By Arthur Vess
The purpose of this chapter is not to deliver a condemnation against all leadership; such would be unfair and ecclesiastical anarchy. No group of men desire the love, loyalty and support of all more than our true religious leaders. Such is indispensable, if they or we are to succeed. No group of men are more misunderstood and misjudged than those who must be accountable to all our people, because they are servants of all. It is our business as their followers to try to understand and co-operate with them in every possible manner and vice versa. They our leaders, must make or break our religious movements because they represent the sum total of all our prayers, influence and efforts. This being true, how all important it becomes that we exercise all our wisdom, plus that promised divine "wisdom," in the choice of our leaders, -- for their sake and ours. It is not leadership to which we object, but the wrong kind of leadership, -- "the blind leading the blind," or those who see. In fact, our loyal leaders are suffering more than others, -- from the "higher-ups and from the "lower-downs" combined. Let us love, support and defend them.
The co-operation and unity existing between our leaders and our people must be based on only one thing, namely: righteous principle. No leader has any right whatsoever to expect or claim the love and respect of his church who is not inwardly and outwardly, privately and publicly committed to the principles of that church, whether they be major or minor principles. No individual can be loyal to his church without being loyal to such consistent and consecrated leadership. No intelligent, true hearted Christian can be loyal to holy principles and support a leader who is not loyal to such holy principles. Supporting a man, program or institution blindly, -just because of personal affiliation is the most dangerous kind of support. This is too much like supporting a political candidate or party, rather than right principles. Such promotes blind loyalty and destroys intelligent, spiritual co-operation for holy principles. The Apostle Paul stated the great principle when he said, '"Follow me as I follow Christ," and no farther. Men of like holy principle have no trouble getting along together. "The Holy Ghost is the conservator of orthodoxy," because he unifies the hearts of men in holy fellowship, based on kindred minds.
Before all else, our best and only sure defense against the tide of compromise now flooding us, is the careful choice of our leaders who are to be entrusted with the enforcement of our rules and standards, in the fear of God and in love for men. This applies to the local church, conference, and denomination.
We may legislate and adopt rules, but unless we select leaders in our conferences and Denominations who will carry them out, we have wasted our time and efforts. Our pastors and churches may put forth noble efforts to defend our faith and uphold our standards, but unless our leaders strengthen encourage and defend them, they will sooner or later be led away by those "who have crept in unawares," and have smoothly misinterpreted and destroyed our standards and churches. Our evangelists may pour out their lives and shorten their years in revival efforts, with good present results, but unless our leaders back them up in their efforts, they labor in vain so far as any permanent work is concerned. Only spiritual leaders can and will back up spiritual preachers and churches. If we wear out our lives in the defense of spiritual principles, and then go to our Annual and General Conferences, and blindly select smooth diplomats as our leaders, who know how to evade our principles and hold the favor and support of our people, we have lived and labored in vain. Silence on our standards is the first and most deadly way to destroy them. Leaders who do not speak out in certain terms in defense of all our principles, are not safe leaders. Our pastors and evangelists need the bold and kindly example of fearless leaders. Truly it has been said, "Better is an army of stags led by a lion, than an army of lions led by a stag." "If the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into the ditch." The same thing happens when the blind lead the seeing.
Spiritual life and insight into character sees beyond fine manners and pleasant appearances of ecclesiastical politicians. Is it not high time for us to awake out of our sleep, and select only spiritual leaders? If our people would line up with God rather than candidates, our choices would be different in some cases.
Some years ago the fundamentalist group, in a modernistic church, mustered enough votes to pass a fundamentalist resolution. The modernistic leaders rejoined, "Let them pass their resolution, but let them remember that we have the machinery for enforcement in our own hands." Good resolutions, fine rules and laws are of little value in the hands of those who secretly oppose them. They will let them die of neglect. Our good citizens lost Prohibition because we voted the law in, and then left it in the hands of smooth politicians to enforce it. They refused to enforce it, and then cast it out because it was not enforced. Eternal vigilance is the price of constant and final victory. Only those who privately and publicly endorse good principle, can be trusted to enforce them. Those who sacrifice or smother their holy principles to get into office, will do the same to remain in office. Those who do not defend their principles every place, will not do so effectively any place.
Holiness churches by all means must select holy men and women as our leaders, whose very lives express our principles. They must be pre-eminently spiritual to enforce spiritual principles and standards in this drifting age. The time has come when many feel that spiritual men and women will do for evangelists and pastors, but that they are just a little drastic, eccentric, and out-spoken for the leaders who must mold our people and determine our destinies. "Then is the offense of the cross ceased."
We often hear, "Well, he or she is spiritual, but not a business man or woman." Why not say, "He or she is a good business executive, but not safe because not spiritual?" This sounds more sane and Christian. Unsanctified talent is the most dangerous thing facing our churches today. Those educated in inoffensive policy, rather than in holy principles, are destroying our foundations and souls. Can a person not be spiritual and have good business sense? Compromisers demand compromise leaders though they let their own families starve and their debts go unpaid. Expert financiers will never suit compromisers, though they are spiritual. Does spirituality take away a man's business integrity and intelligence?
Our leaders must be those who are frank, open, honorable and fair with all classes and individuals. Holiness will stand the open forum. Of course a leader must be careful to weigh his words and acts beforehand, but not for his own interests and defense. The Scribes and Pharisees gave Jesus a lot of trouble because they were masters of diplomacy, while he did all things in the open. An open, honorable soul has little show in battle with smooth diplomats. They will sooner or later nail him to the cross. Men who form "political rings" and smother out those who do not agree with them, are dangerous leaders. The vilest criminal has a right to be heard in our civil courts before he is punished. But what can we hope for, when our staunchest defenders of the faith are crowded out of our churches and its institutions, without being allowed to state their cases, and that of the church; while smooth traitors are crowned as innocent and dependable? In the smoothest, complimentary manner, these traitors praise their victim in order to win the confidence of his friends, so that they can use little whitewashed hints and suggestions to destroy his good influence, without letting their sincere hearers suspect their own true character, or real and vile motives. This is the nature and history of ecclesiastical diplomacy.
Our leaders must be men of vision and initiative, willing to pay the price for progress. They must not be satisfied with running the machinery without the finished product; not satisfied with holding our own. We must be determined to retake what the devil has captured and enslaved. Our leaders must inspire confidence and action. Real men want to follow those who are going somewhere. Cowardice and duplicity will never produce. They must be spiritual, intelligent and strong; know how to weigh facts unselfishly, make proper decisions and prosecute them to success. Pacifists can never win a war. Peace at any price is too expensive. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God." A spiritual leader must be loved and respected by holy men, and feared and hated by carnal, self-seekers, if he is to please God and deliver men.
A true leader must have an understanding heart and a tender spirit; but those who hate truth will not recognize him as such. He must know how to meet men of every type on their own level because he lives there. He is not what the world calls a good mixer with every crowd and solution; but must maintain his own individuality and personality.
The time has come when there are two strong groups in the holiness movement: those who hold to the Bible standards of true holiness, and those who have been neutralized by the world until they no longer want spiritual things. This makes it difficult for a true leader to maintain his convictions and position. The two crowds often make it almost imperative for one to carry water on both shoulders, and live on the fence to get or retain office. At least, he must remain agreeably silent on all controversial questions, regardless of how vital and fundamental they may be. No real man can take such a compromise attitude. We need more spiritual leaders to stand with those we do have; but how shall we secure them? It is hard to get along with God and the devil both. They have never learned to be congenial under any circumstances. Their principles contradict.
Finally, whatever we may do, let us never elect those who seek office. However "cute" they may be in their little hints, or whatever persons they may use as their tools, let them alone as most dangerous. Holy souls never seek their own but Christ's -- "Love seeketh not her own." Whatever good qualities they may have, they will use them for self and not for Christ and others. Fair, impartial men, who defend the downs and outs as well as the ups and ins, can be trusted and followed any time or place.
Above all, our leaders must be men and women of present deep piety, sound minds, holy principles, unselfish and devoted to truth and Christ; with a passion for souls, the purity of the church and the glory of God, whatever the cost in death to personal ends or interests. From the local church to the General Conferences, let us select spiritual leaders; for only spiritual leaders will gather around them spiritual people and retain our spiritual power and heritage. When the church has been led by great spiritual, evangelistic, loving, fearless, loyal defenders of true holiness, like St. Paul, Luther, Knox, Wesley, Fox, and Finney she has been a great saving power in this dark world. But when led by smooth, suave, tactful, self-seeking diplomats, the men of the world have sold the church to the world.