Failure is not an option... or is it?

I'd love to be a weatherman. If God ever calls me out of the ministry, and closes my second dream of being a Major League Baseball umpire, the third choice is meteorology. Think about it. The weatherman has the most cush job in the world - show up to work, gain celebrity status, point to a couple of maps... and oh, by the way, you can be wrong ninety percent of the time and nobody cares. As long as you mention high pressure systems, hot and cold fronts, and barometric pressure somewhere in your presentation, the world is generally happy. Oh, they joke about you behind the scenes, but you laugh about it all the way to the bank. I could live that kind of life.

Isn't it ironic, then, that I've chosen a career in which people have historically given themselves absolutely zero margin for error? Ministry is a career that deals with the most important issues in the lives of people during the most significant times in their lives. We are present to kiss babies, are used to lead those children to faith in Christ, baptize them, marry them, and sometimes bury them. Name a truly significant life event, and the chances are the pastor will be there. So our demand of ourselves for success is in some senses understandable.

But it's also driving us nuts.

A Major League baseball player who fails to hit six out of ten times will make it to the hall of fame. But we don't have a philosophy that allows us to fail, so we hide our faults and hate ourselves. We're an insecure bunch, which casts us into a dangerous tailspin of failure, hiding, hating ourselves, which leads to more failure, hiding, and hating.

How do we get out? By changing our perspective. Most pastors think their drive towards one-hundred percent success is a product of their high view of God. It isn't. Instead, it's a product of the opposite: a low view of God the believes success is (1) something that is commanded of us, and/or (2) something that is attainable.

God has not called us to be successful; He has called us to be faithful. Accordingly, He has not given us the tools to be successful. Success in ministry is entirely connected to the hearts of people - something over which I have no influence as an individual. Thankfully, God uses me from time to time as His instrument in affecting the heart, but heart-change is not my responsibility.

When I understand that success is not my responsibility or God's goal for me, I'm free to serve without fear. I will fail, but I pray to God I won't quit. And that is success.


nexenrod said...

But we live in the USA....we are surrounded by "success". We measure failure and success on a daily wouldn't that naturally be a problem for all pastors in this country today. How do I effectively lead my church without succumbing to what the world thinks (or leadership) this church should be.
Much of the leadership at churches in the USA today are made up of very successful businessmen. Are they the ones determining how "successful" you are as a pastor? Does this "success" determine your future ability to pastor? Is success determined by how many fannies you put in the seats any given sunday? Is it about attendance rolls at Sunday school? About giving and church growth?

I know the one question that fellow church goes always ask me is: How many people are attending your church now? As if the numbers are a validation of the church and it's ministry to the community.