Some of you may remember when J.R. Briggs decided, a bit on a lark, to host a conference called “Epic Fail.” Well, it spun out of control quite successfully. J.R. Briggs has a new book called Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure. It’s a good book, and I know of no pastors or elders or deacons who don’t need to understand what this book is about.
He does not glorify failure; the book admits failure and walks through failure by the power of the gospel. There are, J.R. has concluded, four basic areas of failure for pastors:
1. Mighty fall: sexual, moral failures.
2. Tragic event: cancer, shocking terminations, betrayals.
3. Slow leak: wearing down of the soul. Constant drips of discouragement.
4. Burned out: crisis to crisis wears a pastor down. The system overheats and it burns out.
All of this is exacerbated by the definition of success for pastors. Attendance, budget, building size, staff numbers, MDiv degree.
Most churches in the world are small. The vast majority are small. In the USA the average church is about 75 people. What’s success for the pastor of a church of 75?
Faithfulness. Perfect, J.R., perfect. That’s the name of the gift and the calling.
In the rest of this book, J.R. looks at learning about failure: shame, loneliness, wounds; at embracing failure: wilderness, recovery, reentry; and the way forward: acceptance and rhythms — and freedom.