I was at a pastor’s retreat earlier this week. During one of the group conversations, I remembered a quote from when I used to work with and learn from emergent churches and pastors. One of them once told me, “Failing is not failure, unless you fail to learn from the experience.” I also remembered how some churches encourage their leaders to take risks. They believe that in taking risks for Christ, you are more likely to experience his power at work.

Remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 (Mt. 14:15-21)? The disciples wanted Jesus to send the people home, so they could find food. Instead, Jesus tells them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” If I had been one of the disciples, I probably would have disagreed and started encouraging people to leave to find food. There were no supermarkets or Micky D’s nearby. Instead, the disciples took a risk, finding 5 loaves and two fish. They brought the food to Jesus, he blessed it, and everyone get a bellyful of food. They took a risk to obey Jesus, not seeing how it could be done, and a miracle took place.

I also remember conversations with emergent pastors where they ask their prospective ministry leaders during an interview, “Tell me about a recent failure. What did you learn from the experience? What are you doing differently since your experience?” These churches desire to be risk-taking and learning organizations in order to be faithful to their calling to ministry.

I wish I was more obedient in risk-taking, like the disciples were. I wish I was not fearful of failing, but fearful of playing it safe, of only doing what my mind can figure-out. I hope I can remember more often that “Failing is not failure, unless you fail to learn from it.”