Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Finishing Well

   I am approaching the time in life when many of my colleagues leave the gospel ministry. The reasons for leaving the ministry are varied, with some of them being understandable and others being very sad indeed. Of course, there are some who leave the gospel ministry because of poor health, with some friends having been promoted to glory. A while back a fellow who was in school with me announced to the world that he and his wife were leaving the gospel ministry after thirty years to make a pile of money. They figured they had scrimped and gotten by on little for long enough, so it was time (they reasoned) to unburden themselves from the ministry to make some real dough. I am not quite sure how their actions fit in with Luke 14.33, but I am sure I would find their rational amusing ("So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.") Along the way, some have ended up out of the ministry after faithfully serving in small churches or as bi-vocational ministers, reaching the point where financial demands to support the family made it necessary. God bless those men who struggled to pay the bills for such a long time. They remind me of John Bunyan and the countless faithful men of God down through the centuries whose stories of sacrifice and dedication to the cause of Christ will only fully be revealed in glory.
   Others who retired from the gospel ministry have done some interesting things that seem to me to explain much of the spiritual lethargy and lack of commitment to important things seen practiced in so many church member's lives. I know one guy who pulled some shenanigans so that a large number of his church members would not be able to vote in consideration of selling the church property to a large Arminian (not Armenian!) church with denominational affiliation that was markedly different from the Baptist church he had led for years, ending up as a staff member of that church that stood for much of what he had preached against in years gone by. Needless to say, many former members have concluded that their "shepherd" betrayed them for personal financial gain to ensure for himself a good income in his old age. Another guy retired from the gospel ministry and joined a denominational Protestant church that stands for easy things and seems opposed to nothing that is difficult to take a stand for.
   Such things confuse and trouble me. I was converted as an adult and did not grow up in a Christian home. I was subsequently exposed to Baptist views and embraced those views as personal convictions and as non-optional reflections of Biblical Christianity. I do not think I could quit the ministry to make a last grab for money before it was too late. I do not think I could sell out my congregation as a way of working out a back door deal for employment in a large church to whom a land sale of my former church's property had been arranged. I do not think I could join a church in retirement that took a view of believer baptism that was contrary to the position I had espoused and defended (or should have espoused and defended) as a Baptist pastor.
   The Lord knows that I am not (who is?) completely consistent in the exercise of my beliefs. However, I will be profoundly disappointed if I do not finish well. It matters how you finish. Few will remember how well a race has been run if the finish goes poorly. By God's grace, I want to finish strong.