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Learning to Fail

LEARNING TO FAIL

Ryan Williams » Church Leadership Mind Wisdom Culture

The current generation of young men has been coddled and over-protected.

“. . . a time to break down, and a time to build up . . .”Ecclesiastes 3:3

There will be a time when you fail. In life, you will be presented with a litany of opportunities to try something and fail, from school, sports, work, relationships, family, or your faith in Christ.

For some men, failure can create an overwhelming sense of shame, heartbreak, and disappointment. For others, they sweep these feelings underneath the rug of their masculinity and pretend like nothing is wrong. Both of these responses to failure are bad examples of how we should respond to failure.

In Christ, our performance does not determine God’s love for us. We are free to own up to our failures because they cannot ruin or define us.

Show them godly men repent and follow Christ with renewed vigor.

I know this bristles against everything we were brought up with, namely, the notion of victory and the thought that we can do what we like without having to reap the consequences if we fail and somehow still manage to come out on top when we do.

TOUGH AND TENDER

I was speaking recently with a young man I pastor. He has struggled with responsibility and, as a result, works a menial job, isn’t given leadership roles, and isn’t put in positions where people need to count on him.

I have sat in his place many times when I failed, times when I needed a firm, direct assessment of where I was failing, that how I was acting wasn’t how I had said I would, and a clear exhortation to stand up, be a man, and take responsibility. I needed this tough conversation—it used to be known as the “man-up talk.” This talk could be pivotal in the journey of the young men we are leading, but it can’t be all that we are about. It can’t be the same old tough-guy routine—no, now we are dealing with another beast entirely.

God calls us men to be tough and tender, challenging and loving. Some people are willing to be tough but never tender, and some are always too tender and will never be tough. Are you willing to step up to the task of being both?

CODDLED, CURRENTLY

There has been a distinct change in how men have been treated over the last 20 or so years. Rather than being able to fail and fall, the current generation of young men has been coddled and over-protected. They have been molded by a vacuum effect in the wake of a lack of strong Christian men and father figures. This vacuum has created men who are more passive and confused about what it is to be a man than any other generation of men in history. This generation must be dealt with differently, and the current understanding of a man-up talk needs be re-shaped if we are to reach these young men for Jesus and encourage them to grow up to be godly men who love, protect, and provide for their families and their churches.

SHOW, THEN TELL

As we engage with younger men over the next few years, it must be with a more emotionally engaging firmness. They have never been allowed to feel the full weight of their responsibilities or failings. Rather than calling them to what they should be doing, we need to show them what it is to be a man in the first place.

Engaging young men in what they are foundationally called to be as a man is essential to raise up the next generation of Christian leaders. Why do you think young men flock to strong male figures like Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler? It’s because they see in these men something they haven’t seen in others; they see strong Christian men who loves his family and church but not at the expense of their masculinity.

Let them dare to live a life worthy of the calling.

Once we have laid the foundation of what it is to be a biblical man, we can begin to move the young men we pastor toward the example of Jesus and the building of his kingdom (Matt. 9:32) and away from the comfort of their own kingdoms. Jesus as both tough and tender is our always-perfect example of what God designed a man to be like.

Build them up in love. They must know that we, as their pastors, love them—so tell them. These young men have grown up in a sexually perverted, relationally fluffy existence. They want to know you love them and that you want to see them grow into godly men.

GODLY MEN REPENT

Then let them dare—dare to live a life worthy of the calling to which they have been called (Eph. 4:1). They will fail, but they must know failure is not a bad thing. They have been protected from it for most of their lives; they must know that it is essential to growing in Christlikeness. Give them examples of men who failed, repented, and followed Christ with a new passion: King David (Ps. 51), the Apostle Peter (Acts 2:14–41), and yourself! Show them that godly men repent and follow Christ with renewed vigor (Luke 3:8).

May God grant us grace as we toil to call the next generation of men into the great responsibility of leading and loving their families and their churches.

The Habits and Character of Leaders

THE HABITS AND CHARACTER OF LEADERS

Justin Holcomb » Church Church Leadership Heart Wisdom Stewardship

The best leaders depend on God.

Rather than teaching leadership tips and methods for maximizing results, the Bible emphasizes character, faithfulness, and dependence on God when it portrays God-honoring leadership.

THE HABITS OF LEADERS

Leaders in Scripture represent a given people or nation. A priest who sins, for example, brings judgment upon the entire nation (Lev. 4:3). In a different way, Moses intercedes on behalf of Israel asking that God not execute his judgment upon them (Exod. 32).

Leaders witness to the gospel (Luke 24:48Acts 1:8) and are called servants (John 13:16Acts 4:29). They are administrators (1 Cor. 12:28), shepherds (John 21:15–16Acts 20:28–29), and builders (1 Cor. 3:10). Leaders are athletes competing in a race for God’s sake (2 Tim. 2:5), and they are considered fools (1 Cor. 4:10) and rubbish (v. 13) in the face of the world.

Leaders are to remain steadfast.

Joshua, who is another of Scripture’s model leaders, meditated on Scripture (Josh. 1:8). Leaders study God’s law (Ezra 7:10), flee from impurity (Isa. 52:11), do not have fear (Jer. 1:8), and are honest (Mal. 2:6). Leaders are humble (Matt. 23:8–12), have integrity (2 Cor. 4:2), are pure (1 Tim. 6:11), and have pure motives (1 Thess. 2:3).

Christian leaders in particular are to teach the Bible soundly (2 Tim. 1:13), remain focused on the gospel (2 Tim. 2:1–23), and exercise their spiritual gifts (1 Pet. 4:10). In fact, leaders of the church are the group of leaders to whom God gives the most stringent guidelines, almost all of which deal with character traits.

THE CHARACTER OF LEADERS

Leaders throughout Scripture are characterized by a variety of positive traits. Integrity is especially valued. David asks God to judge his integrity (Ps. 7:8), and he was said to have shepherded Israel with a heart full of integrity (Ps. 78:72). God tells Solomon to maintain his integrity and guarantees the preservation of his reign if he continues in integrity (1 Kings 9:4–5). Leaders with integrity are guarded, but those who lack it are overthrown (Prov. 13:6).

Leadership entails great responsibility for others, especially including those who are considered followers. Leaders, according to Proverbs, are supposed to protect the innocent (Prov. 18:5), fight for justice, and punish the oppressors of the poor and orphans (Prov. 72:423:10).

God often chooses people who would appear as unfit leaders.

Leaders are to remain steadfast in the face of opposition. Ezekiel, for example, was publicly criticized, but he maintained his convictions. Similarly, Paul boldly stood up to Peter at Antioch, confronting Peter about his hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11–21).

Attempting to implement worldly models of leadership has undesirable results (Exod. 17:1–71 Sam. 8:7–8) because the leadership modeled in Scripture differs significantly from that of the world (1 Cor. 1:20). For example, God often chooses people who would appear to human eyes as unfit leaders: Moses was not eloquent (Exod. 3:9–4:16), Gideon was a coward (Judg. 6:11–12), and Simon Peter was uneducated (Luke 5:1–11). This makes it clear that leadership in Scripture is a gift from God, which negates any possibility for human boasting (1 Cor. 1:26–31). Kings were anointed before God in the Old Testament (Exod. 28:41), and leaders were appointed by the laying on of hands in the New Testament (Acts 6:5–6).

THE TRIUNE GOD: THE TRUE AND BETTER LEADER

The best leaders depend on God. They recognize that human leadership is patterned after the leadership of God, who is the ultimate leader, and all things fit within the frame of his sovereign leadership (Eph. 1:20–21Phil. 2:9–10). God chooses the leaders for his own people (Deut. 17:14–15), and he appoints those who rule over the secular realm (Rom. 13:1). Human leadership in no way undermines God’s supremacy as the ultimate leader, but he desires that human leaders govern according to his will (Gen. 1:28), and he says that they are accountable to him (Luke 12:48). God uses prophets (Hag. 2:20–23), the leaders of foreign nations (Isa. 45:1), and natural disasters (Exod. 7:4) to impose his will upon leaders not submitting to his authority. God is depicted as the ultimate king in Scripture (Ps. 48:2Jer. 10:10). He sits on his throne (Ps. 47:8) and rules with his scepter (Ps. 45:6).

The best leaders revel in God’s grace and show grace to others.

Jesus Christ is depicted in Scripture as the one who brings the failures of previous leaders to an abrupt end. As a leader, Jesus attracted both small and large crowds (Matt. 4:18–25) and set an example for his disciples to follow (John 13:15). He is the true prophet, priest, and king. As true prophet, Jesus revealed the Father (Matt. 11:27) and spoke the Father’s words (John 8:28). As priest, he mediates between God and his people (Heb. 4:14–16;10:11–22) and offered the perfect sacrifice of his life. And as the true Davidic king whose kingship will never end (2 Pet. 1:11), Jesus rules at the right hand of the Father of his church. Christ, the true and better leader, intercedes for his people.

Jesus was the ultimate wise leader. He says of himself in Matthew 12:42 that one “greater than Solomon is here.” Those who follow Jesus’s leadership are called children of wisdom (Luke 7:31–35).

The Holy Spirit also functions as a leader. In the Old Testament, the Spirit enabled the judges of Israel (Othniel in Judges 3:9–10, Gideon in Judges 6:34, Jephthah in Judges 11:29, and Samson inJudges 14:6 and 15:14–15). The Holy Spirit leads believers in the ways of God (Gal. 5:18Rom. 8:14), teaches them wisdom (Acts 6:3Eph. 1:17), and guides them in truth (John 16:13). The Spirit instructs in doctrine (1 Cor. 7:40), leads people physically (2 Kings 2:16Ezek. 2:23:12Luke 2:27Acts 8:39), sends people out (Acts 10:20), and leads the sons of God (Rom. 8:14).

LEADERS TRUST GOD

Scripture has much to offer in terms of a theology of leadership. The most important message, however, is that all leaders, even the greatest, will experience failure and must rely on God’s grace. The best leaders depend on God, revel in his grace, and show grace to others—they understand that grace motivates. Looking to the God of grace as the ultimate leader is the surest way to find resources for humble, faithful, and fruitful Christian leadership.

Works Like a Charm

Men I read this story today and I thought it was a great practical eg of discipling a daughter.

If you are a Dad of a son you may like to consider how you can instill this kind of respect and and love in him.

The Charm Bracelet
fiction by Sarah Kistler

Sweet 16 had finally come! I never thought I‘d make it. But I did. And it was amazing. My parents threw the birthday party of the century, and I had more people than I could count. The whole day had been awesome. But as I watched the sun begin to set, I knew the best part was soon to come.

It was late in the evening. Confetti had been swept up, helium balloons had started to sag and gift wrap had been folded neatly and tucked away for my mom’s later use. As I sat at my window studying the dusky sky, Dad peeked into my room with a smile.

“Ready to go, Sweetie?” he asked.

Was that a trick question? I wondered as I scrambled to my feet. I’d been waiting for this night for five long years, and it was finally here! I was now officially allowed to date!

The plan was for my parents and me to go to my favorite restaurant on the night of my 16th birthday and officiate the agreement, go over standards and discuss rules and such. And now we were finally on our way.

I sat across from my parents in a quiet corner booth. Having just placed our orders, I figured it was time to get on with it. “So. I can go out with any guy I want to, right?” I squealed, hardly able to contain my excitement.

Mom and Dad chuckled. Dad answered, “Well, we agreed to that, didn’t we?”

“Sweet!” I exclaimed, doing a little victory dance in my seat. My parents had held me off for years, but now that the time had come, they would let me date any guy I wanted! Of course they knew I had a good relationship with God and wasn’t too short on common sense, either.

“Now wait just a second,” Mom interrupted with a smile. “You have to agree to a little something yourself.”

I was expecting a lecture of some sort, so I was already prepared. “So what do I have to do now?” I asked, leaning forward on my elbows.

“Just open this,” Dad answered, producing a small white box. He gave a mysterious smile.

One Little Rule
I hesitated a moment before untying the curly pink ribbon. I slowly opened the lid and saw a beautiful silver bracelet. But not just any bracelet. It was a charm bracelet. And they weren’t just any charms. They were gemstones, small but gorgeous. A dozen dainty charms dangled gently.

“Wow.” I didn’t know what else to say. I wasn’t expecting this at all.

“Now you have to understand this isn’t just any bracelet,” Mom informed me.

“I know,” I said. “It’s so beautiful!” I studied it closer. There were six small charms alternating with six tinier ones. The smaller ones were a deep blue. Sapphires, I guessed. And the other six were each different. One appeared to be just a rock, one was pink, a white one, a red one, green . . . and was that a diamond?

“This charm bracelet is symbolic,” Dad explained, leaning in closer to study it with me. “It represents you and your purity. This is what will guide you through your dating relationships. Your mother and I can only tell you what’s right. We can’t make you believe it yourself. Hopefully, this will.”

I looked up solemnly. “I’m listening.”

“This represents the first time you hold a guy’s hand,” Mom said, pointing to the gray one. “It’s just a piece of polished granite. Seemingly cheap, yes, but it’s still a part of your bracelet. This is pink quartz.” She gently rubbed the next one between her fingers. “It represents your first kiss.”

“This green one is an emerald,” Dad continued. “This is your first boyfriend. The pearl is the first time you say ‘I love you’ to a man other than me.”

I giggled. This was so amazing.

“The ruby stands for your first engagement. And the diamond represents the first time you say ‘I do,’ ” Mom finished.

After letting it all sink in, I cleared my emotion-clogged throat. “What do the six tiny sapphires stand for?” I asked.

“Those are to remind you how beautiful and valuable you are to us and to God,” Dad replied. “Now here’s the hitch in all this, the one and only rule you’ll ever have to follow when it comes to dating.”

Only one rule. Sounded good. But little did I know . . .

“Whenever you give one these actions of love-a kiss, an ‘I love you,’ a hand to hold-you also have to give the recipient the gem to match.”

I must’ve misunderstood. “I have to give him the gem?”

“You have to give it to him,” Mom restated.

I was silent for a moment. I thought they must be joking. But they weren’t even thinking of cracking a smile.

“But Daddy!” I suddenly shrieked. “These are insanely expensive! I can’t just give them away!”

He gave a soft, loving chuckle. “Did you hear what you just said?”

I thought about it.

“Baby, your purity, your heart, they’re far more valuable than a few little rocks. If you can’t find it in your heart to give away your little charms, I don’t think you should be giving away the things they represent.”

I could feel my insides melting, ready to gush out my tear ducts. On the one hand, it made me feel valuable and precious. But on the other, it made me furious. It made no sense. But it would.

 

Priceless Gems
A few weeks after that night, I was hanging out with my friends at the beach. Chad wouldn’t swim because I wouldn’t swim. I was more interested in reading than getting caked with sand, and he was more interested in sitting with me than swimming with his buddies. He was sweet. He was cute. And he tried to hold my hand.

I was thrilled for a nanosecond when a certain piece of ugly granite flashed through my mind and made me move out of his reach. I was severely annoyed-annoyed at my parents, annoyed at my bracelet-turned-handcuffs, but most of all, annoyed at myself. I was letting a little rock dominate my romantic life.

I furiously glared at it during the whole embarrassing walk to the bathhouse. But then God hit me upside the head with a shocking epiphany. I couldn’t give up my little chunk of granite. It was a part of my bracelet, which in a sense made it a part of me. I wouldn’t be whole without it. It wasn’t a priceless gem, yet it was still valuable. It made sense after that.

Kevin came along eventually. We had fun. We hung out a lot. I thought I might love him. I thought I might tell him so. I thought of my pearl. It turned out that I didn’t love him as much as I thought I did.

So my parents had been right. They couldn’t make me believe the things they wanted me to believe. So they let God and my bracelet do the work instead. Among the four of them, I figured out how valuable I was. How valuable my purity was. How not valuable guys were who just wasted my time and emotions. If they weren’t in it for the whole bracelet, why should they get one part of it?

Nate. He thought my bracelet was awesome. So he never tried to hold my hand. He never tried to kiss me. But he asked me to marry him.

I never knew that so many years of torture could amount to so much happiness. I’d thought it was silly. I’d thought it was overrated. But now, I‘ve never been more glad of anything in my life. As I gave my husband the charm bracelet in its entirety, I wondered why I had found it so hard to hang on to those little rocks when it was so amazing to give them all to the man I truly loved.

But it didn’t end there. Now our daughter wears it.

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