Friday, January 30, 2009

thoughts on failure

another cool bit of exegesis from innovation concerns failure.

"failure" is only referenced 1 time in the entire second testament: 1 thessalonians 2.1

it comes as part of the letter wherein Paul talks about all the good things that came from a seemingly disastrous trip to thessalonica.

but he frames all the bad things by beginning the section claiming that the trip was NOT a failure.

now, that word failure literally means "proven empty."

paul's "failed" trip wasn't really a failure because it was proven full of good fruit...though not necessarily the good fruit he'd anticipated.

nothing is a failure unless it has been proven empty...this is cool because i often contemplate my failures as a leader. our plant in ann arbor, for example, i consider a failure because it never happened (either time)...but there has been much fruit to come of our "failure" to launch. for example, Jvo and I are infinately wiser about how to broker deals between pastors, businesses, etc. Our church has been saved from the financial burden and emotional liability of a congregation unprepared to be a plant.

there are many other benefits, but these - for now - suffice to make my point.

our failure was not proven empty, and is therefore no failure at all.


you're not a failure as a parent even though your kids aren't serving jesus...because the efforts you've made over the years will not be proven empty even though you feel helpless now

and you're not a failure as a businessman even though you're on the verge of bankruptcy...because you've been able to stretch and grow and feed your family and learn to shadow God even though it feels like all hope is lost

you're not a failure until the last bell rings and then - and only then - do you think what you've done hasn't really succeeded.

1 Thessalonians 2.1-12

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.

We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.

We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.

We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

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