Magazine article The Christian Century

Failing as Pastor Hurts, Talking about It Is Hard

Magazine article The Christian Century

Failing as Pastor Hurts, Talking about It Is Hard

Article excerpt

Sometimes being a pastor is a real pain. But few pastors want to admit it. J. R. Briggs is trying to change that.

That's why Briggs, a blogger and pastor of the Renew Community in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, is organizing the Epic Fail Pastors Conference, which is set for April 14-16 at a church-turned-bar 25 minutes outside of Philadelphia. Briggs hopes to make space for pastors to speak their minds without fear.

The conference grew out of a blog post that Briggs wrote last summer. Many ministers' conferences are flashy events with rock bands and presentations from big church pastors, who take the stage and talk about their great successes.

But those presentations don't match the daily realities for pastors, especially at small churches, Briggs said. "Most of the time, you feel like I'm never going to be that guy on stage--I am preaching to 42 people, including the noisy kids," he said. Briggs hopes the Epic Fail conference will remind pastors that it's OK to be human and that failure is normal.

After all, he said, most of the leaders in the Bible were failures. David was an adulterer who betrayed a close friend. Moses was a murderer. Paul persecuted Christians before his conversion. And the disciples spent a lot of time bumbling around after Jesus.

"The entrance exam for Christianity is admitting you are a failure," Briggs said. But pastors, he said, are often expected to be perfect. That means they can't admit their doubts or failings. If they do, they can be shamed by their peers and parishioners.

"I am not afraid of failure," said Briggs. "I am afraid of the shame that comes from the rejection that comes from failure."

So Briggs suggested a conference at which leaders could put their worst foot forward. The response was overwhelming. Hundreds of comments, e-mails and phone calls flooded in, with tales of ministers' failings, both personal and professional. That led to the blog post becoming reality.

Fittingly the conference will be held at a church that failed and became a bar. "The stained glass has been replaced by neon Sam Adams signs and the pews have been replaced by pool tables," Briggs said.

The conference is relatively cheap at $79, not including lodging, and will be low key. …

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