I Stand Relieved

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Listen to “I Stand Relieved” By Fred Smith

 

Almost ten years ago, the Board of The Gathering and I started thinking about succession. Clearly, we did not consider it an emergency or urgent matter but did want to be prepared and not surprised by the inevitable transition of leadership to the one who would assume the helm. It is especially important and often difficult to make that move from a founder to the next generation. However, I was determined not to be that founder we all read about who could not turn loose and in one way or another made it impossible for the next leader to succeed or, worse, crippled the organization.

To do that, I wrote what I called my “Last Will and Testament” and while the title was less than comforting for the board, I think it expressed what I believed (then and now) was important. Not controlling the selection of the next President but it was a reminder of the core values and principles of The Gathering. There were not many, but they have been fundamental.

First, too many organizations label people as “high capacity” or describe them by their wealth. If someone thinks persistently about providing special attention to great wealth within The Gathering, that is a red flag. We were not formed around wealth but giving. One of our stated core values is relationships built on trust and trust cannot be built if we are measuring the value of people by their wealth.

Second, the leader should strive to be a Jochabed. What do I mean by that? Moses’ mother, Jochabed, hid the baby from Pharoah but she knew if he were to live, she would have to let him go. She did not abandon Moses but released him. Jochabed overcame her natural desire to be the mother and became instead the nursemaid. Whoever leads needs to understand the importance of being the nursemaid…and it is not easy! It is a constant challenge to the ego.

Third, our success is to be found in the people we serve. Increasingly, our measure of achievement will be found in the multiple generations of our friends. Years ago, I was asked how much money the people in the room at the conference represent. Clearly, there was a fascination with money on the part of the one asking. Others have asked how much total giving those in The Gathering represent. That is yet another distraction. Our focus is on the people and their families. One of our core values is the growth of people and not the growth of The Gathering’s influence or prestige. We are here to help them grow as God works in their lives.

Fourth, we are eclectic and take risks. We try new things. From the beginning, there has been pressure to stick with the same issues repeatedly and invite the same speakers representing the most familiar ways of seeing those issues. Our mission includes stretching vision and we need to keep doing that without alienating people or values. We cannot be foolish and irresponsible or push the envelope out of pride or simply chase after fads, but we need to keep stretching ourselves intentionally.

Finally, while it is tempting sometimes to be part of a larger movement or to align with other organizations doing similar work, I think Peter Drucker was right in his counsel: “Stay away from alliances. You have a clear focus of purpose and those you serve. Do not get entangled with those whose focus is not as sharp. Do not ally just because the mission is similar. There must be a compelling reason. Otherwise, you dilute and squander your success.” It is not a spirit of competition, exclusivity, or rivalry that has kept us what Scripture would call “peculiar people.” We simply have a different mission.

That said, I have been looking forward to letting you know that after more than a year of searching the Board has chosen the next leader of The Gathering. It is Josh Kwan, the co-founder of Praxis and a close friend to The Gathering. I have included a link to the official announcement and there you can read more about Josh and his family. Nothing could please me more than Josh becoming the President and on January 1, 2019 he will begin his work.

No doubt, people will ask about my plans. Am I retired and disappearing? No. The Board and Josh have asked me to stay on for a couple of years as a coach and mentor. In my time in the Navy, there was a tradition for turning over the steering of the ship. The officer assuming the helm says, “I am ready to relieve you, sir.” The officer on duty responds, “I am ready to be relieved.” For a brief time both hands are on the wheel and then the officer on duty says, “I stand relieved. Attention in the pilot house, I no longer have the deck.” The relieving officer then says, “I have the deck.” That describes exactly what we are doing.

This is the time for which we prepared long ago, and I want to say with the deepest appreciation, “Godspeed” to everyone.

Fred Smith
Fred Smith is a graduate of Denver University and Harvard Divinity School. He spent several years as teacher and administrator at Charlotte Christian School and The Stony Brook School before co-founding Leadership Network with Bob Buford and serving as President for 12 years. Fred is the Founder and President of The Gathering, an international association of individuals, families and private foundations giving to Christian ministries. Fred will tell you his true vocation is that of a Sunday School teacher and it is this role for which he would most like to be remembered. Fred and his wife, Carol, have two grown daughters and a son-in-law. They also have three well-loved grandchildren.
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Showing 38 comments
  • John
    Reply

    Much love to you, Fred! Praying over all of you.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John. Your encouragement is much appreciated!

    • Stanley Bergen
      Reply

      Relieved doesn’t mean without obligation… said the fellow who has become reliant on your insight and gift of story telling. Where will we find you tomorrow?

      • Fred Smith
        Fred Smith
        Reply

        I’ll be around for a couple of years at the request of the Board and Josh Kwan, the new President. Again, I’m not going to be the founder who stays too long.

        • Stanley Bergen
          Reply

          Great thinkers can only offer suggestion. There will always be a need for a gardener.
          I hope you find comfort in a good pair of work boots.

          • Fred Smith
            Fred Smith

            Very thoughtful and provocative, Stanley! Thank you for this.

  • Kevin Conklin
    Reply

    Fred, though we don’t know one another personally we have a mutual friend. Many years ago Josh Kwan and his twin brothers and mother, Esther were a part of the church I served as Youth Pastor in the north shore of Chicago. I had the honor of pouring into these guys, discipline them without messing them up and loving on them the best I could. I am so excited to see God use Josh and know he will lead humbly and well. Thank you!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Kevin. I love hearing good stories about friends and especially friends who are going to be my boss!

  • Rick Rogers
    Reply

    This is excellent Fred. We have all been witness to transitions done poorly and rarely get to see it done this well.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Rick. Let’s withhold judgment until after a year! I want it to be a great transition and, so far, it has been.

  • Jennifer Maggio
    Reply

    Congratulations, Fred. What evidence of a mature and spirit-filled leader to hand the reigns over graciously with the ultimate goal of seeing others come to Christ. I’m inspired. Many blessings are you enjoy the retirement years in coming months.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Jennifer. I continue to get comments about your time with us! We are all working to make this transition something of which we can be proud.

  • Mario Morino
    Reply

    Congrats on a job well done, and one more meaningful achievement to your already courageous and highly demonstrated leadership.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Mario – You know how much your respect means to me. There are so many facets of a transition!

  • Greg
    Reply

    Thanks Fred for your leadership! In our family, the Gathering has been a place where we could learn more about giving through the community of gathered, we have learned about places to give without pressure, and it has been generational as we introduced our kids to the gathering (which they have thoroughly enjoyed themselves and benefited). There is much more I could say in thanks, but I will finish with thanking you for this post which highlights some thoughtful principles that God has used to give the gathering the positive impact it has had! Much still to chew on in the post, excited for the future.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      This is so encouraging, Greg. I shared it with another participant who was asking how we measure our success. You, my friend, are how we measure our success.

  • David
    Reply

    Well done, good and faithful servant.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      David – When do I get to rule over ten cities?

  • Corbyn
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing this with us Fred. I am encouraged by your concise intentionality and ever present humility. Thank you for the way you have connected, served, and loved. Congratulations to Josh!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Corbyn. I’m not so sure about the humility but I hope it is true!

  • Keith Sparzak
    Reply

    Beautifully communicated, as always, Fred!

    Soooo pleased to hear of Josh’s appointment. Excellent choice to take the helm and relieve you on/from the deck!

    It’s good to hear, also, that you will keep your hands on the wheel as Josh begins to assume his new role.

    Great days are behind The Gathering due to your leadership and, hopefully, greater days ahead due to your careful succession stewardship.

    Bravo!

    Keith

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Keith. I am very sensitive to how long my hand is on the wheel. I want it to be as short as possible.

  • Kevin Cusack
    Reply

    Well done Fred ! Josh is a fantastic choice for the role, he has keen insight and great passion to serve the Lord. Sure you will press on with many more adventures ahead.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Kevin. Josh has all the right stuff and I am looking forward to his growing The Gathering.

  • Jack Modesett
    Reply

    I would add one word to your good naval analogy: In a change of command, the former captain salutes the OOD, says, “Permission to go ashore,” salutes the flag on the stern, and debarks without looking back.
    As Ahab said to Starbuck, “There is one God under heaven and one captain of the Pequod.”
    RIP, Fred.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      What’s with the “permission” thing? Seriously, I know what you are saying. We can talk.

      “Let the owners stand on Nantucket beach and outyell the Typhoons. What cares Ahab? Owners, owners? Thou art always prating to me, Starbuck, about those miserly owners, as if the owners were my conscience. But hark ye, the only real owner of anything is its commander. — On deck!”

      “Mastering his emotion, Starbuck half calmly rose, and as he quitted the cabin, paused for an instant and said, ‘Thou hast outraged, not insulted me, sir; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man.'”

  • Jim Towey
    Reply

    Fred, your wisdom, wit and witness delight us all, and will continue to bring light and laughter wherever you are called to teach and give your gift. Come to sunny Florida and be part of a youth movement! Your friend, Jim

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Jim, one of the best gifts The Gathering gave me has been meeting and following you.

  • Fonda Latham
    Reply

    What a powerful time in your life and the life of the Gathering! Sounds like a strong and good plan. Prayers for each of you as you travel this important part of the journey.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Fonda. I have thought about keeping a journal about this trip. I am sure there will be some surprises and side roads!

  • Russell Brown
    Reply

    Fred I was touched by your message today. You have served the Gathering very nobly and humbly with a tremendous impact within the Kingdom and all that you have shared your wise counsel with over the past many years….for their good. Josh will be an excellent President going forward but I am not sure anyone can say “I have the deck” in the same manner you did so well. Thank you for your “service.”

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Russell – My thought has always been that I would turn it over to someone who could take it and grow it. I’ve told Josh it is a gift with no strings attached. He’s just the right person.

  • Rod Mabry
    Reply

    I was not in the group, but know well how much you have made a difference in the lives of several members and, therefore, this community at large. Godspeed, good and faithful servant.

    Rod

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Rod. I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement.

  • John Sims
    Reply

    Fred:

    It’s all about the seasons of life, right? That and continuing to seek the best ways to use your gifts — all while offering others the chance to shine their light, and never losing sight of those we serve.

    I trust you’ll still be blogging and making your presence felt in other ways. For my part, I’ll continue to read the blogs — and keep an eye peeled for you when I’m out for Sunday lunch.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, John. That sounds like a deal to me.

  • Drew Anderson
    Reply

    Fred, Thank you for all your wise. selfless, consequential efforts . I , among many others, have been strengthen by your efforts as a good shepherd.

    You exemplify many hopeful and decent qualities to me. One Bible passage seems apt for you and your life and intentions and how you truly acted.

    I found it in my first Bible underlined by my GARB grandmother( my dad’s mother)

    Micah 6:8 King James Version (KJV)
    8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

    God Bless You

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Really? This is one of the kindest notes I have ever received. I have had other and less flattering passages used to describe me in the past!

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