"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.IV No.III Pg.5
October 1941

Leadership--Human And Divine

Homer Hailey

A casual study of the history of Christianity after the days of the apostles reveals that the two things from which the Lord's religion has suffered more than any other, are human philosophies and human leadership. Human leadership inevitably leads men into human errors. The prophet Jeremiah had no doubt seen enough of human leadership to have said what he did, even if he hadn't been inspired, when he said, "O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (Jer. 10:23)

Sometimes we begin to reason: "What the church needs today is a great leader, one raised up to lead us out of the present confusion, and direct us in an aggressive campaign against our external foes." But on second thought this is the very last thing we need, for no religious movement built around human leadership has been successful in accomplishing the divine purpose. History is replete with illustrations. The great movements of the reformation, the Mormon church built around the leadership of Smith and Young, and even some modern movements within our own brotherhood.

It isn't "leadership" so much as "follow-ship" that the church needs. Jesus claimed to be the leader, when He declared Himself "the good shepherd," "the way," "the light of the world" to be followed; and announced to His disciples, if any man would come after me, let him deny himself... and follow me." It is not a leader," therefore that we need, for we have one, a divine one; but the need is for the disposition to follow where He leads.

A tendency is sometimes found today to glorify "boy preachers." Having just recently graduated from the class of "boy preachers" myself, it would be most unbecoming on my part to say anything disparagingly of them. The attitude of most of them is better than that of many of the older preachers. But when one of them is over-exalted he looks upon himself as "the leader," a modern Moses to lead the church out of Egypt and through the wilderness. In this he loses sight of his real mission, which is to point people to the Christ, the real leader. Trouble inevitably follows.

Other young preachers, and some older ones, feel that the first thing to be done when they go into a place is to "appoint elders" over the congregation. The argument is, "the church needs leaders." No, the need is not for leaders, it is for "elders." If a man is not qualified for the work of an elder, he is not what God wants in as an elder, regardless of how good a "leader" he may be. In fact, his ability to lead without the qualifications of an elder is the very point of danger. One function of an elder is to be an "ensample to the flock." He is an ensample worthy of being followed only as he follows Christ, and in his following leads others to follow Him. One who allows himself to be "appointed" without the necessary qualifications further disqualifies himself by that very thing. For in failing to respect the New Testament in the point of elder qualifications, he shows himself a poor ensample to be followed at all. It is "followers" not "leaders" that are most needed today.

Suppose we consider the challenge of sectarianism. Some of us think it would be fine if we had a good leader to guide us in the fight against these foes of truth. The fact is, we have such a leader. Jesus met the devil in debate soon after his baptism, which was not a spectacular affair before a large audience of people, but except for the possibility of heavenly on-lookers it was strictly private. Immediately afterward He began meeting the devil's children, the Pharisees, who were the sectaries of that day. He has opened the way and is leading. Christians need simply to follow the leader in carrying the attack to all sectarianism, in private discussions or with them in groups as opportunity affords. He is all the leader needed; we need to follow the example. God never left the work of "defending the faith once for all delivered unto the saints" solely for preachers and "leaders," but for all of His children.

Then there is the challenge of work, the work left to be done by the church. The cry made so often is, "We have no leaders to direct us, to tell us what to do." Why yes we have, there is the example of Christ, of whom Peter said, "Because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that ye should follow in his steps"; "who went about doing good." Every needy person whom He met, either in need of physical help or of spiritual help, was an opportunity. Every opportunity to serve was an opportunity in which to glorify His father by that service. What greater leader could one ask for than the Saviour?

It is not even a "leader" that we need to lead the church out of any difficulties and differences that arise within its own ranks, but rather the need is for a disposition on the part of all to follow the Christ, whose way is bound to lead all aright. Difficulties and differences are bound to eventually iron themselves out when the right disposition is manifested by all. Often Jesus looked upon lost humanity as "sheep having no shepherd;" a world suffering from human leadership. But this need not be true of us, for Christ is the Shepherd, and for one today to be the victim of human leadership is inexcusable.

Instead of talking "leadership" and "leaders" so much, as is being done in preacher's meetings and other similar places, let's put the emphasis on "following" for a while. No truly godly man wants to be "the leader of the church," nor does he want to "rule" it; he realizes that true greatness according to Christ's standard is to be realized in being a "servant of all." The truly great and godly is content to follow Christ, and simply insist on others following Him. It seems to me that the work of elders and preachers is not so much that of being "leaders," but it is that of instructing and guiding others to be followers of the Lord, as they themselves follow Him.

Just as surely as men learn that the need is for followers and not leaders, just that surely will the church be led in triumph from victory unto victory. Not only the church, but humanity will be led out of any chaos into which human leadership has brought it, either political, doctrinal, or moral.