Leaders Finish Well
written by Reginald Smith, Director of Diversity
In the summer of 2015, I was tired and angry at my church. I led a congregation on the southwest side of Grand Rapids for twenty years and things were not going well. People were leaving, finances were rapidly decreasing every Sunday, and I wanted to bail out as fast as I could. I started looking for other opportunities because I didn’t want to be caught without a parachute for my family and me.
In a dream, I wrestled with the Lord to deliver me from this difficult situation and land me in a church flowing with milk and honey. If Jesus could grant me this request, I would be forever grateful. The Lord listened to me with great care for my distress. Then Jesus spoke words that angered and shocked me and forced me to practice what I’d preached for years. He told me my work was not done.
The Lord told me my work was not finished until I had conducted the final service of my church. Only then would the Lord open another door. That was another three months of living in limbo about my future. I woke up even more angered and bewildered that I had to stay when everyone else was free to leave. Little had I realized how differently leaders leave a situation than how they entered.
Jesus finished the work the Father gave him in order to make something out of us. When his friends rejected him to save their own necks, he set his face like flint to finish the work of salvation. When he searched for another way in the garden of blood, he meant with every fiber of his being that fulfilling God’s will was better than doing his own will.
I learned in my argument with Jesus that finishing his work didn’t make it easier or more convenient, it meant actually living by faith and stepping into the mystery that he has the whole world (even me) in his hands.
The day after the final service, the real estate agent came into the church office with a shocked look on his face. With my administrator, he shared that an offer had been made on the church and its properties for the price the council issued to him. By God’s grace, the council provided enough funds until the Lord opened up the next position for me. The Lord forced me to finish well when I really wanted to abandon everything to save my own neck.
What role or work does the Lord want you to finish well? We are remembered more by how we finish than by how we started.