Greetings Again Fellow Ministers:
We had a very fine two-day meeting with the ministers and wives in Burk McNair's area in the Central Eastern region. Our meetings were held in an isolated mountainous area near Boone, North Carolina. Accommodations and facilities were not the "Ritz" to make an understatement, but they were adequate at relatively low cost to provide for a fine get-together. Ken Smylie did a fine job in making arrangements and we appreciate his efforts.
Both Doris and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to spend some time with you who were present in casual and relaxing circumstances.
On Sabbath, November 18th, we visited the Charlotte, N.C. Church and appreciated the opportunity to meet a few more of our brethren. Mr. and Mrs. Burk McNair (Burk and Suzie to us — and very dear friends) and their son Mark were exceptionally gracious and kind to us making us very welcome guests in their home.
Now to a subject very much on my mind and I believe extremely important to all of us.
Recently I have been accused of being a "soft and weak" administrator. My leadership of the ministry has been labeled as indecisive, weak, without firmness, not specific enough, not direct enough.
In this Pastor's Report it is not my purpose to react to such accusations, misinformed statements, silly allegations or whatever they might be labeled. Rather, I would like to devote the space to discussing what I believe is strength in leadership and management of people and processes as opposed to weaknesses.
To be a "strong" leader, is it really necessary to be militant, abrupt, aloof, autocratic, authoritarian and opinionated? Is it always necessary to convey by either words or actions very clearly "who's in charge"? Is it necessary to look on the negative side, search first of all for the trouble, the problems because it is certain, in the person's mind, that they are indeed there. Why should any feel that such behavior is "STRENGTH"?
This concept runs parallel to the notion of many about what constitutes "strong meat" in sermons, Bible Studies or classroom lectures. To many people "strong meat" is often associated with volume — how loud the speaker shouts — and/or along with the volume, the use of exhortive, corrective, admonishing words that generally convey to the hearer the reaction that he is being rebuked, corrected, disciplined, kicked in the seat of the pants or bawled out good and proper. Generally this kind of mentality or attitude is coupled with a very clear delineation of "who's in charge" and who is 'under authority."
Frankly, I categorically reject both these concepts. Oh, to be sure, there is a place and time for firmness, for discipline, for precipitous and sudden action or reaction, for rebuke and correction — even at times for rebuke before others in a peer group or association to serve as an example for all. Yes, as every minister should know there is a time for volume, strong words, controlled emotional speaking and gesticulating. However, to equate obstinate, autocratic behavior or volume and rebuke as the principle elements of strength in leadership or strong meat in preaching is patently ludicrous.
I, and I'm sure you, have heard sermons that left your head aching and your mind reeling due to the loud, intense, driving exhortive nature of the delivery. Comments were probably even heard from sincere, well-meaning, loyal and teachable listeners about how valuable, how strong, how meaty the sermon was. But, when the content of the message was noted, isolated from the bluster and the volume, precious little of any lasting substance was said.
Wouldn't a sermon of substance, well-organized and developed, bringing out one salient point after another dealing with, for example, some aspect of Christ's ministry, the meaning of the Gospel, the destiny and purpose of man, the spirit of man, the meaning and application of God's law, or many, many other poignant subjects, with controlled volume, fitting and subdued gestures and animation, encouraging, uplifting and motivating comments inspiring the hearers, be much "stronger meat"?
As an experienced speaker I know I am able, if I wish, to choose just the right words, say them a particular way and draw dramatic, immediate response, probably ovation, yet I know that I may not have given any "strong meat" — I may not have given any "weak meat" either-! didn't give any meat at all but rather dished out a good "helping" of pablum which to my adult taste is revolting, thoroughly unsatisfying "mush."
Mr. Herbert Armstrong has always set an outstanding example of effective speaking. To be sure he can speak with power, volume and correction, but also he can and generally does speak with emphasis on substance and content while at the same time saying it like he means it.
Back to strength of leadership and management. If I felt I had to rely on authority — "do you know who's in charge around here" inferences, firm, incisive and rigid control — to be a manager then I believe I would be an abject failure in my biblical and Christian responsibility as given by Jesus Christ.
If one wishes to have a good guide on how to work with, interrelate to, motivate, lead, organize and manage others, I believe there is none better than Galatians 5:22, 23 which movingly describes the fruits of God's Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God's Son, our Savior, and our example was the only person to live a perfect human existence. Whatever He did in whatever capacity was proper and right. He understood the mind of man. He knew what the effect of His words, actions, reactions, directions, corrections, rebukes, etc. would have on those He was addressing. He conducted Himself accordingly at all times. Christ knew the enormous value of a major concept that Mr. Herbert Armstrong has repeatedly drummed into the heads of us ministers. Mr. Armstrong has often said that there is nothing much worse than to demoralize, take the heart out of, beat down, make to feel like a whipped dog, utterly discourage and make to feel totally useless — a 100% total failure — another fellow human being.
Jesus Christ knew this truth and without any doubt practiced it. While He did not condone wrong, did not attempt to make the enormity of sin and rebellion any less enormous, He did always understand the circumstances, causative factors, humanness and weakness of fleshly man, and dealt with those around him in perfect love.
I once heard that a man corrected a group of students at Ambassador College so sternly, with such rebuke and with such effective and cutting words that one student literally "wet" himself while standing there at near attention. A minister who would do this might walk away feeling "that showed'em!", "I guess they'll remember that chewing out," he might feel rather proud of his strength and position of authority. Frankly, I feel that action was abominable, cheap and the epitome of weakness in not knowing how to deal with fellowmen.
When Jesus saw the desecration of the Temple — God's House — He went storming in and corrected the contemptible disrespect being perpetrated against His Father in heaven. Firmness was called for and firmness was the way He dealt with the problem.
When a woman actually caught in the very act of adultery was brought before Jesus, He perceived the need for a different kind of approach and He dealt with her that way. He was gentle, acted with compassion and yet did not condone nor make less the sin. I have often wondered what some of our ministers might have done in a circumstance similar to this. I believe I can see and hear some giving "strong rebuke" in an overzealous, indignant attitude, even disfellowshiping her for at least a few months, perhaps even demanding the lady to go into details describing the number of offenses, the methods, the names of the partners, perhaps even "casting the first stone," etc.
Personally, I think Jesus' attitude and actions are a perfect model. He knew what was needed, He was loving, tolerant, considerate yet gently corrective. If Jesus was "soft and weak" in His attitude here — then let me be as weak as He was! It is easy to be militant in dealing with human relationships.
It takes no special concern, nature or talent to lash out, act like the big boss, rule in tyranny, always "see " clearly in "one's own eyes and understanding" and act accordingly in giving direction and making decisions.
But, it does take something special, something different, another nature — it takes the Holy Spirit of God to guide, control, lead, rule, set an example for, be patient with, believe the best of and gently nurture and help to motivate in the right direction those we work with who also are God's heirs and potential sons and daughters in His Kingdom.
I believe I have just as much "righteous indignation" as anyone in this Church toward rebellion against our GREAT GOD, defiance against His awesome power and authority, disdain and criticism directed against His Church, open disobedience and misconduct that brings shame on both the person and the Work at large.
But, when dealing with those guilty of such things and more, I also want to be very sure that I try to understand the "whys," the causes, and then work to restore such people to a repentant and subservient relationship with God. If after counsel, correction and rebuke, as necessary, the only course left is removal by disfellowship, publicly "noting," making an example of the case before others, then that is the way it must be and will be! However, such action, God willing and with His help, will always be motivated by love and the hope that it will produce change, and not motivated by intolerance or the desire to "rule in authority." And let me assure you that I will not be pressured and intimidated to act and react in a way that I strongly believe is unChristian just because others may attack and criticize!
Frank Tarkenton (the famous NFL Quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings) wrote in a magazine recently that the first of three all-important motivational factors in successful management which he had learned by observation and experience was the proper example set by the motivator, or by superiors. The second factor is giving proper direction and objective, and the third is to follow up with the appropriate consequence whether it be recognition, praise, reward or whatever.
Is this counsel not thoroughly consistent with God's biblical instruction and wisdom? Yes, of course it is.
The ministry at all levels is to first of all be an example. We are to supply direction by example as well as teaching. And obviously we all need incentive that results from recognition, compliments, and proper recompense. We are to "rule" in the Church of God. But, never as lords, drivers, taskmasters, dictators, tyrants, reveling in our positions of authority and power. Christ said this was the way of the Gentiles.
As the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians, which would you rather see and experience, the spirit of meekness or the wielding of the big stick? I would rather serve in love, meekness, patience, tolerance, mercy, gentleness, and with hope coupled with faith that in so doing we will see more inspiring and encouraging results.
I would rather be strong in my love for Christ, my compassion and understanding toward my fellowman and firm in my resolve to keep the Body of Christ as spotless and blameless as possible, than to worry whether or not "people know who I am!"
In sincere efforts to assist Mr. Armstrong in bringing unity, support for one another and a spirit of cooperation to the team assisting and supporting Mr. Armstrong at Headquarters, just a couple of weeks ago I called all the top ministers in Pasadena together for a meeting so we could get feelings and criticisms toward each other out and on t op of the table. We talked for well over three hours. We felt some progress was made. But more progress needs to be made.
But, fellow ministers, with all the firmness and strength necessary, I am going to do whatever is called for to help rebuild the attitude and conduct that contributes to and makes possible unity, accord, mutual esteem and respect for one another that results in an efficient, successful, winning team!
Mr. Armstrong has stated the policy and given the direction. He has delegated the responsibility for implementation and performance to others of us. I have no intentions of failing to do my part whatever it maybe or whatever may be required.
I believe with all my being that the majority of you understand and appreciate this approach. The Feast of Tabernacles that we observed, leaving us all with such a resounding belief in the overall strength and unity of God's Church, is a very clear indication that the approach being taken is being blessed.
On closing, let me say again as I have rather frequently in recent months, we all at some time in our past "sold everything, gave all, even surrendered our own lives and self-will to buy the 'pearl of great price!'" That pearl encompasses all there is in God's great, equitable and just plan for all mankind. What, now, is worth selling it for? Does it have ANY price?
It is up to each one of us to put into practice the concepts in this letter. We can work together and we can overcome all obstacles if we want to deeply enough and ask God for both His forgiveness and His help!
— C. Wayne Cole