“Forget your tired old ideas about leadership. The most successful corporation of the 1990s will be something called a learning organization.”
– Peter Senge, “The Fifth Discipline,” 1990
“If you fail at first, try, try again.”
– Folk wisdom from Grandma’s knee
“We encourage our people to make at least 10 mistakes a week. When they don’t, we know they aren’t learning.”
– Executive of a successful major company
“Not loving for fear of getting hurt is like committing suicide for fear of dying.”
What does the world we find ourselves in need from God’s people and God’s church?
Far more than it’s ever needed before.
The issues of our day are large: environmental crashing, economic disparity through greedy lifestyles, disregard for the personal dignity of others, wars and doctrine battle fatigue.
Perhaps the issues 30 years ago were smaller – at least it seemed like it.
But our current world does not need a small church, a church preoccupied with the details.
God’s calling for God’s people is to live bigger, to live more courageously, to follow in the Jesus way ever more clearly. That’s the world God’s people find ourselves inhabiting.
So, how can we be the church the world needs (and the one God believes we can be)?
We know several strategies that clearly will not help: denial, leading as we have always have, following leaders without questioning, doing what we have always done, asking irrelevant questions and so on. You get the picture.
The world needs far more from God’s church than the church has ever been. If we are going to step up, living into God’s vision for us, making a dent in the world’s pain, then we will make more mistakes than we have made before.
One primary way people learn and grow is by trying things we have never done before. If we do so, we will fail sometimes.
What’s your perspective on failure? On mistakes? What’s the culture in your congregation regarding mistakes? Would we rather avoid failing and live securely behind the competence mask, making minimal impact and low contribution?
Or can we tolerate mistakes for the sake of making a difference in the world? The meaning we give to experience largely creates our experience.
Learning organizations, or growing churches, tend to see mistakes as part of the process.
Failures are detours, learning opportunities, roadblocks, directional signs, wake-up calls, challenges and calls for change.
People who see failures as final, terminal or the end of the story usually don’t try much of anything – thereby remaining small (capacity, size, spirit and so on). Others who view mistakes as part of the process tend to persevere, learn, grow and creatively contribute.
The good news is we get to choose. We get to choose the meaning we give to events in our lives. The good news for leaders is that the meaning you choose carries great influence.
With that attitude God’s people will risk something big for something good. God’s people will not tolerate Egypt, but will exodus to a greater place. God’s people will fail sometimes, happily, knowing they will succeed more often in the trying.
May we join more fully with God to help God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
So I’m wishing you many happy failures.
Mark Tidsworth is president of Pinnacle Leadership Associates.