Tag: failure

Success hinges on ‘insignificant’ details

On our way home from a long trip the other day, my son asked if he could “watch the map” on my phone and help tell us how to get home. Since I knew the way, I obliged. He feels like a big boy when he can tell me which direction I need to turn.

Or…maybe he likes telling me what to do.

Either way, he enjoys it, and on a long trip, having him occupied is a fine thing.

When I hear the GPS lady barking orders, I’ll ask Rex, “What did she say? Left? Right? How many more miles?” Most of the time, he gets it right. He repeats whatever she says. It’s kind of fun.

As we were coming to a fork in the interstate, I heard her say something, but I couldn’t quite make it out. So I asked Rex for clarification.

“Which direction did she say, buddy?”

“In 2 miles ahead on Interstate 24 go left…or right.”

“Which one was it?”

“2 miles.”

“No, which direction?”

“Interstate 24.”

“No, buddy. Left or right?”

“Yep. Left or right.”

That little detail would make the difference in us getting home. Or getting to another state. In his mind, “left or right” was adequate. But more work needed to be done. That distinction made all of the difference in the world, even though every other part of what he said was right on point.

Your idea

You’ve got inside of you an idea that will shatter expectations and hopes. That will set your organization, your church, your small group, your family, your team, or your non-profit absolutely to the next level of success.

But there’s one pesky little detail that you’re overlooking. One thing that will derail success. One tiny pebble on your track that needs to be moved before you can go forward.

  • Maybe it’s a hint of pride in your own heart.
  • Maybe it’s someone that needs to be clued in to the change that’s about to go down.
  • Maybe it’s a scheduling detail that you need to work through.
  • Maybe it’s a board member that needs to…
  • Maybe it’s a timing issue you need to revisit.
  • Maybe it’s a conversation you need to make.
  • Maybe it’s a phone call you need to follow up with.
  • Maybe it’s an agenda that needs to be tweaked.
  • Maybe you need to share ownership.
  • Maybe you need to change direction mid-stream.

What detail do you need to shore up?

The success or failure of your idea may very well depend on your combing over things one more time.

Details matter.

Measure twice. Cut once.

If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13


Behind beautiful masks


Creative Commons: Adam Cohn


It’s time to acknowledge that we all deal with junk. Sometimes it’s a product of our own doing. Sometimes it’s from someone else.

But that beautiful mask you’ve constructed is still a mask, hiding who you really are.

Quit hiding. It’s not doing you any good.

Your messy story paints a beautiful picture of grace, mercy, hope, and love.  No need to hide.

Find refuge in Gospel community, not in the secrecy of your beautiful mask.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! – God (Isaiah 43:1)




Play the back 9

You may have seen this, but let me fill you in.

Kevin Na, 27 year old PGA Tour golfer from South Korea, turned pro at age 17.  He skipped his senior year of high school.  He’s no slouch of a golfer.

He was playing in the PGA Tour’s stop in San Antonio, the Valero Texas Open.  During round 1, on the 9th hole, Na had…um…one of those holes.  If you’re a golfer, you know what I mean.  It’s one of those holes where nothing goes right, and you feel like you have no clue what you’re doing.  You begin to wonder why you’re even playing golf, and if in fact you have ever played before.

After going right, into the trees, off of the tee, re-teeing, going right again, and proceeding the knock it around in the woods for a while, Na finally sunk a 6-footer for a cool 16.  He set the record for the most strokes in a PGA tour event on a par-4.

Here’s his meltdown.

But here’s the rest of the story. Na turned and played the back nine at -3.  He didn’t give up, even after an epic meltdown!  Here’s what he said in an interview:

“I was pretty proud of the way I handled the situation.  And after that, I shot -3 on the back nine.”

That takes some courage, doesn’t it?  Likely many people would’ve just walked off of the course and quit the tournament.  They would’ve packed up their bag and been done for the day.  But not Na.  He knew he still had work to do.

Maybe you’ve felt like Na.

You’ve had an epic meltdown.  You’ve failed your work, your church, your home, your family.  And it feels like it’s time to hang it up.  Call it quits.  Give up on any significant dreams or goals.  And just give in to a life of insignificance.

But thankfully, God’s in the business of restoration.  And He loves to redeem His people.  He’s done it throughout history.  And He can do it again in your life.

Na may have still missed the cut.  But he didn’t quit.

You may have lost your job, your career, and some significant relationships in your failure.  You may feel like there’s nowhere to go from here.

But don’t quit.  If you’re still alive, God has plans for you on this Earth.

Take a step of faith in the right direction.

Thankfully, God hasn’t quit on you.

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. – God (Hebrews 13:5)

Love is patient and kind; love never gives up. (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7)


Treasure the small gifts, 11s on the 1s

If you’d like to catch up on this 11-word series, click HERE.








is valuable.

Treasure them.

(See James 1:17)




It’s time to fail

Maybe it’s about time you failed.

(image by ArtMoth.com)

I remember when I didn’t make the varsity baseball team in high school.  I was crushed.  But through that, I ended up quitting baseball to pursue golf, a sport I turned out to be pretty good at.

In seminary, I absolutely bombed a paper that I thought was one of my better projects.  Through that, I worked hard to refine my writing, and in the process, found a great love of writing.

The first small group my wife and I were a part of (in Louisville, KY) was an abysmal failure.  I didn’t want that to happen to us, or anyone else, again.  Now I’m a small groups pastor.

The New Testament Church was led by a guy named Peter.  Don’t forget that he had an epic fail, where his pride was kicked in the teeth.  He thought he was ready to die for Jesus.  He wasn’t (John 13:37-38).  His pride would even need to be kicked again a little later. (Galatians 2:11-21) And it needed to be in order for God to use Peter.

Why you need to fail

It’s through failure that we learn what we’re not that great at. Here’s a shocker: you’re not great at everything.  God’s gifted each person uniquely…you included.  We may not always find that gifting on our first shot.  Be open to other ideas than what you’ve always thought or been told.  Maybe your failure is a good indication that you need to try something else.

It’s through failure that we find out which ideas aren’t the best. Failure becomes a way of culling out the ideas, projects, programs, and directions that needed to go.

It’s through failure that we are motivated. Who wants to fail twice?  Failure pushes you to work harder, more efficiently, and lean more heavily on others.  Failure is a great deterrent to future failure.

It’s through failure that God comforts us. It’s hard to experience comfort without some level of failure. (see Lamentations 3:16-23)

It’s through failure that our pride is sucker-punched. If you were as awesome as you thought you were, you’d not have failed.  As John Ortberg says, “There is a God, and it is not you.”

As valuable as failure is, I still find myself consistently praying, “Lord, please help this _______ to go really well.”  Or, “Lord, you want this __________ to succeed more than I do…”  Or, “Lord, help this idea to not fall flat on its face.”

Maybe I should start praying, “Lord, maybe this needs to flop.  You know best.  Help me grow in the process.  Chip away the parts of me that don’t look like You.  Grow your Church.  Knock down my pride.  Renew my faith in Your plan.”

Is there an area of your leadership or your life that needs to fail?

Have you seen God grow you more through failure or through success?


Failure: The Secret to Success

I have lots of respect for the Honda company now.

“The idea is that you can fail 100 times…if you succeed once.”

We will have loads of bad ideas.  Ones that fall flat on their faces.  Maybe even right out of the gate.  And we’ll have to take the rap, own up to our mistakes, and learn from them.

Because a failure doesn’t mean that we’re done.

(HT: Mike Foster)


Reasons people think their small group failed

The Tennessee Titans missed the playoffs (thereby breaking my heart) again this year for a number of reasons.

But it wasn’t because of the coach, Jeff Fisher.

Or the running back, Chris Johnson.

Or the CB, Cortland Finnegan.

Or the stadium.

Or the fans.


Or 104.5 The Zone.

Or Vince Young.

None of the above were reasons that the Titans missed the playoffs.

Equally, there are many important aspects of group life that don’t contribute to the death of a small group.

5 problems that don’t necessarily lead to the demise of a small group:

1. I’m the group leader, and my group members know more Scripture than I do. A small group leader doesn’t have to be the most spiritually mature person in the church.  They do need to be increasing in their love of God, and in their love of people. (Luke 10:27) But just because they can’t reel off the reference to the time when Josiah was made king doesn’t mean that their group is going to fail.  Why?  Because the goal of a small group isn’t simply increasing in biblical knowledge.  It’s taking steps of faith together.

2. I think we picked the “wrong” curriculum. A good group knows when to put down a bad curriculum.  A good group also knows how and when to change and/or throw out unhelpful questions.  If you’re a group leader, and are worried about the curriculum, don’t sweat it.  Pray, ask for wisdom, then choose a curriculum.  It won’t kill your group.

3. We just don’t have a big enough home. Our home is not huge.  It’s ~1,200 square feet.  Yet we managed to consistently pack 20 folks in for our small group meetings (which is probably too many people, but for some reason, we just kept growing throughout the life of our group).  The size of your home doesn’t lead to the failure of a small group.

4. We lost 3 couples! Sometimes, people quit on you.  Maybe they move away.  Maybe they were offended by the Gospel.  Maybe their work schedule changed.  For whatever reason, though, people will leave your group.  But that just gives you the opportunity to spend more time investing in the folks that are still sticking around…and also gives you room to invite new folks!

5. Our group leader has committed moral failure. Since small groups are not a top-down, pyramid structure of leadership, if the leader stumbles into sin (which I have seen happen…small group leaders are surely not immune from temptation), the group doesn’t necessarily fall apart.  Since responsibilities and leadership are shared among the group members, others step right in and continue leading the group.  Trust among group members has been built, so that it feels natural when another group member steps up to begin leading the discussion.

To see some factors that do lead to the death of a small group, click HERE.

Have you seen a small group survive through any of the above?


Why groups fail

Two days ago (see post HERE), I made a “sexy” statement:

Small groups are dead.

But, like I said, I don’t believe it.  I believe that small groups are alive and well in many churches in America and throughout the world.

Are small groups dead?  I don’t think so.

I believe that some small groups are dead…and maybe one of those small groups is yours.  But I don’t think that small groups are on their way out.

It’s like me saying, “The Cincinnati Reds had an awful season…so Major League Baseball is dead.”

Or…let’s take it a step further.

“The Cincinnati Reds are an awful franchise…so Major League Baseball is dead.”

Both conclusions are a leap.  Just because the Reds are abysmal doesn’t mean that the MLB is a goner.  There are many great teams, making plenty of money, winning plenty of games, and growing plenty of fans.

The Reds need to make some changes.  But they, as a team, don’t discount the MLB.

However, some small groups are dead.  In fact, you might be in one right now that’s dead.

Why do some small groups fail?

1. Lack of commitment. Some people think they want to be a part of a small group.  But in reality, they don’t.  They’re not really ready to make the commitment necessary to truly be a part of a small group.  Whether they’re not really ready to give up a night of their week, or not really ready to be open and honest, or not really ready to participate in the discussion, or not really ready to make an investment in someone else’s life…the truth is, they’re not really ready for small group.  And a group with uncommitted group members quickly dries up.

2. The gap theory. When there’s too large of a gap between when a small group launches, and when they meet for the first time, vital energy is lost.  When there is more than a 3 week gap, most groups will have a tough time ever getting off of the ground.

3. Relationships don’t form. I give a group 8 weeks.  If after that amount of time, there’s no “gelling” going on, you can just about guarantee that the group is either going to eek along for the rest of its life or die a quick death.  You can have the greatest small group leader of all time facilitating the discussion…but if the relationships don’t form, get ready to throw in the towel.

4. Time. Some groups need to start over.  They’ve been together so long that the relationships are at a level of comfort that’s not conducive to growth.  In our context, we’ve found that time period to be around 15-18 months.  At that point, it’s time for the group to multiply and start new groups.

5. Lack of vision. If the group doesn’t know how to measure success, they will constantly feel like they’re in a state of failure.  But with a healthy vision, an expectation of what a group “win” looks like, groups can aim for, and accomplish, the goal.

6. Lack of fun. If a group only studies the lesson every week, it’s going to crumble.  I tell our group leaders that if they don’t actively try to make their group fun, people won’t come back.  Boring groups aren’t very attractive.  Just like a boring version of Christianity isn’t very attractive.  Christians can, and should, have fun…what better place to do that than in a small group environment?

7. Lack of serving others. A group should focus on itself.  If relationships aren’t built among group members, the group will remain shallow and fake.  But if they only focus on building relationships with themselves, they get, in a sense, fat.  Serving others is like spiritual exercise…putting our faith in action.  I love this quote by Reid Smith

Christians on mission are sacrificial by nature. It’s why mission is important to group life & the Church!

Have you been a part of a small group failure?  What led to its death?


Small Groups are Dead

Small groups are dead.

There.  I said it.  Now I’m cool.

In vogue right now is the idea that small groups are dead.  They don’t work.  They never really did.  They don’t help anybody grow.  They’re boring, lifeless, and out of step with the culture.  They’re not missional.  They’re not disciple-producing.  And the church needs to move on to something better.

Do I believe that small groups are dead?  Nope.

Your small group may be dead.  But small groups as a whole are far from lifeless.

Making a blanket statement against the validity of small groups may be sexy.

But I think it’s unfair.

My small group is working.  And I know of small groups around the country that are producing disciples in unprecedented numbers.

This week, I’m going to give you a few reasons why small groups fail.

Some of them may shock you.

Some of them you may have done yourself.

But knowing where the problem areas are in small groups helps us to guard against them.

And knowing is half the battle. (GI Joe fans, you’re welcome.)

What factors have you seen contribute to the failure of a small group?


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