Okay, before you read on, let’s get the obvious joke out of the way. Yes, I am a Leicester Tigers supporter and, after last weekends result, I know all about failure. Let me also point out the obvious, I know a good amount about success too!
With that out of the way, and if you are sitting comfortably, I will begin. I have been reflecting on the words success and failure recently. You may know the poem “If” written by Rudyard Kipling in 1895 – this isn’t quite an accurate rendition but, it makes my point;
Matters came to a head for me this week when I read a good friends comments on Facebook he said;
In the eyes of some, my leaving church leadership was failure, I felt their displeasure – scrap-heaped. But, thrown on mercy I now see success/failure differently
I felt that I needed to make a response and so I rattled this reply off;
I believe the church needs to be free of what the world sees as success and failure. In God’s eyes there is obedience and disobedience and I would much rather go with his opinion. God never asks us to be successful, only obedient
I am not one of those who believes in “management speak” – “this isn’t failure only an opportunity to excel differently” and I do feel that the language of success and failure have their place. What concerns me is when we draw this language into the speech and life of the Church.
In denominational speak, I have heard the word “success” used to equate to large or “innovative” congregations. Whereas the word “failing” or “failure” attached to small or “traditional” congregations. Whilst we cannot be blind to economic realities, equally we must not be blinded BY perceived economic realities. We do, after all, worship the God who owns “the cattle on a thousand hillsides” (Psalm 50 vs. 10).
The danger with the language of “success and failure” is that it assumes everything can be measured against a criteria. The problem with The Kingdom of God is, it cannot! As Jesus said;
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3 vs. 8)
I found this, by Billy Graham, really helpful;
Wouldn’t it be interesting if, instead of trying to measure Success and Failure, we tried to understand calling and obedience?