Failing forward in 2010 (Cid Latty)

Tuesday, 29 December, 2009

Cid LattyCid Latty explains why he wants to fail forward in 2010.

'We have failed,' said the panic-stricken voice of a café church leader on the other end of the phone. 'Our church has withdrawn their support of our café church because the people who come are not going to church.'

This raised all sorts of questions for me. How could we help them survive? What was it that quantified failure for the church? Why did the café church leaders want to give up? It led me to think about failure – is it a bad thing?

Everyone must face failure because the reality is everyone fails. Although it can be embarrassing, debilitating and lead to misunderstanding, it can also hasten maturity and bring breakthrough. It all depends on the way you look at it and respond to it. Thomas Edison famously once said: 'I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that will not work.' It is not that he avoided failure, rather he never let it stop him.

Wisdom came as a result of failure, not because of success. Is this what the Apostle Paul meant when he said: 'when I am weak then I am strong'? (2 Corinthians 12.10). Setbacks may have acted like 'push backs' of an aeroplane, simply ushering him to greater levels of usefulness. Maybe we too should embrace failure like a friend.

This is not something we want to hear when we set sail in pioneering ministry. We want instant success with little or no risk. So we gravitate towards 'success stories' thinking that they will help us avoid failure. However, this 'quick fix' type of success is seductive and seldom lives up to our expectations. Maybe we fail to realise that the key to achievement is in our own hands. The question is will we learn from failure?

Cafechurch Network has been helping café churches set up in high street stores all over the UK. Most of these café churches are set up as a way for local churches to reach out to local communities. However, increasingly we have found people who share our values are asking for our help to form what I call 'café church congregations'. This is not just outreach, this is church.

So we have begun to respond. When one of the café church leaders called to say they had failed, we began to turn 'failure' towards forming a congregation. Their failure has become failure in the right direction.

If you want to be the kind of pioneer who rises after setbacks happen, here are a few pointers:

  • Be ready to learn on the job
  • Take a risk because you know it is right, not because you have all the answers.
  • Don't run after 'success'.
  • Don't leave prayer and personal Bible study behind.
  • Always ask: 'What can we learn from this?' or 'What is God teaching me?'

The Cross of Christ may look like failure to some but it was failing forward, for greater things came as a result of this event than could ever have been imagined. For the believer, it is this that gives us audacious pioneering hope that impacts history. At the end of a long presidential campaign full of setbacks, controversy, highs and lows, Oprah Winfrey stood in support of Barack Obama and said: 'I am standing on the right side of history.'

I wonder where failure will enable you to stand? Will it hinder your ability to pioneer or will it drive you onto greater things?

About the author: 

Rev Cid Latty heads up Cafechurch Network. With special thanks to Alison Latty, Rebecca Palfreman and Helen Petithuguenin for this post.


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