“…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:20-23 [NIV]
As president of the Minnesota Conference, I often find myself reflecting on what it means to be a leader. I find this question, for which I could supply a list of prosaic responses, is not so easy to answer within the context of ministry.
It follows, logically, that if one is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church, one would believe in the doctrines and the message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. If one is a member, one is a follower of Christ. And if one is a follower of Christ, one must believe that it is our duty – no, our mandate – to make disciples of Christ. Unfortunately, we are living in a sinful world, and it is our sinful natures that encourage discord and distrust of one another and our leaders.
It is true that leaders in every field are continually bombarded with ideas, requests, reprimands, praises, contempt, disgust, and more. Yet, consider how much more difficult this is in the context of spirituality. Not only are these bombardments against the role of the person, they are also attacks against the innermost beliefs that we individually hold dear. These challenges create fissures that can spread if not treated appropriately.
In light of the changes and difficulties our country is facing – mass shootings, terrorist attacks, bombings, political and socioeconomic unrest – it is ever more important that we, as a church family, draw together and lift each other up. As Jesus prayed in John 17:22-23, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (NIV)
Satan wants to create enmity between us and the people we sit next to in the pew each Sabbath. He wishes to stir up strife between congregations, conferences and world divisions of the Church. He wants to create distractions to keep us from our mission. The enemy wants us to forget who Jesus is and why we became members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the first place.
Our solitary defense is to rely upon Christ and trust in God’s word. It is only through this effort that we may be in Him, and He in us. This is the key for unity within the church. If we are truly dependent on Jesus, and allow Him, by His Holy Spirit, to become master of our lives, there is no way for Satan to crack the Church. He cannot break us down, or break us apart. This brings us back to my question.
What does it mean to be a leader? Any leader may focus on raising profits, rallying a team, or climbing the corporate ladder. Being a Christian leader means influencing others towards Christ and helping create unity. We must draw closer to Jesus, and to each other, if we are to follow Christ’s mandate: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matt. 28:19-20 (NIV)].
Let us focus on Christ, and be unified in Him. Then, let’s make disciples. When we are making disciples, we won’t have the time to argue: we will be winning souls for eternity. As we keep our EYES on Eternity, we cannot fail. Praise God!
e-TNL Staff: Savannah B. Carlson, Director; Melisa Mauk, Website-editor
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