Ethics and church leadership
G. T. Ng serves as executive secretary of the General Conference (GC). The following message is adapted from one he delivered to the GC Executive Committee during the 2019 Annual Council meetings.–Editors.
In a few months we will be in Indianapolis, at the General Conference session. I hear a variety of questions about the purpose of a GC session.
- Is it true that God appoints, but the Nominating Committee disappoints?
- Is there such a thing as righteous ambition, or holy covetousness?
- When is it my turn to serve God in an important capacity?
- What does it take for me to get elected?
I couldn’t find a proper definition for “church election” in the dictionary, so I came up with my own. “Election in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the corporate process in which duly constituted committees of the body of Christ prayerfully select leaders to serve in position of trust as stewards for a designated term of service. At the end of the period of service, elected leaders relinquish their stewardship positions and are ready to be reassigned to other service opportunities that fulfill the mission of the church and advance the kingdom of God.”
Position is stewardship in action. The moment I sit in this chair, I am a steward of that chair, of that position, for a designated period. But if I thought I owned that position, my behavior would surely change.
In this mind-set we own the position, and the position owns us. We are defined by our position, and our self-worth is predicated on it. People tend to respect us for our position, and not necessarily for who we are. And worse, the longer we occupy the position, the more we are enamored with it.
If we change our thinking, our positions take on a new light. We are the stewards, not the owners. We are not defined by our positions, and we accept that our term of office is limited. We are ready to be reassigned if God wills it. And thus we have peace of mind. Former North American Division president Charles Bradford used to say, “If you cannot accept being elected out, you should not accept being elected in.”
“TRUE NORTH” LEADERS
The Seventh-day Adventist Church today needs “true north” leaders, because Jesus is the “True North.”
True north leaders refuse to be bought or sold. Their integrity is not for sale. Their principles are not for sale. Their leadership is not for sale. And their loyalty to God is not for sale.
In a church election, how must we vote? According to conscience, not political expediency. Work must be done transparently and without conspiracy. We must be driven by pure motives as individuals, not as part of political alliances. We must remember to be faithful servants and not curry favors for another term.
And when we vote, we take care to evaluate qualifications. We need to be content and refuse covetousness, looking to the True North, Jesus Christ, who empowers us to resist being bought or sold. If our terms are to end, we then relinquish them with grace, keeping the words “It is well with my soul” at the forefront of our minds.
That should be our commitment as leaders of this church.