August 25, 2021
While researching the history of the home my family bought this summer, I came across a series of articles by Pastor John Bruington. Pastor John worked in Havre and wrote for our local paper for several years. One article in particular jumped out at me, and I’ve been considering it for weeks. I’d like to take a moment to share my thoughts. ‘The ‘Magnificent Failure’ was the title of his reflection, which detailed his career before moving to pastor a small town church. In the piece, he talks about his past struggle pastoring a larger church before being dismissed. Ultimately, he concludes that his magnificent failure resulted in him serving a church he loves and growing personally. I have not met this fellow, but I confess I found his article challenging and encouraging. I have had many failures in my life and have experienced God’s grace and provision time and again despite my missteps and failures. I take a great deal of consolation in the knowledge that no matter how much I mess up, God’s plan and ability to manage things is bigger and better than me. Still, I found a different perspective from Pastor John in my reflections about being a “magnificent failure.” For much of the beginning of my career, I tended to find pride and fulfillment in my successes according to worldly standards. As a youth pastor, I was proud of the fact that I grew youth group attendance to nearly twice the size of the church I worked for. Among other things, that was a significant source of personal fulfillment for me in work. The problem with that is that it is pretty much sinful. If I was successful as a youth pastor, it was a product of God’s working through (and often despite) me. Still, I wanted to claim the glory for the work I did. The standard I was measuring myself was that of the world, not God’s. Further, I wanted to steal for myself the glory that belonged to Him. Fortunately, through a serious of personal and professional struggles 16 years ago, God taught me better. I came to understand that it is better to be a failure by the world’s standards but to stand in God’s will. The best stuff I do isn’t all that good compared to the least He can do. Watching farmers in Big Sandy year after year has helped me understand it even better. You can plant, spray, and fertilize perfectly, but God ultimately determines the yield. Success is always in His hands and success without Him isn’t worth having. My wife and I believe whole heartedly that Big Sandy is where we are supposed to be. We believe that by living and ministering here, we are standing in the middle of God’s will for our lives. This means that no matter what happens, we are successful in the only way that matters. We could serve a church of a half dozen or grow to a thousand members, but to be in God’s hands is the only measure of success that means anything. Money, material wealth, prestige, influence, and everything else will pass away. God’s will is immutable and eternal. By the standard of income, church size, and many other yard sticks, I am probably a failure. At a minimum I am not all that successful. Still, I would rather be a magnificent failure in God’s will than anything else.