Strength’s illusion
conceals weakness’ fortitude
Success’ mirage
masks failure’s courage
Hope subverts & meek shine

What can I say? I’ve been empowered by ‘failure’ lately. I love the subversive whispering it does to a church facing a culture shift that is unprecedented. I love the idea that at its very core is a paradox that – in fact – mirrors the Christian experience that seems(ed) … well doomed on a cross over two millennia ago …

I’ve been reading the latest edition of geez magazine and – of course – its focus is on failure. This exploration has many nuances that range from the poetic and theological to a cultural critique, which uses word and imagery to challenge the normal negativity in which it is often dressed. In fact, this geez edition goes so far as to richly demonstrate that failure may actually be best understood as a different story – or narrative – to the messages we hear every day. And – should we make space to hear a different tale that describes our Now – our lives and the lens through which we seem them may be changed forever.

Do not fear failure

Do not fear failure
Credit: Tomasz Stasiuk

So, let’s start with Jesus, death and failure. Let’s face it – then or now – Jesus’ death was really not a big shiny success. In the annals of revolutions and rebellions it is not even mediocre. From a strategic point of view, when your numero uno gets executed by the ‘enemy,’ you’re really not going to chalk that up in the win column … well not according to the status quo of what power, winning and success look like.

Lest I offend – I am not trying to be argumentative or disrespectful. But let’s face it, according to any gauge or metric, Jesus’ death was an epic fail for the movement that was called The Way. There have certainly been those who have experienced violence when confronting power. Whether assassination or murder, the reality is that when you stand in the way of those with power, danger and death are always present realities. And – with Jesus as a model of resistance – it’s not actually a glowing review as what you want the children in your life to do when they ‘grow up.’

But that’s the paradox. When Jesus was executed (by a process that continues to be used to instill not only fear, but paralysis in an oppressed people) those who followed experienced something inexplicable. Sisters and Brothers in the faith chose to continue this ministry of compassion of care for one another. Those who were oppressed often confronted the same end of what we call martyrdom. Failure continued with death and yet people continue(d) to choose The Way …


Credit: Willy Stephane Awaho

So my point – if you are still with me and not too triggered – is what does failure have to say to a church confronting foundational change? If the one whom we endeavour and strive to follow failed, what does that mean when we focus on deficit, capital losses and the burden of buildings (in which our ancestors prayed, played and died), which are no longer sustainable?

I will leave you with this – and, no, I am not being argumentative, though I may be hoping we will dig further – go and fail! Try new things, try crazy things, try things that make no sense … but do try. And do not try because you want it the way it was – that’ll never happen. I know that may not feel pastoral, but it’s true, as far as I can tell. We know what we have always done no longer works. So, if we keep trying what we’ve always done then we will just keep getting what we got …

So why try? Well, let’s get back to The Way. Because this calling of ours, in which we struggle, strive and wrestle to live into, changes and transforms lives. In fact, it awakens those who are deadened, revives those who are paralysed and resurrects those who deny their beauty and shine. It’s dangerously awful and holy work. It’s not about success, it’s about transformation. And – this transforming thing – it begins with the blessing of failure …