God provided a picture of my final chapter of ministry more than thirty years ago. From the first day at Woodland Baptist Church in 1980 until this very moment he has given me a special affinity for pastors and others in kingdom service. As a result, the idea of finishperiod.com has been taking shape for a long time. So, retirement didn't involve a retreat from ministry or a loss of passion. It has been a new mission field in expressing what has been a long felt calling. The learning curve has been a sharp incline.
finishperiod.com is a small platform. The office is a converted bedroom in our condominium. There's no research department, nor are there research assistants or interns, vice-presidents, trustees, consultants, or an executive washroom. The mission statement is a portion of a Bible verse:
"...his spirit has been refreshed by you..."
2 Corinthians 7:13, ESV
To encourage or lift one pastor, church staffer, or other kingdom servant experiencing the rigors of ministry has been the goal of this new chapter from the start.
Logistics in this new chapter has involved discovering reliable sources of information to fuel and apply this passion. Mountains of statistical research is available at the click of the search engines in my data processing department, one single MacBook Air. The accountant in me likes the numbers and is super-charged to interpret them in biblically accurate ways. However, in recent months much of this information, especially facts and studies about pastoral attitudes and emotions, has been discounted. In some instances much of the data has been labeled as false, myth, or urban legend, as if the studies and work of the agencies gathering and reporting them was mere senstionalism.
So, there's the element of confusion for people like me, deficient in the metrics of accurate research and desirous of facts to support a simple mission statement. Targeting specific numbers, like the number of pastors leaving the ministry every month, or the number of marriages affected by the demands of local churches, or the number of pastors who would leave ministry today if they had another viable career opportunity, has become increasingly difficult. In the past I've used many of those statistics as guides for a daily blog, and the recent publication of Finish. Period. Going the Distance in Ministry, a book with the intended purpose of encouraging the pastor cohort and the colleagues in ministry serving in tough places. Now, they are under dispute and there are no new statistics to replace them. And, of course, if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. So, I'm fine-tuning some of my objectives and have made several decisions to keep the mission of encouraging and refreshing dear brothers and sisters in focus.
1. The only number that really matters is that one in need of encouragement. So,
my aim will be to that one experiencing the extremes of ministry difficulty.
2. Some of the research of reliable organizations is dated and my reference to
them must make that fact apparent. It is mostly the result of sincere efforts
to support those in ministry. None that I have encountered is false or intended
to discourage anyone.
3. Even if I adjust most of the statistics downward by 50%, the numbers about
pastoral and ministerial tenure, the number of servants leaving the ministry
every month, and the human wreckage of some ministry families is alarming,
and therefore unacceptable to me. Even lower numbers should elicit some
response from us.
4. As before, I will continue to exercise due diligence in verifying statistical data
that is reported @ finishperiod.com.
5. finishperiod.com will continue to provide assistance, counsel, and support to
those seeking to clarify their call to church ministry, identify life, mission, and
passion statements, deal with the complex issues of staff and mission
organization, and other critical ministry mechanics at no charge or fee.
We can juggle numbers and quibble about research methods, response bias, halo effects, how to ask and answer survey questions, and how to interpret data. Even with an accounting background and time in bank marketing I'm a slacker with the stats. But, I know many pastors and church leaders who have lost heart. We cannot lose sight of them in all of our maneuvering.
And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for
all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:28, ESV
Later he added, when talking about the thorn in the flesh given to him to keep him humble, the words spoken to him by the Lord---
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV
That's the real word of encouragement to that one minister or servant facing that same pressure. My prayer is that it is the word of encouragement we'll all speak.