This week on the podcast, episode 52, I (Jeff) said: “Most people are not willing to experience the number of failures necessary to achieve success.” That is true. No real success comes without failure. The bigger the success, the more failures will be necessary to achieve it.
It is said that Thomas Edison was asked, when trying to invent the light bulb, if he thought himself a failure because he had not achieved it yet. Edison simply replied negatively, and said that he now knew over 9,000 different substances that would not work as a filament. After trying more than 10,000 substances, he finally lit upon (no pun intended) the right one, and the rest is history.
Are YOU willing to experience the number of failures necessary for YOU to achieve success? Don’t give up. And, if you must, don’t give up too quickly! In Edison’s case, many failures made light work!
On this week’s podcast we talked about failure, and how we are learning to embrace it as a necessary step toward success. Today I want to encourage you, as a small church pastor, to not give up too quickly. In other words, do not concede failure until absolutely necessary!
Eight years ago I conceded failure on a ministry team much too quickly. I was leading a “Vision Team” to determine what the vision of our church would be for the coming years. We had spent several months and finally came up with a vision statement, membership class material to teach it, and posters, icons, and artwork to communicate it.
Our Vision Team of eight people then met with both of our church boards plus a few extra leaders, about twenty-five people in all, to share what we had accomplished. Almost out of the gate one of the people began to question even the need for what we had done. Then one more voiced his opposition to the artwork and logos, saying he thought the primary colors too juvenile. I unwisely allowed these two people to tank the presentation.
Inwardly I conceded failure almost immediately. Seeing no way to bridge the gap between these two vocal people, the silence of the others, and the disappointment of the Vision Team, I began to fall back into a defensive position, then into a pattern of retreat.
Just a few questions of concern and statements of opposition brought all our work to a halt. I shelved the material for a year, and then quietly began to use the membership material and talk about the vision statement. But it took another six years before we realized that the vision statement we had crafted had actually become reality in our church. Not because we promoted and sold it, but because we all actually just believed it and lived it – it became the reality in our church.
But, the Vision Team lost steam in less than a year, and stopped meeting altogether. What more could we have done together, achieved together, if I had not conceded so quickly and called it a failure? We will never know. I failed by conceding failure when I likely did not need to do so.
You might be wondering - what was that vision statement we crafted? It was this: AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD & OTHERS 24/7. That is the reality of our church today. We are living those authentic relationships, first with God, and then with each other, and not just on Sunday, but seven days a week.
We live and we learn, right? Or, as John Maxwell wrote, “sometimes you win, sometimes you lo… learn!” Well I learned. And I am better for it.
Here are six things I learned from that experience:
1. Commit your work to the LORD, and ask him for help in your ministry plans.
2. Be prepared to receive opposition to anything significant that you propose.
3. Expect to have to answer a lot of questions, so anticipate those questions.
4. Write down those questions and the answers you will give.
5. Believe in yourself and your ideas.
6. Believe in your team and the results of your hard work and planning.
What are you working on right now? What will you propose to your leadership team or board in the coming weeks or months? If it’s worth doing, it’s worth turning over every stone and not conceding failure until it is absolutely clear that you must. And then when you do fail, learn from it, claim victory, and say “I am one failure closer to success!”
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