Sprinters and long distance runners often have a goal of finishing strong. Students who are nearing graduation with victory in sight want to finish strong.
I have had the privilege of speaking at a number of celebrations for people who are nearing retirement or finishing a term before moving on to a new assignment. These occasions are a great opportunity to thank them for their faithfulness and encourage them to similarly finish strong.
If you are in a church with an uncertain future due to dwindling attendance or insufficient finances, I encourage you to ask good questions and offer fervent prayers. Dear God, How do you desire to use us for your mission? How can we finish strong? These are questions your Conference Superintendents and district and conference leaders can help you with. It may be a season for new life or new focus. How can we get this missional thing right in our community or context for ministry?
Thank you for the many ways you share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in your communities. As I leave this week for Africa University, I am reminded of the hundreds of ways we as United Methodists touch and transform lives as a Church.
But there is still more to do. We have less than 100 days left in 2019. I want to finish strong, and I invite you and your church to finish strong with me this year.
I believe God’s mission of reconciliation and redemption will be advanced by those who are determined to finish strong. For some, that may look like fulfilling your tithes and offerings. If you are a layperson, lay leader, or lay member to Annual Conference ask the question: If we have more than enough, why would we not finish strong? If you are clergy, active or retired, leading worship or engaged in a worshipping congregation, ask the question: Are we going to finish strong? Will we give more or less than last year? Shouldn’t our goal always be to be more generous, not less?
My mother is my role model for stewardship. At age 97, she supported the church with her tithe when she was enthusiastic about who her pastor was and when she felt the Conference was neglecting the smaller churches. She prayed for the pastor, church and the bishop when segregation was in vogue, and she supported the church even when some of her friends left for other churches. She voiced her opinion for change when she wanted to see change and kept showing up and supporting the church when change didn’t come as she would have desired.
Her theology is simple: “All I have comes from God.” God doesn’t ask for it all, nor does God ask for what we do not have. As my mama would say, “God has been consistently good, so I want to be consistent and finish strong.”
…let it be so for our churches in 2019 and beyond.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble