Last week, I stopped by for a day of the Epic Pastor’s Fail Conference in Lansdale, PA. It was an event put on my JR Briggs and the good people of the Renew Community that asked the basic question, “What if we as church leaders gathered and talked more about our failures than our successes?” It was a bit of anti-conference in a way and though it was scaled down, it’s heart really came through, not just in the voices of the presenters but in the amens, tears and even laughter from the listeners.
As helpful as I find ministry conferences, seminars, events, and meet-ups are, there have also been countless times where I have walked away from such an event feeling a mixture of inadequacy and excitement. I have heard similar from countless others. Sometimes you leave motivated and inspired, sometimes enthused and envious. Sometimes you’ll be with a bunch of attendees and talk about someone’s “successful ministry” and eventually someone will say, “Yeah, we could do that too if we had his money or his looks, or lived in the South or had an English accent or (fill in the blank here). Some of it is potentially true but some of it’s mediocrity disguised as a disillusioned self-pity. That said, Todd Rhodes has an interesting post written by PKUZMA where he echoed others in asking are church conferences a version of “Christian porn” where we take something good, embellish it and exploit for lust and profit? As one who enjoys conferences, this is something I have/am prayerfully considering.
Anyway, to have a conference focused on failure is quite the noble task. Everyone walks into the room with some type of a scarlet letter, failed church planter, failed marriage, “old has-been”, “not yet have been”, “afraid to be a never-will-be”, wounded leader and the list goes on. It was fitting to have discovered that the bar we were meeting in was a “failed church” in Lansdale. In fact, it was the first church in that town.
As I was driving over I pictured a bunch of small groups sitting in circles talking about our failures, like out of a scene in Fight Club (grittier and more violent because we’re pastors). I thought there may be some country music too. I even tried to rehearse a story that would evoke enough sympathy and a bit of respect, maybe a ministry version of Rocky V. You know, lose your position (the belt), your church (the ring) but leave with your pride because you knocked out the head elder and now leading a Bible Study in your home – I love that story.
But I was wrong. We did sit in round tables and there was time after each presenter to ask a question or respond to what was said and there was a guy there that reminded me of Meatloaf but it wasn’t what I thought it would be and that was a good thing. I didn’t see a big clergy-style pity party, I didn’t hear desperation, and it wasn’t a pathetic display of overly-emotional speakers outdoing each other’s nightmares and offering a bumper sticker sermon at the end – “But I still trust God!”. And fortunately, no country music was played.
Now remember, I wasn’t able to attend the entire conference but in the sessions I attended, I heard real anxiety, real hurt, and real hope. I plan on blogging more about this but in the meantime, check out these links that offer a fuller scope of the event.
Christianity Today’s, Leadership Blog, Out of Ur posted on it here.
Even Huffington Post had an article on it.
And this was the video they showed to open the conference – http://vimeo.com/22655626