Epic Fail Pastors Conference
Finally a ministry conference for the rest of us.

In the most recent issue of Leadership, John Ortberg shares this important observation:

I once was part of a survey on spiritual formation. Thousands of people were asked when they grew most spiritually, and what contributed to their growth. The number one contributor to spiritual growth was not transformational teaching. It was not being in a small group. It was not reading deep books. It was not energetic worship experiences. It was not finding meaningful ways to serve. It was suffering. People said they grew more during seasons of loss, pain, and crisis than they did at any other time.

The same truth surely applies to pastors. We grow most in our leadership and maturity not through our successes but through our failures. So why are so many of our pastoral gatherings focused on celebrating successful ministries and triumphant pastors? Wouldn't we be better served by learning from those who have failed; wouldn't they be a better font of wisdom?

If you're like me, you may walk away from some ministry conferences feeling worse about yourself and your calling rather than better. I'll never be as gifted as the guy on the stage. I'll never have a church that size and making that kind of impact in my city. I'll never get my hair to do that no matter how much product I put in it. And the skinny jeans? Forgetaboutit. The cool train left my station 20 years ago.

Well, if you've felt that way someone has finally developed the conference for you: the Epic Fail Pastors Conference. (This is not a joke).

Check out some of the thinking behind the event:

-What if we offered a space that is gutsy, hopeful, courageously vulnerable for pastors to let go of the burden to be a Super Pastor?

-What if we could hold an event that was free from the thrills and frills of other pastors conferences?

-What if we came together as epic failures and sought not successful models or how-do's but instead celebrated faithfulness in ministry because of the reality of Jesus?

-What if we were reminded that we're not responsible for being ‘successful' in ministry, but we are responsible for being faithful to the calling that God has laid out for us – regardless of the outcome?

-What if we had a conference that was not led not by famous pastors who are household names, but by scandalously ordinary ministers and leaders who are faithfully attempting to join with God – even in the midst of glaring obscurity and anonymity?

If this kind of gathering is right up your alley, check out the website for more information.

And for the sake of our conversation here on Ur, what do you think about this? Is this exactly what pastors need, or does it miss the mark? And what about the standard slate of ministry conferences out there–are they helping or hurting your communion with God and calling in ministry?

February 07, 2011

Displaying 1–10 of 32 comments

Australian College of Physical Education

October 12, 2011  12:21am

My expectations can be summed up with these questions: - Why do we have to come here (or places like here) to find a safe place? - Is sharing failure ever a bad idea? - Why do I feel that it's only other pastors who get me? - Is my attendance here a form of whining? - Now that we're out of the closet with the whole failure thing, will we ever be the same? - What happens when I get back? Can't say how much I appreciate your listening to God to do this. Thanks.

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Mike F

February 14, 2011  11:32pm

Some great comments on here, eg. by Tim. I do understand where folks like A.Amos are coming from; the 'traditions of men' and matters of prestige are awful, and the Apostle Paul spent a lot of ink in his letter ripping into these things. 1 Cor. pops to mind in particular. Actually it's in 1 Cor. that we have some of Paul's clearest articulation of how he sees himself as a leader: "under Christ, among you" probably sums it up best (see. ch3). That is, he is not 'over' the flock (lord model) or 'under' the flock (doormat model) – but rather he is 'among' them as Jesus' servant. Serving the people, but only free to do so with reference to Jesus and his Gospel. This way of thinking about leadership and its place in relationship to the congregation, frees us from the non-Biblical dichotomy of either 'lord' or 'doormat'. Finally, I would like to say that a clergy-laity distinction is, in fact, a distinction that God makes: "those who teach will be judged more strictly". Whatever title you want to use for your Bible teachers in your denomination or church association is irrelevant. But those who are shepherding the flock under Christ with the Word of God, carry a responsibility that everyone should recognise and be clear on.

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Mike F

February 14, 2011  11:32pm

Some great comments on here, eg. by Tim. I do understand where folks like A.Amos are coming from; the 'traditions of men' and matters of prestige are awful, and the Apostle Paul spent a lot of ink in his letter ripping into these things. 1 Cor. pops to mind in particular. Actually it's in 1 Cor. that we have some of Paul's clearest articulation of how he sees himself as a leader: "under Christ, among you" probably sums it up best (see. ch3). That is, he is not 'over' the flock (lord model) or 'under' the flock (doormat model) – but rather he is 'among' them as Jesus' servant. Serving the people, but only free to do so with reference to Jesus and his Gospel. This way of thinking about leadership and its place in relationship to the congregation, frees us from the non-Biblical dichotomy of either 'lord' or 'doormat'. Finally, I would like to say that a clergy-laity distinction is, in fact, a distinction that God makes: "those who teach will be judged more strictly". Whatever title you want to use for your Bible teachers in your denomination or church association is irrelevant. But those who are shepherding the flock under Christ with the Word of God, carry a responsibility that everyone should recognise and be clear on.

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Colin Benner

February 12, 2011  6:28pm

Excellent and thought provoking blog. After pastoring for 30 years I am in middle of writing a book on learning through failure. I have pastored mostly small and struggling churches ( which aren't? ) and going to most conferences is an invitation to depression. I thought of doing a conference on church growth. - how to make your church smaller. It might be another alternative to the endless success syndrome events.

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Jeremy Myers

February 11, 2011  7:06pm

I am super skeptical of a conference like this. Even if they do pull out some "nobodies" to speak, I pretty much guarantee they will still be dynamic speakers, who pastor multi-staff churches of at least 300 people, which only 10% of the pastors in this country have that privilege. These Epic Fail speakers will probably have blogs with thousands of readers, and sometime within a year of speaking at this conference, will get book deals or invitations to speak at Exponential. I like the idea; I'm just skeptical the creators of this conference know much about true "Epic Fail."

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sheerahkahn

February 11, 2011  12:20pm

"don't know if they'll be able to pull it off as advertised, but if they do, it sounds like it would be a breath of fresh air." Our past history being any indicator of what we can expect with future results, I wouldn't hold your breath.

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bw

February 10, 2011  5:35pm

@sheerahkahn: while i share your distaste for competitions about who is more human, i actually found the thinking behind the conference refreshing - no thrills/frills, an emphasis on faithfulness (vs. success), the de-emphasis on famous pastors with their books, DVDs, and other wares to sell in favor of celebrating our ordinariness and weakness, in which God demonstrates his extraordinary power. don't know if they'll be able to pull it off as advertised, but if they do, it sounds like it would be a breath of fresh air. @blest: disagree that christians should never exercise authority in the church or that it always ends in abuse. quite simply, exercising authority is not synonymous with lording it over one another (cf. ephesians 5 - authority is to be used to serve those who are 'under' it). i thought your best post was the one where you demonstrate that the names we call pastors are attributed ultimately to God - which should serve as a sober reminder to us that all leadership must be exercised in a Jesus-like way - not so that the leader can be served, but so that s/he serves to the benefit of those they lead (cf. john 13).

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Karen

February 10, 2011  11:29am

@ Blest, In the context I am using it, human means a man, and "authority" means a specific position of responsibility. By authority or exercising authority, I mean someone given responsibility for representing the congregation as a whole in prayer before God, in teaching God's word, and in facilitating the ministry of fellow members in using their various gifts for the edification of the whole body. I do not mean dominating or lording over others, having the final say so, etc. By using this expression, I mean a man, representing and serving fellow members of Christ's Body under Christ's authority, by teaching and encouraging obedience to Christ's commands for the good of the whole Body. It is not absolute, and it never demands or dominates. It always respects the freedom of the other before God. In other words, it will have the character of Christ's own authority, which is not to "Lord it over" or dominate His children but to humble Himself, lead by example, preach and teach God's truth without compromise, and sacrificially give His life for the well-being of others. However, we are off-topic according to the question raised in this post, so this will be my last post here.

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sheerahkahn

February 10, 2011  11:01am

Url, I'm not sure how old you are, but remember back in the 80's when it seemed like to be considered a "wonderfully, miraculously" changed follower of G-d was to be a former High Priest of Satan, or former High Priest of a Wiccan coven, or a former Gangster, or former...you get the point, yes? yeah, I remember those days...thank G-d they passed. My concern with the Epic Fail pastor is that it would turn into a competition, and to be perfectly honest...I just don't have it in me to field questions for non-christians explaining the nuttiness of what we're doing inside the church. It just makes me /facepalm, and groan. Can't we just be what G-d/Y'shua/Holy-spirit wants us to be...you know, humble servants doing our job the best we can? Is it really that hard for us to be just average Christians, followers of a living and loving G-d without adding the fame or infamy of our actions. Can't we just go one generation in the American Church without another stupid fad to rationalize/impress/convince others of our humanity? We got the humanity thing down pat...we're not going to surprise anyone...it's okay to NOT make a big production out of our failures. We, as human beings, have failures in spades, all of us do, so what if a Pastor fails? If he confesses, repents, and changes their actions/behaviors like any other Christian would do, then done is done, forgiveness and reconciliation have been accomplished. Moving on.

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Blest

February 10, 2011  9:52am

@ Karen You mention "human authority in God's Church." Not sure what you mean. Maybe you can explain what "human authority in God's Church" looks like. From the Bible. Seems Jesus taught ‘His Disciples' NOT to ‘Exercise Authority.' Mat 20:25, Mark 10:42, Luke 22:25. Didn't Peter say NOT "to lord it over God's heritage?" 1 Pet 5:3. What do you mean by "human authority in God's Church?" What good is having "human authority in God's Church?" if you can't ‘Exercise Authority?' And - Who has this authority? How do we recognize who has this authority? My sheep "hear my voice" and follow me. I'm Blest - I've returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul... Jesus...

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