Posts Tagged ‘failure’

In our time of winding down as a church we have been going through the principles outlined in the Emotionally Healthy Church in order to process and interpret what God is doing and has been doing in our lives in relation to our decision to close. The first principle of Looking Beneath the Surface unearthed the painful reality of our condition as a church. The second principle, Breaking the Power of the Past focused on our history as a local church and how that has affected us up to now and how to break free from the negative effects of that in the future. Now we turn to the third principle…Living in brokeness and vulnerability. This one is going to hurt.

Why does it hurt? Because closing hurts. Because honesty hurts. Because alot of times it hurts even more to admit that you are hurt. One of the things that closing brings up is the fact that we could not do it. We failed. We are broken and we do not have what it takes. This is the truth. The other side of that is God did not fail. He is not broken. He has what it takes.

During the time after we shared the decision to close with the rest of the church I began to read Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved and he divides the spiritual life into four movements: taken, blessed, broken, and given. This is all based on Jesus’ words and actions during the Last Supper and our participation in the eucharist. One of the things that stood out to me is that Jesus broke the bread which he called his body. As part of the body of Christ I can expect to be broken. The good thing is that the body of Christ does not consist of only me as an individual or one local church. The body of Christ is all of the church in every place throughout the ages. It means that my brokenness does not stop the purposes of God. My brokenness is designed to lead me and to lead the entire church into the next movement of spiritual life-being given to the world. I believe that this close is a good thing. It hurts and it is painful but God has a plan that is much bigger than the maintenance of one local church or one pastor’s ego.

Last spring I took a class called the Making of Global Christianity. What stood out to me about that class is that the church has not always been the church triumphant. The church has also been the church persecuted. One thing people do not realize which Philip Jenkins has so insightfully pointed out in the Lost History of Christianity is that the church is not a solely European phenomenon. The church was a major force from Syria to China. What happened? Persecution, failure, brokeness. It was a brutal reminder that no church is meant to last forever and that every church whether it is declining or closing or bursting out at the seams is in need of God

It has been a long and rocky road but we as a church have decided to close. VX has been my home for about eight years now and I have grown so much as pastor, as a man, and as a Christian through it. This has been the case right down to the wire. I have grown even during the process of myself and the leadership team deciding to close. So many emotions and thoughts have come up during that time:

If I do this then everyone will think I am a failure

What right do I have to make this decision?

People will think that being a multiethnic church is not a good idea

Will I ever do ministry again?

I need to find a job and this is a really bad economy

In the midst of it all I have realized that many of these thoughts and emotions were unfounded and some just made no sense at all.

If I do this then everyone will think I am a failure. This is so not true. Some people may think I am a failure but not “everyone” and in the end if I believe the Bible I may fail but I am not a failure and ultimately it does not matter what people think.

What right do I have to make this decision? I did not make the decision alone. I trusted that we as a leadership team with the help of the Holy Spirit would decide what is best for our local body. We had a right and a responsibility to make this decision.

People will think that being a multiethnic church is a bad idea. The truth is the people who will think that being a multiethnic church is a bad idea will always think it was a bad idea. The truth is that it is not an idea but a calling from God based on what we believe the scripture says.

Will I ever do ministry again? I probably will. This is one chapter of ministry that is closing. How will the next chapter unfold? That is up to God to decide.

I will need to find a job and this is a really bad economy. The truth is there are other folks out there just like me who have found jobs in this really bad economy. It is better to trust God and the decision he has led us to make than to trust in self.

So there it is. I truly believe that God ends things so other things can begin. A big part of maturity is dealing with losing and dealing with failure. It frees you up to be humble, to risk more, and to not take everything so seriously. I believe that now I am not as attached as I am to anything including the ministry that God has given me on this earth. Why? Because in this present age the “now” of ministry will always have to yield to the “not yet”. That’s something that we all must grow into.