Respecting Leaders Without Being Blind Loyalists
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Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson states, “In some cultures, there is a tendency to distrust and challenge leadership; in others, to blindly submit to it. How has your own culture’s attitude toward authority impacted the church in your area?”

In an interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon, a former United States President, forced to resign due to a scandal, defended himself by saying, “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” This bold statement shocked David Frost, and every other competent thinker! I suspect that in the United States, people really started to question their leaders after Nixon’s downfall.

I believe we keep a healthy balance of respect for leadership, without blind submission, when we ask for accountability and checks and balances. In the United States we have a constitution the President must hold to. The Constitution also declares who ultimately has the authority. It reads, “We the people.” Not “me the President” or “me Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama.” The power and authority of the Constitution comes from “The People!” Therefore our president is not above the law.

In the church we have the Scriptures as our sole authority, and our leaders must be held accountable. And the church as a body has authority, ”God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.” –Last Day Events, p. 56. Just as in the United States, the President is not above the people, the church leaders are not above the church.

“The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. …. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” The Lord “is the Rock, His work is perfect.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 2:12.- Desire of Ages, Page 414.

Many years ago, I heard the testimony of a church leader, defending himself for some shady deals, saying his boss told him to do it, therefore he had no choice but to obey his boss who had “authority.” I am sure Joab was thinking the same thing when King David told him to put Uriah on the front lines of the war. Please read what God’s messenger has to say about Joab’s rationale.

“And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it. David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1. –Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 719.

Martin Luther before Emperor Image © Providence Collection from GoodSalt.com


We need to be respectful of authority, but we need to remember where authority ultimately comes from. And while respecting those in leadership, and even being in leadership, we must remember we are accountable to the Scriptures and God’s church, of which Christ is the Head. Even Martin Luther, the author of the Protestant Reformation, tried his best to be respectful of the leaders of his church. It was not his goal to start a new church, much less a movement that would change the globe. He sought to bring his leaders into harmony with the Scriptures, and it is only after his efforts to work within his church failed, that he had to make a choice between allegiance to God or allegiance to his leaders. Martin Luther was loyal to the only One who loved him enough to create him and die for him. Likewise we should make every effort to submit to our leaders as far as we can without being disloyal to the One who died for us.

I would also like to share a parting thought. In my years of gospel work around the country, I have met people who are afraid to speak up in board meetings or church business meetings, because they feel they are too young or poor, and their influence would not be felt. I have also observed people abusing their age or money to hurt others. I would like to encourage all—no matter how young, old, rich or poor you are—you need to speak your mind in these meetings. And, no matter how young, old rich or poor you are, you need to be nice when you do. Everyone has a right and a responsibility to speak, and everyone has a responsibility to be nice when they do so.

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Respecting Leaders Without Being Blind Loyalists — 17 Comments

  1. Very well said. Thank you. Truly God is our Supreme Leader, who have the ultimate authority in everything. We must help, respect, and love our leaders. But when we see them violating the very teachings they ought to obey, when we are very sure their leadership is not showing a good example to follow, that is, their ways are directly contrary to the will of God and the teaching of Jesus Christ – then we must, in earnest prayer, respect and love reach them and let them know where they fell. The Bible said that we are our brother’s keeper, and since our leaders are just our fellow brothers/sisters, we must do so with love and Godly.

  2. Thanks for that article. I, for one, don’t relish reproving leaders but this issue has brought many people forward who may not usually speak out.
    I believe leaders are worthy of extra support and encouragement, and they are also tasked with greater responsibility to do what’s right. I cannot see anything right in the SDA Church enforcing Sunday in Samoa or anywhere else.

    • The issue of the Sabbath dilemma in Western Samoa is irrelevant to the Sabbath School lesson. The opposing party posesses the spirit of independant & the spirit of separation that it hilights the true darkness they have. We must surrender all our human intelligence to the controll of the Holy Spirit in order for us to see the revealed Will of God. You will continue down that slippery slope as long as you preserve those selfish ideas. May the Spirit of God mercifully make a way to humble the perplexed heart.

      • Dear Asoleiuga,

        I agree with you that “We must surrender all our human intelligence to the controll of the Holy Spirit in order for us to see the revealed Will of God.”

        However, may I respectfully suggest that which day is the Sabbath is of supreme relevance to any “Sabbath School” lesson.

        The question at the end of Sunday’s lesson asks, “In some cultures, there is a tendency to distrust and challenge leadership; in others, to blindly submit to it. How has your own culture’s attitude toward authority impacted the church in your area?”

        William’s post focuses on this question, and it is also an issue underlying the Samoan Sabbath dilemma–whose voice do believers follow? Must they do what the leaders say, giving blind loyalty, irrespective of what they feel in their hearts to be right? Must they do what leaders say, even when the reasons leaders give do not hold up under close scrutiny?

        Christ has promised to give the Holy Spirit to all believers, not just to leaders. And we must claim that promise as we seek to do what is right.

        Is it possible that leaders may be in rebellion against the Holy Spirit?

        • Why is it so difficult for you to see that the 7th day is now call sunday in western samoa calendar. The 7th day is still in plain view and is un altered by this change. If you can’t figure that out by now, than you are blinded by your self reliances. Only by true repentance that will open your spiritual blindness.

          • Dear Asoleiuga,

            I too am having great difficulty in seeing the emperor’s new clothes. Your idea, that the “unaltered” 7th day is now called Sunday, only seems to make sense from the narrowest of perspectives. As soon as one broadens his view to look outside of little Samoa, the whole idea falls apart.

            I must ask you this: If you cannot sustain your arguments from the facts of the Bible, science, and history, then how can you be so sure about the spiritual condition of those who do not agree with your opinion? Church leaders have been wrong before. If this were not the case, then shouldn’t we all be Roman Catholics?

          • Dear Asoleiuga Faatiu ILaoa,

            Thank you for your comments about the “7th-Day in plain view and unaltered by this change.” May I ask you, if the 7th-Day is unchanged, why would Sunday now be the Sabbath day when it has always been Saturday? May I also ask you, where in God’s Word does it state that the 7th-Day Sabbath was changed to the 1st-day of the week, Sunday?

            In regard to the universal calendar, may I ask you why the Samoan Seventh-Day Adventist Church worship on Sunday 16th September when the rest of the global church worship on Saturday 15th September? The Samoa government uses the global calendar, but the Samoa Tokelau Mission leadership chooses to use their own calendar and enforce Sunday worship as the 7th-Day Sabbath; why is this? Based on God’s Word, where is their authority to do this?

            I would be very appreciative of your sharing your view in response to the questions posed above.

            God’s rich blessings, Ulalei

          • Malo lava Asoleiuga Faatiu Ilaoa:
            We can continue to discuss this issue regarding the Sabbath dilemma in Samoa until we turn blue in the face, people will believe what they want to believe period. There are two groups here, those that supports the Samoa Mission and those that don’t. I have read all the comments and papers written by some of the great writers and researchers in the SDA church about the sabbath change in Samoa. People have a choice to decide for themselves which group to follow and that is what is happening in Samoa. The freedom to decide for your self is a gift from God. We need to respect peoples choice and pray for one another. I support the Samoa Mission on the issue. The sabbath basically is the same, the name of the day change. Gods Sabbath is on the 7TH Day and it will never change. Please stand firm in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus is coming soon. Alofa atu mo outou uma.

          • Dear Sister Esther,

            Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Since this is a discussion forum, would you mind if I test and examine a few of your ideas?

            You wrote:
            “We can continue to discuss this issue regarding the Sabbath dilemma in Samoa until we turn blue in the face, people will believe what they want to believe period.”

            This is true, of course, but would you also say that it is of no consequence what we choose to believe? The Sabbath being from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset is one of our fundamental beliefs as Seventh-day Adventists, solidly founded on the Scriptures. Can we allow people to believe – and to teach – whatever they please, and still call themselves Seventh-day Adventists?

            You wrote further:
            “There are two groups here, those that supports the Samoa Mission and those that don’t.”

            I think it could be more accurately said that some support the position taken by the mission leaders, and some don’t. This might encourage readers to examine that position in order to see whether or not it is correct.

            In support of that position, you wrote:
            “The sabbath basically is the same, the name of the day change. Gods Sabbath is on the 7TH Day and it will never change.”

            If you will look up, in the dictionary, the names for the days of the week, you will see that numbers are implied. This is also supported by the statement from Samoa’s government that Sunday is still the 1st day of the week in Samoa. They had no intention of changing the names of the days of the week.

            In other words, supporting the position of the mission leaders means contradicting the stated intent of those who actually made the change in Samoa. So the burden of proof is on you to show why the Samoa government is wrong or mistaken.

            Of course, you would not be the first to attempt this. In my view, the others have not succeeded very well. People are free to choose their beliefs, but on the other hand, there is still truth and there is still error.

            I do not wish to intrude on your freedom to believe as you wish. Nevertheless, I will remind you that the same God who thus made us free will someday call each one of us to give an account of himself or herself.

            For God will bring every work into judgment,
            Including every secret thing,
            Whether good or evil.

            Ecclesiastes 12:14 NKJV

          • Dear Jay and Esther
            Some questions for you my learned friends. Do you both acknowledge and agree that Samoa made a change with the IDL in 1892? If so, then with what we have all discovered, Samoa for the last 100+ years were unknowingly worshipping on a Saturday, which by your reckoning and application of an unbroken 7 day cycle, the STM calendar would then read Saturday as the first day of the week and Friday the 7th day. Note, STM calendar, because Samoa on both occasions (1892 & 2011)have not altered the calendar, all that occurred was a switch of the timeline. Now think about this one? If for some reason that Samoa, next week, changed back to how it was before 2011, and now,with the knowledge and facts that both you Jay, and Esther,have studied,what day would both of you consider to be the 7th day? Would it be a Friday or a Saturday? Do the math! It really is quite simple?

            2 Timothy 2:7
            7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
            1 Corinthians 14:33
            When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches—no exceptions.
            1 John 4:1
            My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.

            We will continue to pray for all concerned, especially our leaders in the Pacific, who appear to have abandoned the ‘one sheep’ Jesus speaks of in Luke 15 that needs finding. Problem is, that one sheep is not ‘lost’….
            leiataua tavita

  3. I am concerned with the lack of openness on the part of many of our leaders. Is there a plan to keep the membership in the dark about their duty in these matters?

  4. Thank you, William, for reminding us that Christ is the ultimate head of the church on earth, and not any man at any level of the church structure.

    Thus our first loyalty must be to Christ, since we–lay people, pastors, conference union and General Conference leaders–are all fellow laborers in His vineyard. We just play different roles, as Paul so aptly illustrated by comparing the body of Christ’s church to a literal body. (Rom 12:3-7)

    Christ has promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the believers into “all truth” (John 16:13), and that promise is not made to pastors alone. It is made to all believers.

    Thus, when leaders give instructions that don’t seem quite right, we need to take the matter to God in prayer, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us “into all truth,” claiming the promise of Jesus that He will do so. Then loyalty to God demands that we follow where the Spirit leads, in harmony with His revealed will in Scriptures, even when leaders want to lead in a different direction.

    History–both in the Bible and since that time–has demonstrated that leaders, even in God’s church, are not always right. And it is dangerous to follow a leader who is wrong.

    At the same time, we need to respect leaders and make their lives easier. If they are good leaders, they will follow the example of Christ and be servant leaders.

  5. Thanks to William for a well-written, timely, and insightful article. So then, how do we apply these principles specifically to the matter of the Sabbath in Samoa?

    “The powers that be are ordained of God, but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law.”

    Has the Samoa government asked anyone to do anything contrary to God’s law? Certainly not! Their choice of an orientation, relative to the date line, is well within their legitimate secular sphere of authority. Nor have they told anyone when to observe the Sabbath. Any effect that their decision may have had on anyone’s Sabbath keeping is purely incidental. Therefore, those Christians who are in Samoa are under a moral obligation to respect the civil authority, as ordained by God, by recognising Samoa’s new position relative to the International Date Line.

    What about our Seventh-day Adventist church leaders in the South Pacific region? Have they asked our members in Samoa to transgress God’s law in any way? I believe that they certainly have. As I see it, the choice of Sunday — which is still the 1st day of the week, no matter what rationale may have been proposed to the contrary — as a “sabbath” is a clear violation of the 4th Commandment.

  6. Arrogance and selfish motives clouds any respect in open discussion on issues of importance. I must point this towards those who aspire to promote their own agenda without due respect to the leaders. God will indeed reward or punish leaders when they err. So why should we try to judge now? Let the supreme judge have His final say at His own time. It is not our flawed judgment that should even be considered on this issue of Sabbath.

    • Dear Fia MS Feossoani,

      Thank you for your kind insight and I totally agree with your point about being judgmental about others, whether they represent leadership of not. At the end of this life, we ALL will come on bended knee before God and He alone will reward us according to our faithfulness or lack of it.

      In regard to the Samoan 7th-Day Sabbath issue, I have just completed watching the following 5-part video series about the 7th-Day Sabbath. What a fascinating history of the 7th-Day from God’s creation up until the modern day! It left me feeling inadequate to say the least but more importantly, absolutely committed as a Seventh-Day Adventist, of His 7th-Day Sabbath, Saturday. I do not personally condemn our leadership, but the South Pacific Division, Samoa Tokelau Mission and Trans Pacific Union Mission condoning of the 1st-day of the week, Sunday, as the 7th-Day Sabbath in Samoa is wrong, because nowhere in God’s Word does it teach this. Whether a leader or a lay-person, no one is above reproof.

      Should we not voice our opinion in a transparent and forthright manner about such issues that affect many of our families and loved ones, as it is a Salvation issue? Provided we seek the leading of the Holy Spirit and continue to agitate in a loving and constructive manner, I believe it is our duty to so.

      I, like many of us, continue to pray for the Holy Spirit’s divine intervention and leading on this issue, for reunification of our Church in Samoa, worshiping God as He has taught according to His Scripture. I hope you find insight and enjoyment watching this series that is also accessible directly from this site.

      God’s rich blessing, Ulalei

      http://vimeo.com/channels/the7thday/35470773 & http://www.theseventhday.tv

  7. Thanks everyone for your input and comments. Please keep in mind that while some may see principles in my post which they are convicted apply to the issue in Samoa, that I did not have Samoa in mind when writing this, but was just writing in general. I will let the Holy Spirit take it from there and let everyone be convicted themselves on what specific things in their life this post relates to.

  8. Here is the official government position in Samoa. I asked them the following question (excuse my typo in the first sentence):

    Hello from New Zealand,

    I have been wondering, since the dateline was redrawn around Samoa, which day is the official sequence of days in the week. There seems to be some disagreement over which is the first and seventh day of the week.

    Could you please let me know what the government’s official position is on this question? If not, could you please direct me to the correct department official?

    Thanks

    John Wallace

    Whangarei, NZ

    The REPLY:

    Talofa Mr Wallace,

    Thank you for your email.

    There has been no change in the first day of the week for Samoa, it remains at Sunday.

    I have attached a copy of the notice from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (MCIL) advising the change in time, quoting the International Dateline Act 2011 which came in to effect last year.

    I hope this answers your query,

    Kind Regards

    Renate Rivers

    Deputy Press Secretary

    Press Secretariat Office
    Government of the Independent State of Samoa

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