5 Reasons to Read FAIL:  Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure (by J.R. Briggs)

by | Feb 24, 2016 | Church Leadership and Ministry

I’m gearing this post to pastors, associate staff members, pastoral students in Bible College or Seminary, members of church boards, and parachurch leaders. Wives of pastors will also benefit.  If you don’t fit any of these categories, this book will instill within you greater empathy for the pressures a pastor faces.

Why should you read FAIL?

1.     Eugene Peterson, experienced pastor and renown author, endorses FAIL and writes the Preface. You can count on one hand the number of pastors or authors as respected as he is for godliness and incisive thinking.  Peterson’s enthusiasm for FAIL is all the prod you should need to digest the book.

2.     FAIL teems with Scripture.  Both painful and redemptive stories stitch together the book’s pages, yet J.R. bathes every topic in God’s Word.  His authority is God’s book, not his or other pastors’ experiences. Whether he’s discussing the definition of success, a leader’s ambition, brokenness, honest praying, reasons not to lose heart, or perspectives on failure, he employs stories or directives from the Bible to buttress his points.

3.    You’ll appreciate the author’s transparency. What J. R. writes about his own pilgrimage as a church worker will convince you that the book’s message was prepared not in his mind, but in his life.  He doesn’t write sterile theory. His honest, realistic look at the stressors and unrealistic expectations facing pastors will spur you to greater openness and acknowledgement of your own frustrations and pain.  You’ll finish the book encouraged, knowing God can still greatly use folks who feel like a failure.

4.    J. R. views pastoral struggles and failure through the lens of the gospel.  His theology of failure ends on a positive note, showing how God uses setbacks for redemptive purposes.  Though the book applies to leaders who’ve made moral mistakes, the emphasis is on “amoral failure”:  a church declining in attendance; an unsuccessful church plant; being asked to resign, or unfair criticism or outright betrayal of people in the church. 

 5.    FAIL ends with practical suggestions for recovering from a painful ministry episode.  J. R. lists restorative practices based on research with pastors who’ve experience amoral failure. His tips include, but aren’t limited to:
       *Keep pursuing God through personal Bible study and heartfelt prayer.
       *Find a mentor or counselor with whom you can vent frustrations and receive objective input.
       *Permit yourself to experience the “grief process,” which he clearly explains in the book.
       *Cultivate Sabbath rest.
       *Start journaling.
       *Avoid conferences promoting “Christian celebrities” who come to share their secrets to                      ministry success.  (He hosts an “Epic FAIL Pastors Conference” to counter the kind of                            gatherings that induce guilt in “less productive” pastors.)

FAIL is candid.  Refreshing.  Hopeful.  As Ruth Haley Barton puts it in her plug of J.R.’s book, “He offers hard-won wisdom for leaning into God’s gracious purposes even in the most painful experiences leaders face.”

J.R. Briggs serves on a church staff and works with other leaders through a ministry he launched, Kairos Partnerships.  Check out www.kairospartnerships.org.

Please note: comments are closed after two weeks. You are welcome to contact me directly after that time if you would like to share your thoughts.



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