Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Failure - Is It Really Optional?

Quite some time ago I read Craig Groeschel's book, It. The book is about how churches and leaders can get "it" and keep "it." I found the book to be an excellent read; it was both challenging and practical.

I remember reading about the issue of failure. A common phrase we hear in life is "Failure is not option." Do you remember those words from Gene Kranz about bringing the Apollo 13 astronauts home? But Groeschel makes what I think is a great point on page 114 of his book: "Failure is not an option. It is essential." As I think about it, I have to admit I've made a lot of mistakes in life - mistakes that many would consider failures. I also have to admit that I am I've been an equal opportunity failure - my mistakes and failings are not limited to one particular area of life. And if I can be really honest, I've beaten myself up a lot over those things.

But I've also learned that failure is not final. I've learned a lot from my failures. I guess I've learned to fail forward (thanks for the phrase, John Maxwell!). Again, quoting from the Apollo 13 movie, I've learned the art of what it means to be a "successful failure." Let me give you an example. In 1997 I moved my family from San Diego to Fort Wayne (right there some of you would say "failure"!) to do a church plant. After five years, I had to walk away from the plant and it folded. Many of my peers called it a failure. And if the only criteria of success was to have an established church, then they were right. But let me tell you about the successes out of that experience. Several of the families who were a part of that plant are now in different parts of the country, and they have taken the great things we did as a church plant and implemented them in their lives and ministries. They are bringing about life-change in others, and they would tell you how instrumental Summit Church was in their spiritual development. I am now the Director of Church Planting for the Indiana North District of The Wesleyan Church, and I do church planter assessments with our denomination. I learned a lot about how not to do a church plant, and over the years I've adopted some better practices that have helped us plant 3 new churches in the past 3 years. I've learned the importance of having a team of people who are involved in the process, and God has given me a great team.

Have you had some "successful failures" in your life? Care to share? Do you think that failure is essential or would you take issue with that? I'm listening...


  1. David,

    I couldn't agree with you more! There are so many times when the Holy Spirit takes us through things that at the time makes absolutely NO sense to us whatsoever, but in the long run, He shows us how He can redeem things or how He can use what He took us through to bless others. Too cool! Thanks for this... Chris Conrad

  2. Dave
    I agree you must have failures to succeed. For many years I had failures and took them to heart as if my fault. But I have learned over the past few years that a failure is only determined by your outlook on what you learned in the process. If you learned nothing, you failed. If you gained knowledge and wisdom through a so called faliure I feel you have succeded in God's exam. God does not give to give, he makes you work for it. God is the great teacher and we are the students. Our peers are not the judge, God is.


  3. Good stuff, Chris & Greg! What we learn in the course of life called Failure 101 is translated over into Redemption 401. Let's all continue to learn from the Teacher! One thing we have to wrestle with is the pain we experience along the way. Anyone want to comment on how you've dealt with that pain - positive and negative?

  4. Hey Dave,

    Check out http://www.jdgreear.com/?s=islam

    Good talk today.


  5. mr. girod just asked us the other day if next failure is an option.... we said no.