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Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize During a Time of Pastoral Failings

One-on-One with Daniel Henderson on finishing well.
Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize During a Time of Pastoral Failings
Image: Photo by Daniel Henderson

Ed: What is the burden you feel that compelled you to write this book?

Daniel: We are witnessing endless accounts of leaders who have received the flag of disqualification, raised the white flag of premature surrender, or thrown in the towel because of debilitating discouragement. My passion for Glorious Finish is to equip leaders with a biblical, systematic, and hopeful path for endurance and integrity for God’s eternal glory.

My personal ministry journey factored into my burden for this book. Some have called me an “OSHA” pastor since on two occasions I was called as the senior pastor in the wake of my predecessor’s high-profile moral failure. When you are the ‘clean up guy’ in multiple contexts, you gain a profound understanding of the causes, consequences, and hopeful corrections that can avert these painful leadership disasters.

Ed: What separates pastors who finish well from those who don’t?

Daniel:Glorious Finish is framed around four key components of a church leader’s journey. How we engage these realities will invariably set the trajectory for either a glorious finish or dishonorable disqualification.

Reasons—the motives that compel us in ministry are foundational. The book starts with a biblical refresher on the “why” behind all we do.

Rhythms—the book isolates the paramount choice between the personal rhythms of personal worship in contrast to spiritual neglect. Worship fuels humility. The key to real humility is a high view and passionate experience of God. Conversely, I propose that neglect will predictably lead to subtle self-reliance.

Results—these contrasting rhythms establish divergent ministry results. First, worship and humility set us on a pathway of authenticity, accountability, integrity, and joyful hope. Second, neglect and self-reliance can fuel leadership marked by professionalism, entitlement, compartmentalization, and eventually, an underlying dissatisfaction with ministry itself.

These dissimilar ministry trajectories are reinforced by choices and habits all along the way. The good news is that at any point, a faltering leader can recognize the drift, repent, and return to the better path.

Rewards—the eternal outcome of our ministry choices is compelling and clearly delineated in the scripture. Ultimately, we must set our hearts on the realities of heaven and cultivate a passion to follow our ultimate call “to his eternal glory in Christ” (1 Peter 5:10).

Ed: How can church leaders build habits that keep them captivated by God and his glory?

Daniel: There are a few core habits that fuel our passion for a glorious finish. First, the habit of renewal in the ultimate objective of his glory. Early in the book, I expound on our spiritual predecessors like Paul, Peter, John who had powerfully encountered the glory of Jesus Christ.

As a result, they were compelled and completely consumed with his glory. Today’s leaders must also “behold his glory” through a life of passionate, daily worship. It’s been said that the main thing that motivates God is his glory, and so should it be for all who minister in his name. Yet, many false glories can tend to derail us.

Second, the habit of reaffirming this life as preparatory. The totality of our life and ministry during this brief earthly appearance is but preparation for eternity. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones noted that this life is “nothing but a preparatory school…the antechamber of eternity.” Randy Alcorn states, “Eternity will hold for us what we have invested here during our life on earth” Keeping this in perspective helps us focus on the unseen realities that outweigh the temporary and visible elements of ministry.

Third, the habit of refocusing on the ultimate scoreboard. I believe that much of our discouragement is simply a temporary loss of perspective. Too often, as leaders we can be defeated by false measurements of significance based on superficial ministry markers, comparison with others, and the petty opinions of people. I try to focus my heart daily on the truth that the real scoreboard is in heaven. The Scorekeeper is perfect and he never misses a call. This is true perspective.

Finally, the habit of recommitting to the pathway toward a glorious finish. Moody publishers included a detachable appendix in Glorious Finish that provides a visual summary of the reasons, rhythms, results, and rewards that are taught in the book. I believe as leaders keep these vital choices in focus, they will serve as a great reminder of compelling pathway to a glorious finish.

Ed: What are the results of a glorious finish, both earthly and heavenly?

Daniel: A few of the earthly results include the joy of a life fruitfulness, the profound satisfaction in serving Jesus Christ in his eternally significant mission, and a godly legacy that inspires faithful service in those who come behind us.

In eternity we will participate in the unimaginable wonder of his eternal glory, enjoying greater experiences of intimacy with Christ. Our reward will include opportunities for service in his kingdom and greater capacity to participate in His glory as we cast our crowns at his feet. Christ’s eternal rewards for the faithful will assure us that our faithful service was worth it all but more importantly that He was, is, and will forever be worthy of it all. This is our ultimate incentive for a life of integrity and endurance as we fix our eyes on the ultimate prize of a glorious finish.

[1] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 200-201

[2] Randy Alcorn, The Law of Rewards: Giving What you Can’ Keep to Gain What You Can’t Lose (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2003), 50.

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Keeping Our Eyes on the Prize During a Time of Pastoral Failings