I was at a meeting with some of our leaders from part of my ministry a few weeks ago, and we were discussing the topic of failure and how it is perceived within our organization. We agreed that there is an unspoken rule that failure is NOT okay. We will go to great lengths to prevent failure or even to cover it up and make it look like success when it does happen.
Why do we do this? It’s not biblical. Jesus let His disciples fail on a regular basis. Here are a few examples. They failed when they:
- Tried to cast out an unclean spirit from a boy
- Were asked to feed the 5,000
- Argued about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom
- Walked on water
- Tried to stay awake and pray with Jesus before His arrest
- Defended Jesus against the soldiers
- Denied knowing Jesus
You may think I’m cynical, but I believe Jesus even set them up for failure on certain occasions. He knew that they wouldn’t succeed, but He let them try anyway. Why? Because failure gives birth to growth and learning, maturity, character, humility, a teachable spirit, dependence on God, empathy for others, and even innovation, transformation, and revival! We learn sooooo much more from our failures than we do from our successes. Are we missing out on God’s best for us when we work so hard not to fail?
Recognizing this problem in their culture, here’s what one region of our ministry did. They flipped failure on its head. Instead of hiding failures, they required their leaders to celebrate them. In every leader’s performance appraisal for the past few years, they have had to share an “excellent failure” for which they were personally responsible. An “excellent failure” is a failure that taught you something, that gave you a new perspective, that prepared you, that matured you, that shaped you to be more like Christ. It’s a failure that produces a harvest in your life or ministry.
And for it to count, you have to own it. You’ve got to identify what you did or did not do that made things go wrong. You’ve got to say, “I failed,” or else the failure has no power to change you. You can’t dilute it by saying “we” or “my team” or “because they.” There may be truth in those statements, but the failure won’t be transformational for you until you acknowledge your part.
So, what do you think? Do you have the courage to own your failure? Are you willing to put your name on it and see what God is willing to do with a transparent and humble leader?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. ~ John 12:24For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again… ~ Proverbs 24:16