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Discipling Spiritual Leaders


"Discipling Spiritual Leaders"

March 15, 2014


This week’s lesson is one that forced me to stop and think.  My issue was I could not see a clear 1888 connection to the topic.  How do we produce Sabbath School Insights highlighting the connection with the 1888 message if there is no apparent connection?   Once again I was stumped and regretting the fact that I had accepted this assignment.  But when we are stumped and realize that the work is beyond our ability, we know what to do.  Pray.

So after reading through the lesson twice and seeing no connection to 1888, I spent some time earnestly petitioning heaven for “insight.”  And the Lord has promised, “If we ask for bread, He will not give us a stone.”  So when the insight came I was astonished as to how I had missed the connection before.  Then I recalled that we are “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).  At least I realized anew that this description fits me perfectly.

When you think of great leadership who comes to mind?  We have all probably known or observed great leaders.  Unfortunately, we have probably also seen poor leadership at work as well.  What makes a good leader?  It has been said, “You are not ready to lead, until you know how to follow.”  The apostle Paul is quoted as saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”  He was qualified to lead by his inclination to follow.

A good leader is one who has learned how to follow Christ.  In fact one of the principle jobs of a leader is to model the art of following Christ.  And anyone who does not know how to follow Christ is, in fact, unfit to lead.  Christ was a learner, a follower, and an example.  Thus, He is the consummate leader, teacher, and guide.  He learned from his Father and that which He learned He imparted to others.

He was a master teacher who was both Master and Teacher.  True leaders, who follow Christ, may also have the privilege of becoming master teachers, if they learn from Christ and model His leadership.  The greatest failures occur when leaders focus on becoming Masters instead of modeling the servant/leadership of Christ.  This is what some of the early Seventh-day Adventists leaders failed to do.  They ceased to look to God and began to look to man, expecting much from man (E. G. White, 1888 Materials, 1338.1).  And this shift of their focus precipitated the greatest crisis the church has ever seen.

In 1888, as unlikely as it may seem, the remnant church held one of the most important general conference sessions that has ever occurred.  There were only about 90 delegates present to represent the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist church.  But something astounding happened at that small apparently insignificant gathering.  The “latter rain” began to fall and the “loud cry” started.  This is not merely my opinion we have good authority for this concept:

“The time of test is just upon us, for the loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer”--1SM 363 (1892).

Note, in 1892 “the loud cry of the third angel” had “already begun.” If this is true, the “latter rain” must have begun, for it is the “latter rain” that swells the voice of the third angel into a “loud cry.”

“At that time the ‘latter rain,’ or refreshing from the presence of the Lord, will come, to give power to the loud voice of the third angel” (E. G. White, Early Writings, 85).

This is what was happening right before the eyes of the assembled delegates.  The Lord in His great mercy sent two young ministers with a “most precious message.”  It was the message of Christ’s righteousness.  And the servant of the Lord said,

“When Brother Waggoner brought out these ideas in Minneapolis, it was the first clear teaching on this subject from any human lips I had heard, excepting the conversations between myself and my husband . . . And when another presented it, every fiber of my heart said, Amen” (E. G. White, Sermon, Rome, New York, June 19, 1889).

Unfortunately this “most precious message” proved highly controversial.  There had been difficulties in the experience of the Seventh-day Adventist church before.  But nothing had ever happened like what happened in 1888.  For the first time, there was a rebellion like none that had transpired before.  It was not the general people, the church members who rebelled, it was completely unprecedented.  Satan got a hold of the leaders and there was a general revolt.

The situation became so terrible the prophet wanted to leave the conference.  She would later write:

“When I purposed to leave Minneapolis, the angel of the Lord stood by me and said: ‘Not so; God has a work for you to do in this place. The people are acting over the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. I have placed you in your proper position, which those who are not in the light will not acknowledge; they will not heed your testimony; but I will be with you; My grace and power shall sustain you. It is not you they are despising, but the messengers and the message I send to My people’” (E.G. White, 1888 Materials, 1069).

Imagine a situation so terrible, the prophet felt there was nothing better to do than to leave.  And then the angel of the Lord informed her that the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram was being reenacted.  And this amazing resistance persisted for years following 1888.  It would be called the “saddest chapter in the history of the believers in present truth” (E. G. White, Letter 179, 1902).  It nearly broke her heart.  In fact she would write:

“I have asked the Lord for wisdom daily, and that I may not be utterly disheartened, and go down to the grave broken-hearted, as did my husband” (E. G. White, 1888 Materials, 664).

Notice, it was not a failure of the people that produced the catastrophe in 1888.  It was an utterly unprecedented rebellion on the part of the leadership that led to the catastrophe in 1888.   Godly leadership is so very important.  We can hardly overstate the significance and importance of consecrated leaders who know how to follow Christ.

- K. Mark Duncan