Is the church afraid of failure? It’s a question going through my mind these last few days. And I don’t mean to ask this in an underhanded way either. I’m not interested in seeing the church fail. I also don’t think everything is bad for the church and has to change. The church has a lot going for it – the biggest thing being that the church has something to offer people which is simply incredible – God’s grace and a way to fill that hole that is inside each one of us that we try to fill with all sorts of other crap that doesn’t work.
But sometimes you would never know the church has this wonderful gift to share. Some churches keep it well hidden. Wouldn’t want it to rustle the status quo – change might happen or something.
So is the church afraid of failure? It depends on the church of course. Here is what I know – some from personal experience. Failure is an essential part of success, however success is defined.
When we look at Jesus, we see someone who risked failure all the time. Every time he told someone “Follow me,” they could have blown him off. Every time he did a miracle, he could have been criticized to the point where he would have been shouted out-of-town (oh wait, that did happen from time to time). Going to Jerusalem was huge risk that ended in his death – for many at that time this was considered an epic failure.
Yet, Christ kept going because risking failure and failing in the eyes of the world were what he was about. In essence, he turned the definition of failure on its head, just like so many other things.
So where does failure fit into the church today? So often we try to do things too perfectly, always making sure everything goes off without a hitch. God forbid there be something unplanned in a worship service or something go haywire. Then we’d have to improvise or something. People might actually see the human side of things in the church.
The people we are supposed to be reaching out to are often labeled as failures in life – the drug addicts, the prostitutes, the drunks, the poor, the homeless, the infirm, the elderly – all people who are failing and without hope of life getting better. You know, kind of like the people Jesus ate with all the time.
The good news is that God knows what failure is like and walks with us in our failure. We will fail many times in our life – that is a part of life. Yet, it is often in the failures that we learn the most precious lessons of life – lessons that teach us about what life is like and what is important in life. The failures also teach us to redefine what is important – it usually shifts away from material stuff to people and God stuff.
Does the church have a fear of failure? I hope not. I know this much. I want to be a part of a church that fails a lot – based on worldly standards anyway. If the church is failing, then it is actually going out and trying things. It’s risking rejection. It’s risking ridicule and criticism. It’s risking being labeled as eating with the outcast, especially when the world tries to hide these undesirables. It’s risking a lot. And many times the risk doesn’t turn out so great. But for those times when it does, wow. In both cases – in the epic failures and big wins, we experience something – God’s presence in our lives and in our communities. God’s grace sweeps in, not to make everything just dandy, but to comfort where it is needed and to afflict where it is needed.
So is the church afraid of failure? Don’t tell me, show me the answer.