We started by watching a video on the theme of failure – a very honest video with a number of leaders sharing their real heart.  Leb by Jacob Isaac and Marcello Steuernagel.  Starting with a theology context for failing in ministry and then onto dialogue.

We start by comparing against others and then worrying about our standards.

Culture of success

In a culture of success the ends justify the means – we do what we have to do.  But in biblical terms that doesn’t make sense, as we already know the result, we know the end of history, we know our efforts aren’t going to save us or other people, but we also know that Jesus wants us to partner with Him in ministry.

Culture of appearance

In one sense looking like we have the results of success matters more than the actual results.  When we’re in a fragile state, we’re encouraged to appear in control and in charge.

Culture of performance

Our track record (performance) is more important than our integrity.  So easy to see happen – we worry about our results and appearance more than our quiet time, for example.  We’re encouraged to perform at 100% even when we don’t feel that way.

Two biblical examples

David: mega-church leader, entrepreneur, anointing from Samuel, persecution and struggle with Saul.  He becomes king of Israel and is greatly successful, yet people were killed, he committed adultery, he failed as a father.  But in the book of Acts we read he was a man after God’s own heart who served his own generation.  There must be something that God knows that we don’t know – with all those mistakes he was still reconciled with God.

Peter: fascinating the track record of people Jesus choose to follow him around, fishermen were nobodies.  Peter has attributes we like: passion and a willingness to follow, e.g. walking on water, he’s really sure of his commitment to Jesus and gets offended when Jesus questions that.

We have a tension between our calling and our agenda – we see it in David and Peter.

In contrast with the world business view, the gospel approaches the admittance of failure as a gateway to the grace of God, healing and maturity in faith.  It says get down on your knees, and admit.  We can’t cover things up with God, we have to create space for transparency.  We can’t make this change ourselves, as we still face all the world pressures ourselves, and at times place them on others, we need to be honest with God and experience His grace.

Now time for discussion in small groups:

  • Is failure a sign of the lack of success?  What does success mean from a biblical perspective?
    • In the world view in the short-term yes, but in the long term it is about obedience to Christ and faithfulness to God.
    • Only people who don’t work, fail.
  • How do we change the culture inside our ministries, so that we create space to admit failure and move towards healing?  Discuss how we can provide a Biblical foundation for a culture of Grace.
    • Humility is crucial – to cultivate this it needs to come from the very top.
    • Failing forwards: no moving on without repentance – confession creates the healing we need – accepting the reality that as broken humans we will fail.
    • Admitting quickly our failure before it blows up!
    • But also forgiving quickly.
    • Mentorship can provide a framework for this.
    • A need to not professionalise ministry, e.g. John Piper’s book: Brothers, We are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry
    • Testimony is important because by its nature it’s about our failure.
  • Suggest a practical application for your own ministry so that you can facilitate the transition into a culture of grace.
    • Confidentiality
    • Encouragement
    • Small groups and mentoring
    • Look at the logs in your own eye
    • Taking Holy Communion in smaller settings which give me space and creativity to confession
    • Teaching and testimony on sin

If you’re a younger leader (aged under 40) pop into the Ballroom tonight for the Young Leader Reception with Doug Birdsall

Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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