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The Church’s Reluctance to Process Failure and the Antidote

I’d been waiting for the call.

Painfully I wanted someone to ask me how I was doing. Someone to check in on me. Someone to see if I was ok and that everything was getting better.

Yet I never got one.

After 13 years leading nearly 1,200 mentors at pregnancy centers, speaking at countless banquets and even getting recorded on Focus On the Family by Jim Daly with a guy I’d personally mentored I resigned and stepped down from an organization I’d created. I’d followed a passion of mine I fired up a ministry that fit a niché and I got a lot of people to follow me as a non-profit leader.

The issue: I’d gotten into a wrestling match with my board of directors and I lost big-time.

Yet after stepping down, no-one called me. No-one checked on me or my family. After sending a letter to my entire donor base and even former board of director members that I’d be stepping down I did not receive a phone call, email or text asking how I was doing.

That was until yesterday, nearly two and half years later…

“Kurt buddy, how are you doing with stepping down at Guys For Life and how are you processing failure?”

In joyful shock I told my friend Steve, “Brother, you have no idea how comforting that question is. For more than two and a half years I’ve been waiting for someone to ask how I am doing. To have the guts to challenge me on failure and more. An here you are asking me today. Praise God.”

From there I shared with Steve what God’s been doing in my heart. How he has returned me as a father to the hearts of my bride and children. How losing the battle with my board was the best thing, and though I disagreed with the way they handled things in 2013, I could see how God used them like Cherubim with flaming swords to keep me from creeping back into the garden I’d made know as Guys For Life. If I’d snuck into that former role, they would have killed me, and rightfully so.

You see, Steve wants to go further with God. He wants to pursue his passions, maybe it’s his calling and he’s trying to figure things out.

Reflecting on his own personality he saw similarities to mine, and though we’d only spoken a handful of times over the years, Steve called to get my personal advice on some of his next moves wanting to serve men in Christ.

We spoke for an hour. He’d speak, I’d listen. I’d speak, then he’d listen. It was a great time to chew the possibilities.

Yet, in doing so, Steve unlocked two important areas of my heart:

  1. First, he gave me a conduit to discuss my failures and process them more.
  2. Second, he gave me a chance at redemption, demonstrating I had value in God’s eyes by asking my advice.

In The Church today, we as a body, have the hardest time at processing failure. That is, regardless a person’s failure as a new convert or long-time meat eater, we as The Church do not look kindly, nor to the best of our abilities work on restoring a brother or sister in sin, after an honest mistake gone misunderstood and more.

As Pastor Mike Chesire wrote in an article for Christianity Today in July of 2013 titled: We Need To Stop Eating Our Own he shared:

Despite what you will hear from some religious leaders in today’s church culture, the average Christ-follower walking out the door is not weak, unwilling to commit, or intrinsically selfish.

The vast majority of these Christians are leaving for two main reasons: First, and foremost, they are tired of being treated harshly by other Christians. Second, they feel the church has lost relevance to its community and to what they are going through in their everyday lives.

Catch that? The first reason people leave The Church is not because of preaching, teaching, elder issues, etc. but rather – they are tired – of being treated harshly by other Christians in The Church.

Yeah, as a leader I bombed. I trusted in my own power. I did not listen well to others at times and was a serious ‘driver’. Maybe even unapproachable due to an overconfident spirit. So I get that people may not want to talk to me, thinking (and I wholeheartedly assume this) “Kurt will never listen. He’s so convinced he’s right.”

Yup, that was me. Good talker – bad listener.

In spite of that, I can tell you the immense pain in not hearing from anyone, or at least people I thought would contact me. The silence get’s you thinking, “Is this how I respond when I see people fail? Do I get what I want from them (like a luscious banana) and when I view them as refuse (the leftover peel) go about throwing them out, seeing them as garbage and nothing but waste should they slip up in any way? Maybe other people view me that way?”

Yet, when Steve asked me how I was doing, how I was processing failure he helped shore up a spiritual truth, that is:”But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

By asking me how I was doing and digging deeper Steve unlocked the area of my heart needing restoration. Through talking, he encouraged me. Through listening he lifted me up. Through processing it all, with him and Christ as the chord of three strands, I am protected against sin’s deceitfulness.

Amazingly I agree with Andy Woods list of 9 reasons Why the Church shoots Its Wounded. Paraphrased:

  1. It saves time and money – It’s easier to read someone a tract, then get involved and invest in their life.
  2. It makes the Gospel harder to sell to the community – Church is messed up, who wants to follow our example?
  3. Sometimes they have to pick sides – We don’t always support victims.
  4. They’re hurt – Even leaders are hurt, not just sheep.
  5. Pride – Helping someone might infer ‘guilty by association’.
  6. Desire – We want life easy, not slowed down by messed up saints.
  7. Fear – Like a scared dog, we ‘Bark’ at the wounded, because we are scared.
  8. They confuse forgiveness with approval –  Treating someone as if they had never sinned seems to be approving of the sin itself.
  9. They’re just as disconnected with God as the wounded soldier. – We just don’t know how to say it.

Yet this is where we find ourselves in 21st century America. Eating our own, shooting our wounded and as The Church exuding a reluctance to process failure.

After Steve allowed me to speak, to share my story, to hear what God is doing and lead me through the process of discussing failure, he added one more component: He asked for my advice.

What?

I remember asking myself, in my head before I went on, ” Don’t you remember Steve, I bombed in ministry, I blew things up – yet you want my advice?”

Steve broke through the barrier when he said, “Kurt I hear your heart, you didn’t have a moral failure. You may have been headstrong in your leadership, however, I hear you’ve grown immensely since stepping down. From where I sit I see you mentored thousands of men to reach others, save children from abortion and lead people to share the Gospel. Where’s the failure in that?”

He than asked for my advice on men’s leadership and Gospel issues.

Like those of us members who are the Body of Christ, The Church itself on earth, Steve ignored the temptation eat his own, to shoot the wounded and fought the reluctance to process failure. In that hour Steve held the hand of Christ, and then held mine. One spirit, united, connected, forgiving and redemptive.

Think about it.

TAKE AWAYS:

  1. ACCEPT THERE WILL BE FAILURE – If you’re the least bit truthful, recognize you fail and you fail often. Then, openly allow EVERYONE else you know to fail without your continual judgment.
  2. REACH INTO THE LIVES OF THOSE THAT HAVE FAILED – As a Christ follower live out Hebrews 3:16 and encourage a brother or sister to the point they are guarded from sins deceitfulness through your loving faithfulness.
  3. REDEEM PEOPLE WHO FAIL BY VALUING WHAT THEY ARE THINKING – It’s a process I call, “Honor the Man” and you can see Jesus doing it in all four Gospels where he honors the one speaking, by listening intently to them, regardless their sin position. Try it.

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

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