We all fail sometimes. Sometimes the failure is minor… sometimes it can be spectacular. Sometimes one has control over the situation of the failure, and sometimes not.
Failure is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, failures are great opportunities to grow. But not all failures are equal to each other. Consider three forms of failure.
- Failure of Vision. A minister lacks a clear vision or perhaps the minister’s vision proves to be leading in the wrong direction.
- Failure of Competence. A minister lacks the skill-set and/or experience for what he/she is doing.
- Failure of Trustworthiness. The minister violates trust by cheating, or breaking a promise.
The last one, failure of trustworthiness needs a bit of explanation. After all, to fail in doing what one promises to do is not automatically a trustworthy issue, in my opinion. For me trustworthiness has to do with the martial virtues– Courage (doing what is right despite fear), Duty (doing what is right regardless of preference), and Honor (doing what is right despite lack of oversight). Failure in these virtues is a failure of trustworthiness. These failures are all very different.
What is easiest to personally correct?
Trustworthiness Failure. In theory this can be done quickly with repentance. However, in practice it can take awhile because failure in the area of trustworthiness will continue to be a temptation during stress. Ministry has lots of stresses.
Vision Failure. Nehemiah went from no vision to a very clear vision in four months. Paul and Moses got at least a start of a vision in a very quick event (Damascus Road and Burning Bush), even if they needed new vision adjustments periodically. I believe vision is a human AND divine activity. Ultimately, a lack of vision I believe is a failure on the human side, rather than the divine side. But it is correctable.
Competence Failure. Training, mentoring, and experience can be gained in a few months to a few years.
What is the easiest to recover from?
Vision Failure. People will commonly accept the transition from a muddy vision to a clear vision, or a change of direction, especially if the change can be clearly articulated.
Competence Failure. People generally understand that people start out without skills and knowledge. They may wait awhile for the person to prove himself/herself but another chance will normally be given.
Trustworthiness Failure. Some understand and give another chance and some don’t. We don’t know why John Mark quit on the first missionary journey… but probably an issue of lack of courage or duty. His uncle Barnabas was ready quickly to give him a second chance. Paul, on the other hand took a few years to warm up to him. Some will never forget a failure of trustworthiness.
What do we tend to emphasize?
Competence. Preparation for ministry often focuses on learning skills and doctrine.
Depends. Some focus more on morals or trustworthiness, while others more on calling/vision. Either way, they are often given less priority than ministerial competence.
What failure is most risky?
Trustworthiness Failure. Regardless of whether one is in charge or a worker bee, a failure in this area can sour future opportunities for ministry (especially if due to failure in terms of honor).
The Others. One can learn as a mentee (protege or apprentice) without a lot of risk. Additionally, in that role, one doesn’t really need to have a clear vision. One can learn while working helping another’s vision. These are bigger issues if the person is a leader.