FIRST-PERSON: 10 steps to finishing strong
DALLAS, Ga. (BP) -- After some 27 years as a senior pastor, at age 58, I have taken on what I hope will be my fourth and final church. By the grace of God, I've made it this far and with His help I plan to finish strong.
Based on experience, accumulated wisdom and the Spirit's guidance, here are 10 practices I will give special attention to as I head into the home stretch.
1. Shed Saul's armor (1 Samuel 17:39). Rather than fretting over another church's success and trying to emulate someone else's style, I'm going to try harder to be what God called and equipped me to be.
2. Build margin into my schedule (Psalms 46:10). As a younger minister, I felt validated by staying as busy as possible. In the years that remain, I'm going to maintain as much "white space" as possible, ready and anticipating needed refueling time and spontaneous ministry opportunities.
3. Keep in shape (1 Corinthians 6:19). I used to run -- now I walk. And I plan to continue to do so as much as my body and time will allow. This is not only good for physical conditioning, but mental health as well. I might even kill three birds with one stone by listening to books, sermons and music on my phone as I walk.
4. Stay relevant (Proverbs 29:18). I refuse to be the flip phone guy in a smart phone world. Whereas, I may not trade in my pleated pants for skinny jeans, I do plan on staying as current as possible in this ever-changing world.
5. Speak positively (Colossians 4:6). I want to spend the rest of my life in full awareness that the Lord hears and records every single word I say. Suppressing the flesh, I want to take the verbal high road, both privately and publicly. I love it when I run across older men who exude graciousness and kindness. I want to join their tribe.
6. Focus on the family (Ephesians 6:4). No grandchildren yet, but my two girls are married. My wife and I plan to make the most of moving closer to them, as well as traveling when we can.
7. Dig deeper in the Word (2 Timothy 2:15). I have spent too much time riding on the back of past study. Oh, how I long for those days when I would spend hours at a time immersed and engrossed in Scripture!
8. Empower the laity (Ephesians 2:10). Too many people in ministry are getting paid for what volunteers can do. We rob lay people of blessings when we do their jobs for them.
9. Remember the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8). If God rested on the seventh day, then I certainly should. I've spent too many seventh days doing what I did the other six. I want to fully understand, fervently teach and faithfully fulfill what it means to keep the Sabbath.
10. Evangelize intentionally (Proverbs 11:30). Few people get saved without someone initiating a contact and engaging in a conversation. I'm going to pray for the burden and be on the lookout for those God places in my path.
I truly believe my best years are ahead and not behind me. This time of transition has rattled my cage and caused me to give careful consideration to how I can end up in the winner's circle, not only in the life to come, but in this one as well.