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Integral to Christian Ministry

After more than twenty years in pastoral activity, I am clearer now that failure is integral to Christian ministry. It was for Jesus in His ministry: He failed with the young ruler; He failed in Nazareth because of the people’s unbelief; He failed with Judas Iscariot; He failed with the bulk of His fellow countrymen; He failed with the religious leadership; He failed with nine of the ten lepers; He failed with Pontius Pilate. In the face of repeated failure, Jesus learned to abide firmly in the love of His Father and to keep His Father’s Word.

These events in His ministry were not mistakes. He took the risk of being open with people with the love of God: many responded favorably, many did not. If, then, we live in the love of God and listen to the Word of God, we will meet constant failure. It will be tempting, because we live in such a results-dominated society, to see failure as reprehensible and therefore to be avoided. One way to avoid failure is to call it a mistake—and then to try to eliminate any mistakes, to make sure we get things right and that we succeed. Many local churches base their activities on such priorities and virtually reject anything that is at all risky, because “we cannot afford to make mistakes.”

David Prior, Creating Community, (Colorado Springs: NAVPRESS, 1992), pp. 17-18