To fail is a difficult thing. Consider these statistics:
- 1,500 pastors leave the ministry for good each month due to burnout or contention in their churches.
- For every 20 pastors who enter the ministry, only one will retire from ministry.
- Denominational health insurance agencies report that medical costs for clergy are higher than for any other professional group.
These are just a few of the sobering statistics outlined in J.R. Brigg’s Fail. Briggs is the founder of the Epic Fail Pastors Conference and someone who knows what failure as a Christian leader looks like.
Briggs started the Epic Fail Pastors Conference because he was convinced that he leaders desperately needed a safe place to share about their failures. Pastors are not only responsible for their own spiritual health and wellness, but they are leading a church congregation in a greater relationship with God. That is a tall order that creates high expectations and very little room to screw up. The worst part of it all is that most pastors don’t feel comfortable showing imperfections or sharing personal struggles with virtually anyone. When people see you as a professional being paid to act like Jesus, they expect you to deliver.
After several pastors opened up at the conference, Briggs wrote this book in the hopes of helping more leaders come together to celebrate faithfulness in ministry (no matter the outcome) and to highlight the need for grace and to acknowledge Jesus as the foundation of all they do in ministry and life.
Briggs takes us through the many steps of failure, from how it tears us apart and builds us back up, to our false cultural expectations of success and the pressure to live up, and the need to communicate God’s view of what it means to succeed. Briggs encourages leaders that it’s perfectly healthy to have a period of grieving and that in our lowest moments we are better positioned to receive grace, healing and restoration.
Briggs comments that one of the biggest issues with pastors today is that they don’t have friends who don’t “need” them. If leaders surround themselves with people who “need” them, who look to them for advice, spiritual counsel or prayer, they have created a network of one-sided relationships. Pastors have to create a friend group where they feel completely safe to share joys and struggles.
This isn’t a “how to” book. You won’t find a chapter called “how to avoid failure in ministry.” But you will find text that you can relate to, that brings you hope and that equips you for the journey. You will learn that bodies, budget and building isn’t a healthy way to gauge success in the church, and that redefining the definition through God’s word is the only thing that will help shift statistics and create healthy and sustained leadership.
Even if you aren’t a pastor or Christian leader, this book will open your eyes to the reality many of our leaders face in the church today and will hopefully allow you to extend more grace and love to the people who devote their lives to bringing people to Christ. Because let’s face it, we all fall short.
Official Fail Book Description
2014 Best Books About the Church from Byron Borger, Hearts and Minds Bookstore
“I thought God had called me to plant this church. Why did we have to shut our doors after only three years?” “I was at my breaking point. Then I got the news that our nine-year-old daughter had leukemia. I would have quit ministry forever, but I had no other employable skills.” “False accusations were made against me and my family, wrecking our reputation permanently and forcing us to leave not only the church, but move out of the area.” “I’ve served my church for the past 27 years and I’ve grown that church from 150 to 24 people.”
What do we do when we’ve failed? Some ministries are shipwrecked by moral failures like affairs or embezzlement. But for most of us, the sense of failure is more ordinary: disillusionment, inadequacy, declining budgets, poor decisions, opposition, depression, burnout. Many pastors are deeply broken and wounded, and we come to doubt that God has any use for us. J.R. Briggs, founder of the Epic Fail Pastors Conference, knows what failure feels like. He has listened to pastors who were busted in a prostitution sting or found themselves homeless when ejected from ministry. With candid vulnerability, Briggs explores the landscape of failure, how it devastates us and how it transforms us.
Without offering pat answers or quick fixes, he challenges our cultural expectations of success and gives us permission to grieve our losses. Somehow, in the midst of our pain, we are better positioned to receive the grace of healing and restoration.