When Mission Fails
Part Three of a series on the mission of the Church, by Pastor Rob Edwards, Peace Church Gatton.
It can be exciting to start a new mission or to support a new mission. It is very gratifying to be able to support something that ALWS is doing overseas, or example, and seeing the report afterwards, that a village now has a dunny, or a school, or a dam. It’s nice to know too that these things are associated with the Gospel, and often lead to those essential gospel discussions.
We like to hear too that a new church plant has started somewhere. We have a new congregation in the district, or we have a new mission initiative somewhere.
But what about failure? We don’t like to fail. It is with great sadness that we hear news of another congregation closing, or see our own church struggle to meet the budget and to see none of the new confirmation class coming to church. We try to start a youth group, and no one turns up. We try to start a small Bible study, or home group, and it fizzles out after one or two meetings. We read in Acts 3:47, “And the Lord added daily to their number, those who were being saved.” We long to see those kinds of activities and numbers. Many however, have given up even dreaming, because to try is to fail.
And that’s just it, isn’t it? When we try and fail, we are less likely to try again, and less likely to invest as much time, energy and resources.
Tennis player, Stan Vavrenka, has a tattoo on his forearm, which I noticed during his epic battles in the Australian open a few years back. For some reason it caught my eye and I tried to read it. It says, “Ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better.”
It occurred to me that in this world of “failure is not an option,” and “success is all that matters”, this tenacious sports star was using his failures as a valuable foundation, not for success, but better failures, and success was just an inevitable result of enough failures.
The church operates in this world, but with a different economy, we function in this world with God’s economy, and sometimes it is difficult to learn the processes and language of this economy. God can turn failure into success. It is when we are weak that we are strong, defeats can be victory, and death is life. So we should not be afraid of failure. Failure can be success.
The church can sometimes be so risk averse that we don’t try anything for fear of failure. Maybe if we see no success, it is because we do not have enough failures which that success needs to rest upon. One way to guarantee failure is not to try anything. Therefore, to try something, even something half-baked, something not very spectacular, is far better. At least if it fails, you have something to learn from and something to build on.
When it comes to mission, it is not the failed attempts, the fizzled programmes, the hairbrained ideas or the poorly executed plan that will kill you. It is the never trying, the fear of failure, the untested theory, and the question not asked. Mission does need good ideas, well executed plans and working towards better ways, but it also needs people who are just prepared to give it a go.
The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few,
God sends out the workers, it might just be you.
READ MORE STORIES ABOUT mission