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Finishing Well

God makes all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

As I am writing this, I am in the last few days of a 5+ year pastorate at a small to mid-size church northeast of Houston, Texas.  It has been adventurous, in many ways.  Three years ago the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey poured and seeped into all our buildings, and we had to worship outside for three weeks.  For the John Wesley students among you, I told our Bishop that I had “consented to be more vile.”  (This was Wesley’s journal note when he finally conceded to field preaching.)  We worked hard to get an alternative place ready for worship, and slowly brought back elements to the service as rooms became safe and clean as the restoration began. The Sanctuary had to be demolished.  

We started a capital campaign and raised a tremendous amount of money for a church our size, with wonderful gifts from Methodist organizations and tremendous leadership from our congregation. 

It has been difficult for both my wife, Brenda, and me as we have weathered situation after situation, and seeming crisis after crisis.  Permits were withheld for up to a year in some cases, and just when we started to make some headway Covid-19 materialized and changed all of our lives.  I became my worst nightmare — a televangelist! — as we started doing Facebook live services, often with just a handful of people in the room, and preaching into an old iPhone.  

In the last year someone made a false accusation against me, and it could have been handled quite quickly and easily if Christ’s teachings in Matthew had been followed.  Instead, like with many organizations, the back ways of gossip and secret meetings prevailed.  I never got the chance to confront my accuser and had to meet with a lawyer employed by the Conference.  Nothing came of it because I had not done anything, but it was hard to continue to pastor and preach in that environment.  Brenda and I were supported by our family and our Fellowship Bands, and the leaders of the Inspire Movement gave us great encouragement.  

Still, it was hard.  Hard for me, perhaps harder for Brenda who had to see her husband accused of wrongdoing by someone we thought was a close friend.  If the flood and the accusation were not enough, the parsonage flooded twice within a six month period, once from a tropical storm and once from a plumbing malfunction.  

I could say so much more on this, but I wanted to write about ending well, finishing well.  

I first started thinking of ‘finishing’ at a men’s retreat several years ago.  The men who discipled me were part of that group, and the speaker opened our weekend by telling the story of a church leader who fell to adultery.  After he told the story, we went around the room and every man there had a similar story of someone who lost a ministry or lost a marriage, and often both, because of adultery.  In every case the loser was someone who did not have people like we seek to have in Inspire Fellowship Bands: someone to call us out, someone to challenge us, someone to ask what sins we have committed and someone we have pledged to tell the truth with.  

That day on the retreat, on a dusty road outside a wooded retreat in east Texas, my two friends and I pledged that we wanted to finish well as men, as husbands, as Christians,  and that each of us could ask the other any question at any time and we would answer the truth.  There’s a lot of richness behind that, maybe for another article…

A few months ago, I really wanted to leave the church in Houston.  The construction of the new Sanctuary was nearly complete. I was planning on retiring next year. And I thought it would be good for them to have a new pastor for the new Sanctuary and the new year.  But I didn’t know if I was prodding God or God was prodding me.  

I talked to one of my friends from that retreat, and he reminded me that I wanted to finish well, not only in life, but in this ministry.  I prayed.  “Lord, if you want me to leave, open the doors wide and close them tight.”  And I forgot about it.

A few weeks later, my District Superintendent called with the offer of an earlier retirement and a part-time appointment at a church near our home in College Station, Texas which is near our oldest daughter and three of our grandkids.  

So we prayed and accepted the offer.  I am retiring at the end of November, 2020 and taking a part-time appointment at a little church starting Dec. 1. 

Since the news came, doors started opening.  Permits that had been held up for months came through, and I decided my last day would be November 1, All Saints Day.  

As the news got out that we were leaving, we received gifts and cards and acknowledgments from all corners.  Some of the ones that were part of the trouble made a point to wish us well, and our last service celebrated the opening of the new Sanctuary.

We left the church with remodeled office buildings due to flood, an updated parsonage due to flood, and a new Sanctuary to replace the one ruined beyond reasonable repair by flood.  

We left with celebration, we left with a good ending.  

Finishing well can frame everything. If we wait, God will make a way. Perhaps not the way we envisioned, but one remarkably better.  

This is my testimony to the promise that God can make all things work together for good for those that love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose.  It is true indeed.  

Frank is an Inspire Missioner in Texas, USA. He and Brenda are part of the Inspire USA Core Team 

Frank and Brenda’s last service on 1 November was a huge celebration in so many ways. They had a baptism, communion and a time of thanksgiving for Frank and Brenda.

Click here to read: Lifting High the Cross – Frank’s story from the building of the new sanctuary

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