200th anniversary of the Royal Assent to the bill to abolish slavery tomorrow. A great achievement for Wilberforce and others, though I learnt today that it took another 26 years to get slavery banned in the colonies. Good for the campaigners for not giving up. They must have felt like sitting back and having a couple of pints after 1807, rather than pressing on, but press on they did.
The Bible is riddled with stories of people who were succesful in the medium term but lost it in the long term. David established Israel as a military power but then took his eye off the ball and failed to prepare his children for the succession. Solomon was a great builder and visionary but, like his father, his eye for women meant that he finished badly. Gideon, Samson, and so on - plenty of people who started well, but perhaps took their foot off the pedal after they'd been succesful. Success has two horizons, achieving the big wins now, and finishing well so that the legacy you leave is sustainable. And no, I'm not going to start talking about Blair here....
How many churches have got stuck at an earlier success and not gone on to complete the work God gave them? How many ministries or movements have got stuck with what looked like the great move of the Spirit, not realising that the Spirit doesn't do monuments. There's a saying that any movement can become a monument, and monuments can become mausoleums.
Jesus does not want your church, or my church, to survive. That's not what he's taught us to pray for. The prayer is 'your kingdom come' - that is the finish line, and any church or Christian without their eyes on the finish line will be tempted to stop part way through the race and pull up a deckchair.
The best bit of leadership training I ever did was a course called Arrow, run by CPAS, which I thoroughly recommend. They talked a lot about 'finishing well', about not letting our early enthusiasm and drive in ministry be dissipated. The various dangers (lets see if I can remember them) included levelling out, wearing out, dropping out, and dabbling (getting distracted from the main thing by lots of minor things). True success includes not only sustaining yourself in ministry (things like keeping a prayer life; accountability; setting goals; balancing work, renewal, family and rest; keeping short accounts with sin), but investing in others so our own passions, dreams and visions continue to inspire others after we've gone. It's a great testimony to Wilberforce that 200 years on, he can still inspire us. With over 12m slaves and a $7bn slave trade to tackle, we need all the inspiration we can get.