Outleading Our Inevitable Failure


I’ve had a terrible experience at Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater.

Having no children of my own, I’ve spent very little time inside of one of Mr. Cheese’s establishments.  I do however have several nieces and nephews who happen to fit squarely into Chuck E’s target demographic.  Because adult birthday parties usually define the word terrible for children, my 32nd birthday was spent in what can best be described as a skeeball and pizza induced stupor. That was the fun part.

The terrible part happened about an hour before closing.

I was in the arcade when a siren went off and bells started ringing. Instinctively I began to move towards the front door in an orderly fashion, but there was no fire. Emerging from a door near the Time Crisis machine was the proprietor himself, in all of his foam and felt glory. He had come to bestow candy and free tokens to the celebrators.

A sudden and comprehensive chaos ensued.

Some of the children shrieked with delight, but the smaller ones recoiled in horror at the unexpected and sudden appearance of this massive, upholstered mouse in effigy. The real panic set in when Chuck began tossing handfuls of coins into the air. Even I was trampled beneath the stampede of size 6 sneakers.

Staff quickly appeared from behind closed doors and counters. Angry parents began digging through the knotted mass of humanity. The event went from G to R-rated the moment people began to speak. The house lights eventually came up and antiseptic ointments were applied to the bruised and rug burned. That night the silence of many parents was purchased with untold sums of Chuck E. Bucks and free refills on soft drink pitchers.

In the shuffle, the mouse had been hastily escorted backstage.

The place didn’t close early that night but it should have because it emptied in a sad procession of strollers and diaper bags. Those of us who stayed till closing were left in the uncomfortable aftermath of where Chuck E. had led us. It was a room filled with frustrated people who spent the rest of the evening comparing notes on how great it was “before things went south.”

Which of course brings me to leadership.

Most people are appointed as leaders based on their talents and abilities in conjunction with a track record of previous successes.  While it’s true that good leaders need to have talent and said talent will have produced success in their life, our leadership development model signals that we’ve falling in love with “results” as opposed to being “faithful in a process” that produces results.

We gravitate towards leaders who have the promise of being successful in hopes that their success will have a beneficial impact on our lives.

The problem with promoting a leader based on these qualifications is that we are subtly pinning our hopes and dreams on the success of an individual and their gifts as opposed to pinning them on the person of Jesus, who is being revealed in that person.  Every leader, and their ministry, are doomed to fail regardless of how talented they are because failure is both guaranteed and imminent for humanity.  Most churches that fail do so when a leader, even one who skillfully pitched a Godly vision, eventually leaves, is removed, or dies.

So how do we combat the inevitable failure of leadership?

Paul makes it clear that the ministry of the Gospel is accomplished when it is passed from one faithful person to the next.  We have the Gospel today because Paul, a talented and successful person, didn’t think so highly of his talents that he held onto his vision for the church and run everything through himself.  Paul passed the Gospel and leadership to Timothy and other early church pastors who in turn passed it on to faithful men whom they had discipled.

Paul was faithful in a process that guaranteed the success of the Gospel long after the inevitable failure of his body, mind, or morality.

Paul’s qualification for Gospel leaders wasn’t “guys who look like George Hamilton, speak like James Earl Jones and sing like Freddy Mercury”, it was merely “faithful” men (2 Tim 2:2). The early church fathers were faithful men, talented and interesting. Their ministry outlived them, and led us here today.  When we are willing to stop falling in love with results, and begin falling in love with Jesus (the first step of the process by which we become faithful) we will start promoting humble, faithful people who love passing the Gospel to the faithful they train.

Leaders who say that their ministry isn’t “about them” but spend no time personally developing younger leaders are deceiving themselves. A leader will not pass his leadership on to another because he is talented, he will do it because he is faithful.

So who was faithful in the process that brought you into leadership? Who trained you and made room for you beside them? I’d love for the “reply” to be a roll call of the faithful.

4 Responses to “Outleading Our Inevitable Failure”

  1. Jake February 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    I wouldn’t agree more…

    Larry Schwein (my dad)

    Mark Goens (Youth Pastor)

    Roger Haberman (Youth Pastor)

    Steve Patty (Prof)

    Bob Williford (was his Junior High pastor…journeyed with me to realize that God was huge, outside of any box I had for him. Believed in the gifts the Lord had placed in me)

    James Allison (believed in the gifts the Lord had placed in me, trained me in pastoral ministry and leadership…)

    All of these guys played a huge role in who I am as a leader today!!

    Dad, Mark, Roger, Steve, Bob, James…THANK YOU!!

  2. Jon February 3, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    Rich Rogers, the coach who made me work for what I wanted.

    Brian Murphy, the Youth Pastor who called me on my crap.

    David St. John, the college pastor who spent hours listening to me.

    Ken Elben who trusted me with kids from Montgomery Middle School.

    Russ Veenker and Bill Buhrow, the professionals who kept me from insanity.

    James Allison, the Pastor who believed I could be better than I was.

    Rex and Andrea Furman, who loved me in spite of it all. Thank you!

  3. Sharon O February 4, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    When I was young and lost and in high school searching… I had a college friend ‘who is still a friend’ walk along side me and encourage me in the process he always answered my questions no matter how bad they were his name is Dennis. Also I had a youth pastor who encouraged my heart and helped me find hope. His name is Ward. Most of all God keep pursuing me and showing me I had potential and healing would come.

  4. Mike Maxwell February 4, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    Most of the men in my life were mired in their own issues and were in no position to lead anyone. But each was a mixture of good and bad and I have tried to “eat the meat and spit out the bones” of what I have observed and filtered thru my study and relationship with my Saviour. Some of the most amazing lessons regarding this amazing journey have come thru the most flawed of people and I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences.

    And I can’t wait so see what God has next.

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