Dr. Henry Cloud on Finishing Strong

From pornography to adultery, the headlines are filled with pastors and ministry leaders being disqualified from ministry because of choices they make. It often leads to churches dividing and ministries being discredited. Dr. Henry Cloud believes that many leaders could avoid these pitfalls if they set themselves up to finish well. Dr. Cloud is a clinical psychologist, best-selling author and leadership expert. When we interviewed him he talked about one of the most challenging seasons of his life and how leaders can finish well.

 “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:3-5

Dr. Cloud shared with us about one of the challenging seasons in his life and how he responded.

I think one of the biggest seasonal challenges that I had to learn is that you can have a calling, a mission, and a passion and yet the season of the way you were doing that has ended and you have to adapt those talents and gifts and callings and passions to a new way of doing them. So the challenge is to maintain what you’re about, but realize that the form in which you were doing it has ended and you have to adapt to adopt a new one. For example, I was a clinician and in the early years and I built a chain of Christian psychiatric hospital units and treatment centers. I was going to live out my mission in the context of the health care system and bring healing and Christian values to psychiatry and physiological treatment. I thought that was what I would be doing with the rest of my life. And what happened was that with the changes in the health care system, I had to realize that my calling was not just to hospitals, but my calling is about taking God’s ways of getting better and getting well and performing, into other contexts. I had ot adapt to taking all of those principles into the church community, into the marketplace, into companies, and organizations. I think that happens to all of us, we have a basic path, but it like Proverbs [16:9] says, ‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.’ So I think that is one of the big challenges, to be continuously finding the form that our mission takes. Some people lose their mission because the form goes away.” 

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8

Dr. Cloud opened up to us on why he believes many faith-based leaders have a hard time finishing well.

“…I think there are a couple of reasons for it. One is, that many times when leaders are starting well, and doing well, their strengths and their gifts, and their talents and their charisma…these traits are creating the huge following in some form of passion- whatever that is like ministry, church or business. All the while when they are depending on those strengths and gifts sometimes that can enable them to ignore some glaring weaknesses in their personal makeup. Ultimately the weight of all that begins to demand from them a lot of relational capacities, and a lot of coping capacities, and a lot of internal strengths and abilities that they have been ignoring. Sometimes they have been ignoring pain or relationship issues. They try to ride their success to the exclusion of the growth that is necessary to sustain that success. So it blows up. Another part to why people don’t finish well is many times when people are building things, there is so much of their identity tied up in what they are doing. When it’s time to go to the next season, or sometimes let go of that, and work on a legacy and succession, they don’t transition. They get a little bit of ‘founder-it is’ and turn into a little bit of control freaks and stay in the past. They aren’t doing the morphing and the growth that is necessary for doing the next thing.”

Risen Reflections

Be flexible. God has given each of us callings, talents and passions. There will be times when we don’t feel like we are using any of them. There will be times when we are using all of them but don’t experiencing hardships and trials that make us question our calling. The most important thing is to continually pray and ask God for His wisdom, guidance and direction. As you are obedient to the Holy Spirit, He will show you how to use your talents and passions to glorify God.

Find your identity in Christ. It is easy to get caught up in finding our identity in other things. Whether it is our business, school, friends or sports, sometimes we try and find our identity in things other than God. Take time this week to reflect on your identity in Christ. Look up verses that tell you who you are. Write a thank you note to God on all of the attributes and benefits when you are in Christ.

Finish strong! Surround yourself with others who will challenge you. Whether it is founder-itis, struggles or relationship issues, accountability relationships can help you finish strong. Allow these people to speak truth into your life. Be vulnerable with them. It is beneficial to meet or talk weekly about business, faith and family. This will provide a forum where you can pray for one another, share your hardships and encourage one another to do the things God has called you to do.


To read our entire interview with Dr. Henry Cloud, click here.

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