A Place to Fail


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?

Steve Went Looking for 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.

Hipster Churches & Indifferent Teens


Two good articles note how the attractional church model isn’t working anymore:

‘Forget the pizza parties,’ Teens tell churches :

“Sweet 16 is not a sweet spot for churches. It’s the age teens typically drop out,” says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, which found the turning point in a study of church dropouts. “A decade ago teens were coming to church youth group to play, coming for the entertainment, coming for the pizza. They’re not even coming for the pizza anymore. They say, ‘We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today.’ “

The Perils of ‘Wannabe Cool’ Christianity:

In his book The Courage to Be Protestant, David Wells writes: “The born-again, marketing church has calculated that unless it makes deep, serious cultural adaptations, it will go out of business, especially with the younger generations. What it has not considered carefully enough is that it may well be putting itself out of business with God.

“And the further irony,” he adds, “is that the younger generations who are less impressed by whiz-bang technology, who often see through what is slick and glitzy, and who have been on the receiving end of enough marketing to nauseate them, are as likely to walk away from these oh-so-relevant churches as to walk into them.”

If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.

I’ll comment on the loss of teens in a future post.

What do you think?

Epic Fail, Epic Win


In the lexicon of the English language, failure may no longer be an option.

Instead, we English-speakers bring you fail. Not as to fail, but simply fail. (If you aren’t tracking with this, Slate has a fine article explaining this latest twist in the mother tongue.)

Of course, being the the lovers of the extreme that we Americans are, fail is itself a fail unless we can find a way to magnify it. This becomes epic fail. And because all extreme language needs its counter, we have coined the term epic win.

The landing of US Airways Flight 1549 is an epic win.

An epic fail? Think Jan. 22, 1973.

Yes, Roe v. Wade was an epic fail for Christians in this country.

Asleep at the wheel. Knocked out. Comatose. Guard dropped. You name it, the Church of the early 1970s didn’t react to what was happening under its nose. Didn’t stick to the game plan. Didn’t get it. So we got Roe v. Wade and millions upon millions of barbarically destroyed human lives. An entire generation of people culled. Epic, epic fail.

You witness a lot of handwringing over Roe today. What wasn’t big news leading up to that day in January 1973 is now. With a new president who believes Roe was an epic win, Christians are even more alarmed about the course of our country and its attitudes toward abortion. Many frantic calls will emanate from pulpits and burn up the Christian radio and TV airwaves. We will hear a million outlines for courses of action which we have all been hearing for decades.You can almost recite them by heart.

In the language of fail, let’s look at those familiar calls to action:

Voting Republican – FAIL

The Republican Party has done next to nothing to end abortion even though the rhetoric of the party reeks of pro-life talk. But talk is cheap. As long as Christians keep devoting their time and energy to this do-nothing party of talk, we will not end abortion.

Supporting Pro-life Candidates – FAIL

See above. Candidates are often very vocal about their pro-life sentiments. Funny how we hear about this incessantly come election time, then all goes quiet immediately afterwards.

Demonstrating/Protesting – FAIL

I demonstrated with Operation Rescue. I was on the frontlines of protesting at abortion clinics. Another anti-abortion tactic fail...Yes, there were small victories when a child was saved once in a while. But the scale gained is not the scale that will save this country from judgment.

Educating – FAIL

We can show pregnant women pictures of aborted fetuses. We can fire up the 3D sonograms. We can talk and talk and talk about the horrors of abortion. Yet 36 years of pro-life education has given us one thing: the surety of more than a million babies aborted in 2009.

Praying – FAIL

Prayer a fail? How is that possible? How can God not honor our prayer to see abortion end?

Prayer fails under one critical condition. If I am outside on a bitterly cold day and I encounter a destitute man rubbing his chilled hands together while mine remain snug and warm inside my gloves, do I need to pray about what my course of action should be? Haven’t the Scriptures informed my direction? Isn’t the Spirit in me telling me what to do? What is the point of me praying, “God, I really need to know what to do about this man and his cold hands. If it be thy will, let him come over to me and strike up a conversation. Then I will know that I need to do something”? Do I need to pray this? No, I don’t. I need to do what the Spirit and the Word, both of which I claim to know, have already told me to do.

When we use prayer as a means to look spiritual while failing to do what God wills of us, prayer is a fail. Disobedience does not move the heart of God toward us. What should we expect from God when we know what to do but do not do it?

And there is one enormous thing we are refusing to do even though we know we must do it.

This brings us to the most epic fail of them all. It’s an epic fail larger than Roe v. Wade. A million Roe v. Wades combined could not be as epic as this fail. And it is this epic fail that explains entirely the epic fail of the American Church when it comes to abortion.

Making disciples – EPIC FAIL

In the early 1960s, the Church in America abandoned its primary mission to make disciples in the name of Jesus. We got sidetracked into culture wars, fighting the commies, worrying about hippies, looking at every threat in the world while ignoring the fact that lost people were remaining lost because we forgot what we were supposed to be about. I believe that’s the main reason why abortion became the law of the land.

If we have tried every other means to stop abortion in America and nothing has worked, the simple reason comes down to this: When a nation is filled with people who have not been born again, that nation will not honor righteousness.

That is the American Church’s epic fail. We simply stopped making disciples.

Want an epic win and an end to Roe? Make disciples. If every Christian in this country committed to actively sharing Christ with a half dozen lost people this year, just one every two months, I think we would begin to see change. If we stopped toying around with discipleship and got serious about raising up the next God-fearing  generation within our very own churches, we would see change. We would know that epic win that we have craved for 36 years if we dropped all the other skubalon that has distracted us and focused on our primary mission of making disciples.

Because a nation of people filled with the Spirit would have no need for abortion and would abolish it in a heartbeat.