Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales, built a small Christian animation kingdom called Big Idea and then watched it slip through his fingers. He has told his story to numerous groups. Toward the end of his recounting on his podcast of how it all got away from him, he mentions something about 40-something men that really breaks my heart:
Skye Jethani of Christianity Today chimed in too. His is a refrain I’ve sung before on Cerulean Sanctum:
We Need a Gospel That Speaks to Failure
Still Looking for a Gospel That Speaks to Failure
Mistakes As Sin: Does the Church Need a New Grace?
I think one reason that grace, the lifeblood of the Church, remains just a concept in most Christians’ lives in the West is because of the very problem Vischer mentions: Anything less than success is considered unworthy of our attention. Therefore, people who fail go wanting, looking for grace, when grace is only afforded to those who triumph in the eyes of the world.
What do you say to the guy who finds the perfect girl—only to lose her to someone else? Or who lands the perfect job—only at a company soon to fail? Or who spends plenty of time with his kids and tries to train them up right—only for them to rebel and complain about him to friends? Or who listens to his heart and goes for his dream—only for it to crumble in loss?
Why don’t we preach a gospel that reaches that guy? Why don’t we practice a gospel that makes a safe place for him to fail? Where is that pool of grace to be found when all of life goes to pieces? And why is it so hard to find in the very place one should expect to find it?
Lastly, what if that guy tries to live by every Christian principle in the Book and still fails?
We need something better than what we’re giving people Sunday in and Sunday out. We may talk about the brokenhearted, but nine times out of 10, that brokenhearted person is someone who failed, often spectacularly. God help us if we have no grace to offer him.
3 thoughts on “A Place to Fail”
On a related note, we get caught up in our failures instead of God’s wins. When people “shared” at a church I used to go to, they would recount stories of how a door opened and they could lead someone to the Lord. Who was getting the glory in those stories?
Countering that, I read a book years ago(Norman Grubb?) about a new church somewhere in Africa. A man shared, sobbing, that years before, he had murdered someone – and He had just learned that God had forgiven him. Who got the glory in this story – and who got the grace?
Thanks for that podcast. I’ve followed VeggieTales from the beginning but had never heard Phil’s story. My overall impression was not so much of failure (though from a secular perspective there was that in spades) but of someone who was faithful despite massive setbacks, betrayal and opposition. Of someone who was obedient to God’s leading despite the temptation to recapture former glory, and of someone who
The day after you posted this, there was an article on Slashdot about a recent spate of suicides in the high tech community. One of the things that caught my attention was this quote:
Two thoughts came to mind: First, that’s how the the world sees and responds to failure. As part of the church our response should be completely different. And second, what an amazing opportunity we have to reach out to those overcome by failure! What are some practical ways we can do that?
It would be nice to solve the “big problems” that exist in the Church Universal and Dysfunctional (CUDHOE) here on Earth. And it seems to me that what you’re getting at here is how the CUDHOE doesn’t do much for the unemployed and the ne’er-do-wells and the those who have a long running streaks of continual misfortune. Those are big problems indeed.
But we can’t even solve the “little” problems. A good example is this: why is church music so awful everywhere nowadays? A short time ago, I talked to some people we once knew from long ago, who happened to be passing through town. We hadn’t seen them for years. At dinner with them, I mentioned this subject, and to my surprise, they understood exactly what I was talking about, even though they came from a different part of the country. They agreed whole heartedly with my observations — church music today is horrible. Yet nobody has any idea on what to do about this. You would think this would be an easy problem to solve. But everyone knows that you don’t dare talk to the leadership about this because they think everything is just so smashing wonderful. Try saying something and you’ll be told that you’re nothing but a big grumbler and complainer and that you should know where to find the exit door.
So if the little problems can’t be solved, then I can’t think how you can ever solve the really big ones.