I remember seeing an announcement a few years ago for the first Epic Fail pastors gathering, and wondering if the idea was an Onion-inspired joke. No pastors I knew – and I knew a lot of them from my time working at Trinity International University and then serving a Chicago-area church networking ministry – wanted to apply the word “fail” to themselves or their efforts. The leaders gatherings and pastors conferences I’ve attended over the years were all about ministry success. In those contexts, success was defined by snazzy buildings, multiplying bodies and abundant bucks.
The posture among many attendees at these gatherings was humble brag: “My church is growing, all thanks be to God.” The key to decoding the humble brag factor in the conversations was the way in which the adjective “my” was used in conversation. If the word pointed to the church as “my people”, the accent was on humility. But if the “my” had to do with wielding authority (and lovin’ it!), it sounded to me more like bragging, even if the “my” was surrounded with Christianese spoken with perfect expressions of humility.
After a brag-worthy ministry trajectory, J.R. Briggs found himself pushed off the rising star track by ugly politics at the large congregation he and his wife had relocated in order to serve. Briggs learned that the gravity of failure has a black hole pull on a rising star. [Read more]