Week Three: Why We Leave Room for Failure
For many of us, the word disciple invokes images of icons venerated in gold gilding. The mighty apostles of Christ—men of faith and renown. Countless architectural wonders have been erected in their honor and for their namesake. Cities and even whole islands bear their names as well. Yet, if the only historical record we had to go on was the Gospel of Mark, we might not think so well of them.
Of all the Gospels, Mark places significant emphasis on the many failures of Jesus chosen.
- The disciples failed to understand Jesus’ teaching (4:13; 7:18).
- The disciples failed to recognize Jesus’ authoritative power (6:37, 52; 8:4).
- The disciples failed to comprehend the true nature of Jesus’ messiahship (8:32; 9:32).
- The disciples failed to act with humility and were often motivated by their own self-interest (9:38; 10:13, 37, 41).*
The gilded icons venerated in our imaginations tarnish under the pen of Mark.
As we can clearly see, Jesus left significant room for failure. Moreover, Jesus was constantly putting the disciples in over their heads—quite literally in the case of Peter (see Matt 14:30)! Of course, this begs the question, why? Why would Jesus choose these men and place a special anointing on their lives only to put them into situations in which they would repeatedly fail?
The answer is quite simple. The manifold failures of the disciples were rooted in one chief failure: the failure of faith (4:13, 40; 7:18; 9:19). Jesus had a special mission in mind for his disciples, and he knew he needed to develop in them a faith that would match that mission. Moreover, to develop their faith, Jesus knew he had to put his disciples in situations that would expose their faithlessness.
Of course, to our modern sensibilities, Jesus’ methodology seems counterintuitive. Indeed, most modern ministry models and philosophies seem preoccupied with mitigating failure at all costs. But what if failure is part of God’s plan? What if failure is the means by which Jesus will foster faith in us?
In the nearly nine years that I have ministered alongside Pastor Brian, I have come to appreciate one of his qualities above all the rest. Pastor Brian is an extremely patient man. Frankly, I didn’t always appreciate his patience. I would often grow increasingly frustrated when difficult situations and people issues seemed to drag out. However, in the passing years, my perspective has changed. More often than not, I have witnessed his patience yield abundant fruit in our humble little flock. Perhaps my perspective has shifted most dramatically because, on more than one occasion, I have been the beneficiary of his patience.
Eleven of Jesus’ twelve failures eventually turned the world upside down. Through his patience their many failures were converted into victory. Why do we leave room for failure at Living Hope? We leave room for failure because Jesus left room for failure—plain and simple.
*Listed adapted from Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels, by Mark L. Strauss (197).