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I was recently in a meeting discussing the future of an evangelical movement. The person I was with shared a great challenge– one of the most prominent leaders of their movement was not finishing well, making it hard for the movement to envision a successful future.
That conversation soon turned to why this happened– and why so often. Within a few minutes, we had identified similar patterns with other leaders. They were all older leaders, were immensely respected, yet who are finishing poorly, often undercutting those who will likely become their successors.
My guess is that you would not be surprised with some of the names, and you could probably quickly identify others in your own movement who have done the same, but that is not really the point. It happens all the time in churches, ministries, and movements. I was just struck by how often this occurred. It is a real and problematic pattern.
After that meeting, I continued to ponder the situation. Why do some leaders end so well– Calvin Miller, Jack Hayford, Bob Russell, Roy Fish, and so many more– while others go out not in a blaze of glory, but in a blaze of gory? They finish poorly and leave a mess in their wake. In some cases they even undo some of the tremendous progress God used them to create in the years prior.
They have all been key leaders– and some still are– though many of those who have followed in their stead are ready for the former leaders to move on. That grieves me, for them and for their movements.