Sunday, July 27, 2014

FAIL - the best ministry book i may have ever read

I just finished reading J.R. Briggs' phenomenal little book, Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure. I think it may be the best ministry book I have ever read. If not, it was at least the best book for ME at this point in life.

I think it was Scot McKnight who suggested it, so I ordered my first book in over a year. I started reading it with the typical skepticism of "oh yeah, right, just another book that won't deliver what it promises"... I finished it on my back patio, teary-eyed at the realization there might actually be hope for me yet.

I tried to blog about it while reading a chapter a day. It just didn't work out. I HOPE to blog about it now that I'm done - and while reading it again - but first I want my wife to read it. I'm not sure I can put things into words on a page yet... but I need to one of these days. It's hard to describe the feelings that came through - similar to finding a friend or soul-mate; someone who made you feel "okay," accepted, validated, ashamed and encouraged all at the same time.

I'm not sure about recommending this for non-church leaders, or even for seminarians or those just starting out in ministry. However, I would think just about anyone who has served in ministry for any length of time knows what it is to feel like a failure, and you should read it. Every denominational director should have stacks of this book available for the pastors they serve. It is the perfect size for someone who's burned out on reading - a mere 178 pages in paperback. It's easy to read, and while it provides plenty of introspection on its own, there are also reflection questions at the end.

While trying to find the best words to describe it, I will just share from the back cover:
Sometimes ministries are shipwrecked by moral failures. But for most of us, the failure is more ordinary: disillusionment, inadequacy, declining budgets, poor decisions, opposition, depression, burnout.

J.R. Briggs, founder of the Epic Fail Pastors Conference, knows what failure feels like. He has listened to pastors who were busted in a prostitution sting or found themselves homeless when ejected from ministry. With candid vulnerability, Briggs explores the landscape of failure, how it devastates us and how it transforms us. Without offering pat answers or quick fixes, he challenges cultural expectations of success and gives permission to grieve our losses. Somehow, in the midst of our pain, we are better positioned to receive the grace of healing and restoration.

I'm trying to not get my hopes up too high, but I feel really good right now. Not like I've overcome anything or that all is right with the world, but more like 'I'm not alone;' and like I said earlier, there may be hope for me/us after all someday. Nicely done, J.R., and thanks.

Hopefully I will be able to write more about it in the days and weeks ahead...