Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Failure Experienced

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Last week I opined on the importance of failure in generating success. I alluded to the fact that it isn’t taught or discussed enough. This week I want to talk about how I learned the truth of it, if noone taught me.

I learned it the hard way.

I’ve never failed harder then when I left Kansas. Of course I cringe, even today, to use that word. There are ways in which I wonder if it’s accurate. Good ministry took place in the years I spent there. Yet my Job was to plant a new ministry, and I left with that work unfinished. And that was because of certain things I did wrong.

The truth I can say now that I coulden’t say then is that I was pushed out. The Regional Director (My Boss’s Boss) who hired me was promoted away soon after I started (he’s actually been promoted again and is now President of InterVarsity) The person that replaced him and I never really saw eye-to-eye.

I neglected fundraising for as long as I could, and depended instead on the endowlment that had been built up by previous donors. As much as I intended to, I wasn’t good at communication with supporters.

Finally, I made cultural mistakes. Having never been an IV student, I didn’t know all of the uwritten rules. I believed it when I was told that the annual retreats were opportunities to rest. In actuality those were the most important times to demonstrate compotence. My bosses rarely saw my work on campus, they only saw how excited about IV I was at staff retreats.

All of these things formed a perfect storm, and I wasn’t fired, but more and more of my supplemantary funding started being taken from me, while at the same time I started to be scrutinised more closley, while at the same time I saw staff begin to distance themselfs from me socially. I saw the writing on the wall.

I remember walking alone on dark train tracks after submitting my resignation. Manhattan Kansas was a new place. It was no longer my ministry context, it was just my home. I lamented aloud, and wondered how God had allowed this to happen. After all my students were reporting good things, I was growing as a person and as a minister, my work on campus was solid. How could I fail? What happened to my subbosedly God-given vision to start something new?

How could I fail if I had been doing something God wanted done?


I still don’t have a great answer for all that. I can say that the pat Christian answer is wrong. It’s not so simplisticly true that if we are faithful we will succeed at everything we attempt. Instead I am living proof that you can do your best, try your hardest, and devote years of your life to something righteous, and that’s still no guarentee. Sometimes Shit just happens. Sometimes obstacles you didn’t expect and coulden’t have expected get in your way.

And in that place, God is with you. In that place there is grace and love. And the fact that sometimes we fall down can actually serve to encourage us that falling doesn’t make us bad or wrong, and can give us the confidence to get up and try again.


Written by RyanGaffney

December 14, 2016 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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