Jerry A. Stevens
Retired General Conference Worker/Ponderer of Our Changing Times
Bullets whizzed around him, comrades fell wounded on every side, and the rookie soldier panicked and ran toward the rear. As he continued to hurry away from the din of battle, he met an officer who demanded where he was going. The soldier honestly confessed his fears. The officer told him that he had no choice: He must either go back and join in the fight or be charged with desertion and face a firing squad.
“All right, Captain,” the soldier said, “I’ll go back.”
“Wait a minute,” the officer said; “I’m not a captain, I’m a general.”
“I’m sorry, General,” the soldier said. “I didn’t know I was that far back.”
No doubt many a GI [literally, government issue: American soldier] has wondered why those farthest up the chain of command are the least likely to be up front, leading others into battle. Aren’t leaders supposed to lead?
I have taken this illustration verbatim from author Lee Roy Holmes. It goes a long way toward pinpointing the central issue of leadership. My dictionary defines leadership as (1) the office or position of a leader, (2) capacity to lead, and (3) the act or an instance of leading. Elements of all three of these aspects of leadership enter into the makeup of Christian leaders as well as Christian leadership. This issue seeks to explore these twin themes in depth.
We have assembled quite a lineup of contributors this time around. We think you will be delighted with the fresh perspectives that five new authors bring to our discussion. Most of these are representatives of that rather fuzzy classification known as “young people.” But don’t be alarmed; they know very well what they are talking about. Joining this group of writers is a cadre of five veteran contributors. We are confident that you will appreciate the overall balance of perspective thus achieved.
Let’s get straight to the business of highlighting our outstanding lineup, shall we? Samuel Koranteng-Pipim leads off by tackling some tough questions, from which we here extract: “What is the nature of church leadership? Who exercises spiritual leadership in the church? What constitutes the extent and limitation of church leaders’ authority? Is leadership qualification gender-neutral? Where do we find a model for church leadership? And what should we do when there are no available or qualified leaders in the church?” He asks whether we are “honestly mistaken” about answers to these questions.
No stranger to this publication, already quoted contributor Lee Roy Holmes next addresses the matter of the influence of popular culture on leadership style. Permit me to borrow one provocative paragraph from the essay we selected: “We have little similarity to our counterparts of yesteryear. Bold preaching against the corrupting influences of the popular culture is seldom heard. We have traded the certain sound of the trumpet for the wavering notes of the Hawaiian guitar. We are paralyzed for fear of being accused of judging or offending—virtually the only sins our culture condemns.”
Next up is a thought-provoking article by Randy Skeete, a study on the power and example of leaders. After listing the attributes of any leader, secular or religious, Skeete reminds us that “a leader ofGod’s people is one who does the work of a shepherd in the mold of the Chief Shepherd Himself—Jesus Christ.”
Another former contributor is Dick O’Ffill, himself a veteran leader in the SDA Church. Let this thought pull you into his no-nonsense account: “How we describe ourselves as leaders reveals the leader we think we are. To think of ourselves as simply leaders is not enough. It is essential that when we talk among ourselves on the subject of leadership we qualify it by adding the words Seventh-day Adventist.”
Brian Neumann is a young man who not too long ago abandoned the spiritually bankrupt world of rock/pop music, trading it for an active Christian lifestyle. His own experience lends a great deal of credibility to his warning that “we are not to look at the world around us (Babylon, a fallen neo-pagan, secularized society that has found its way into many denominations that once claimed the ‘Bible and the Bible alone’ as their standard of faith), and ask, ‘How do they do worship? We would like to do it the same way.’” You won’t want to miss his treatment of the controversial topic of leadership and worship.
Over the years contributor Laurel Damsteegt and your humble editor have shared the mutual friendship of Brother Harry Okonski. Mr. Okonski, now a member in Laurel’s church, often asks her when she will write a book on women. He says to her that “when you write it, be sure to say that women can do lots of good things for God. Tell them about Deborah and Hulda and all the women in the Bible that worked mightily for God. Women can do a lot of good for the church, you know.” Our readers won’t be disappointed in what Laurel has put down—not in book form yet, but as carefully thought-out musings on women in leadership.
Ready for a fresh perspective by involved youth? Then you won’t want to miss Andrea Oliver’s coverage of how to cultivate young thinkers and doers—not for the far-off future, but for the here and now. Author Oliver poses this question: “What is the key for preparing the young people to fill the role God has created for them?” Her answer on youth and leadership may surprise you.
Do these words sound familiar? “If the cords are drawn much tighter, if the rules are made much finer, if men continue to bind their fellow laborers closer and closer to the commandments of men, many will be stirred by the Spirit of God to break every shackle, and assert their liberty in Christ Jesus. . . . And no human being shall be permitted to prescribe my liberty or entrench upon the perfect freedom of my brethren, without hearing my voice lifted in protest against it.” Find out who penned this statement, and why a leader in the self-supporting work, first-time contributor Eugene Prewitt, feels that history is in danger of repeating itself over this issue.
Another new contributor, Justin Kim, weighs in with an “insider’s” look at what works and doesn’t work regarding methods of involving our church’s youth in its work and mission. Of particular interest is his personal testimony as to the true influence of popular youth ministry models upon youth. A young person himself, Pastor Kim’s conclusions may surprise you.
Our issue closes with a stirring personal testimony by the young wife of an English SDA minister. Let Deniza Hush touch your heartstrings and your mind with the story of her complete turnabout in the way she perceived her leadership roles as a ministering woman, wife, mother, and homemaker.
We hope (and pray) that your ideas of what comprises true leadership will be challenged as you read through this entire issue. As always, we wish most of all to AFFIRM the great truths entrusted to the remnant church, and to do so responsibly. We are living in solemn times, and who knoweth whether we are come to center stage of the human drama for just such a time as this? (See Esther 4:14.)