stephen) knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep." Acts 7:60

The ultimate manifestation of quality leadership, is the sacrifice of self – the giving of self – for the uplifting and salvation and benefit of others – even your enemies. Stephen was "leading" his enemies to repentance as surely as Jesus on Calvary was "leading" His enemies to repentance. It is the goodness of God – whether in God or Jesus or us – that "leads" to repentance. Stephen was leading, as all of us as leaders ought to – by giving ourselves for others. That is true leadership. That is how God leads the universe. That is how His true followers will "lead".

May God give us the power to lead by sacrifice and service that we can lead and be led to repentance.

-Bob Hunsaker

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