Our Vision Team had spent a couple months working on the focus of our church. We knew that the Great Commandment and the Great Commission were what all churches should be about. What would make our church any different from all the others? What would it be about our church in our town that would set us apart? What was the itch in our community that no other church in town was scratching, or at least focusing on?
We finally came up with it! Through prayer, discussion, and time (months!) – we came up with the focus, the one thing that we all realized was lacking in our community, and that many of our churches were just weak on. After sifting and sorting our focus to have crystal clarity on what we were all talking about, we came up with what we thought was, as Andy Stanley puts it, “the phrase that pays.”
Sharing The Message
We then worked on how to communicate that to our people. We worked on symbols, word pictures, posters, and clear communication. We got our heads and hearts around it, then worked its message through our lips and fingertips until we all understood it, and better, believed it to the depth of our beings.
The night finally came when our group would share it with our church leadership. We gathered about 25 men in a conference room and brought the whole message forward, with signs, symbols, and handouts. We began to share our hearts and the cumulative results of months of blood, sweat, and tears – that is, I began to share our hearts, and our cumulative results of months of blood, sweat, and tears.
I had invited all of our leadership and even one or two that did not have to be invited, but I was gracious, and invited them in. It would be an understatement to say that when they all assembled in the room, the eight of us who made up the Vision Team were excited and passionate to share our message with them. And then it happened.
One of the men I had invited, and welcomed in when I did not have to, asked a question. This question was filled with premises that did not reflect at all on the substance of our message. I tried to answer both comprehensively and quickly, and I ended up doing neither.
After his question turned into three questions, all amazingly directly challenging everything we brought forward – one of the other board members expressed dislike for some of the word pictures and symbols we used to communicate our message, our vision. Soon the discussion devolved to talk of colors and symbols, what were proper, appropriate, and serious symbols and pictures to utilize when communicating great biblical truths, and what were not.
Before I knew it, the environment of the room was filled with skepticism, surprise, doubt, and tension. I flew the plane weakly, and called for an emergency landing on too small a runway, and ended up with broken wheels and a smoking fuselage in the end. To say the meeting was less than stellar would also be an understatement. The Vision Team was discouraged and confused, and I, unfortunately, walked back on our commitment to share this vision message with our church. I essentially allowed two people to torpedo our vision.
If the Vision Team was looking for bold leadership from me, they got none. All they received was a weak attempt to retreat, repackage, and replay a watered down retread of our original vision. I failed the team as a leader.
We used that phrase, you know, “the phrase that pays” one, here and there in the coming years. We never used all the props and illustrations we had prepared. Our vision kind of died and the team over the next year eventually dissolved into the background. Honestly, my leadership during that time, to put it in the current generation’s vernacular – sucked!
How’s that for a biographical promo for 200churches?! Yeah, I just shared with you what I think is my biggest leadership blunder of my current ministry. Are there others? Sure there are, but I’ll never tell!
Perseverance & Hope
The important conclusion is that I did not give up. I persevered, and learned from my failure. As John Maxwell says, eventually, I “failed forward.” I used my failure as a time of learning, growing, and strengthening. Thankfully, our church is living that vision today, in a very huge way – praise God!
If you have not always been BOLD in your leadership, take heart, every single leader will have his or her failure story. Just don't let it be your last story!
Am I today a visionary leader, casting epic vision in unforgettable and moving rhetoric, leading boldly where no pastor has gone before?! Well, um, not really. Am I better than eight years ago? You bet! And, Lord willing, I will get better yet.
So pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, learn from your failure, and FAIL FORWARD. Keep going. Trust God. Be stronger. Don’t lose hope. Remember that old saying…
You can’t go back and start again, but you can begin today, my friend, to make a brand new end!
What have you learned from an epic failure? Do you have any hope to share? Tell your story in the comments below...
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