Q: A 27-year-old man has served as a spiritual leader in the youth department for several years. He grew up in the church but still isn’t baptized. He says that he’s decided to be baptized, just not now. His influence has reached a point where it can either be positive or a big stumbling block to the young people who plan to commit their lives to Jesus in baptism. What should we do? — Moses, from the Solomon Islands
A: Those who are entrusted with the responsibility of being youth leaders are given a very important, sacred responsibility in guiding young people into a saving, life-long relationship with Jesus, and to encourage them to be a part of His mission in reaching others for Him.
If a supposed “spiritual leader” hasn’t yet made a public confession of his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior through baptism, how can he serve as a role model and lead others to spiritual commitment?
The “Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual” has this to say regarding the choice of leaders (including departmental and Sabbath School leaders):
“Choosing quality officers is important for the prosperity of the church, which should exercise the greatest care when calling men and women into positions of sacred responsibility” (p. 69).
Specifically referring to Adventist Youth Ministries (AYM), it states:
“Under the AYM, youth are to work together, in cooperation with the wider church community, towards the development of a strong youth ministry that includes spiritual, mental, and physical development of each individual, Christian social interaction, and an active witnessing program that supports the general soul-winning plans of the church.
“The goal of AYM should be to involve all youth in activities that will lead them to active church membership and train them for Christian service” (p. 104).
So, if the leader himself is not a church member (having not yet been baptized), how can he encourage others to be baptized and become active church members?
While we cannot judge why this person has not yet decided to be baptized, we do know that he is not eligible to serve in any leadership position in the church until he decides to be baptized and becomes a member.
The “Church Manual” is very clear about who can serve as church leaders, saying, “Members in regular standing are eligible for election to leadership positions in the church where they hold membership” (p. 71).