LIVE WEBCHAT – “Fail” Is our Pastoral system broken?

LIVE WEBCHAT – “Fail” Is our Pastoral system broken? August 14, 2014

4111J.R.Briggs is joining me right here on the blog for a live web chat on his new book Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure. This is part of the sponsored Book Club feature here on Patheos.

As the video trailer at the bottom of this post points out the statistics for the success of the USA pastoral ministry is devastating. Brigg’s book focusses on how we can cope with ministry failure personally, and we do discuss this, we also discuss, “Is our Pastoral system itself broken, and what if anything should we be doing about that?”

“I thought God had called me to plant this church. Why did we have to shut our doors after only three years?”

“I was at my breaking point. Then I got the news that our nine-year-old daughter had leukemia. I would have quit ministry forever, but I had no other employable skills.”

“False accusations were made against me and my family, wrecking our reputation permanently and forcing us to leave not only the church, but move out of the area.”

“I’ve served my church for the past 27 years and I’ve grown that church from 150 to 24 people.”

What do we do when we’ve failed? Some ministries are shipwrecked by moral failures like affairs or embezzlement. But for most of us, the sense of failure is more ordinary: disillusionment, inadequacy, declining budgets, poor decisions, opposition, depression, burnout. Many pastors are deeply broken and wounded, and we come to doubt that God has any use for us.

J.R. Briggs, founder of the Epic Fail Pastors Conference, knows what failure feels like. He has listened to pastors who were busted in a prostitution sting or found themselves homeless when ejected from ministry. With candid vulnerability, Briggs explores the landscape of failure, how it devastates us and how it transforms us. Without offering pat answers or quick fixes, he challenges our cultural expectations of success and gives us permission to grieve our losses. Somehow, in the midst of our pain, we are better positioned to receive the grace of healing and restoration.

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  • Ben Thorp

    Sounds like a great book and discussion. Some questions that sprang to mind initially:

    1. I think there is a considerable difference between the US and the UK when it comes to the pressures of ministry (although I suspect that the statistics are similar on both sides of the pond, but for different reasons). What can we learn from each other?

    2. Coming from a more charismatic leaning, I’ve heard and read a lot of discussion about the Ephesians 4 five-fold ministries from a variety of sources – David Devenish, Alan Hirsch, C. Peter Wagner, etc, etc. Would embracing a more team-based leadership/pastorate relieve some of the pressures?

    3. In my own thinking around (2) I have often wondered if much of the problem we see has come from conflating pastor with teacher – it often seems to me that many of the “ministers” I know have been primarily gifted in one or the other, and the requirement of the other has become a point of stress. Is it possible we’ve got this wrong?

    4. Given the elephant in the room (the one from Seattle), it would be interesting to hear J.R’s thoughts on how we respond to the main different types of pastoral failure – moral, doctrinal & character.

  • Marty Wilson

    Ministers, like all human beings that will grow, evolve into more complete human beings …will have to learn to be aware of their ‘shadow side’, as well as aspire for their ‘light side’. The awareness is NOT to accentuate ‘shadows’, but to learn how to grow through that awareness to constructive uses of our Self. A self with larger, developed capacities for the constructive human traits that our history has admired …can lead/invite others to grow also. ‘Contagious leadership’ is the kind that draws others to it. But the world is ‘from Missouri’, and demands that we SHOW THEM! And good humour goes a long way towards that ‘invite’ to others. Doesn’t it?