If you’re in ministry long enough, you’re going to fail. At some point, you’re going to pour yourself into something completely, convinced of huge success, but the results will be anything but ideal. If you’re pushing the boundaries of ministry and of “what’s possible”, sometimes you’re going to have one gigantic belly flop of a failure.
A few years ago, I had an “in” at our local high school with the current principal. He was a wonderful guy, appreciated our ministry, and approved my plan to bring in a Christian rock band (Future of Forestry) to play in the 500 seat school auditorium. A huge breakthrough! Imagine the outreach, opportunity to do ministry right on the school campus! It was going to be Pentecost all over again, baby! K-Love wanted to bring the K-Love car to the show to help promote the concert! K-Love! Pentecost!
I worked, promoted, planned, and prayed as we approached the evening of the concert. I had student leaders helping at the event. But for all our work, only 50 people showed up, and that was mostly fans of the band that had travelled to hear them play. The auditorium looked empty. Heck, it was empty. I lost a considerable amount of money as well.
I was devastated. It was one of the lowest points of my ministry career. I was so low, in fact, and I even wondered if I was where God wanted me to be. I had poured myself so completely into this event. What did I do wrong? What did I miss? (For one, the show was on a Thursday. Strike one.)
Failure has a way of showing us some glaring blind spots in our ministry, and of lessons that are hard to learn. Our failures can also stick with us long after they’re over. Failure can make us better, stronger, and more prepared for the future, but it can also seriously suck at the time. I’m not saying it happened just so I could learn from it. Failure can be a lot more complicated than that. Sometimes it just happens, and you go back to the drawing board to see what else might work.
I would rather dream big for God, push boundaries and fail (according to my own standards) then play it safe and succeed. But if you are serious about following God’s lead, be prepared to sometimes have little control over the results. God was looking for faith from me, and it was easy to have faith during the preparation. It can be a whole lot more difficult to have faith when it doesn’t go as planned.
Looking back, I remember one kid who did come to the concert. He was a member of the drama team that helped the band set up their lights and gear. Another youth told me he was an atheist. I remember him being transfixed during the whole set. I don’t know what became of this kid, but I like to think some seeds of the Kingdom were planted in his heart that night.
Would God set up an entire concert just so one kid might hear, feel, or be drawn near to the Gospel? Yes, God would do that. Let us be reminded that, “God’s way are not our ways, and God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.” (Isaiah 55). Do we want to fail? No. No one does. Do we want to have excellence in all things? Absolutely. Do we want to be faithful? Always, even when it doesn’t go as planned.
How have you learned from failure? What would you do differently? Where did you see God in the midst of it?
Post by Clark Chilton