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July 16th, 2008

by Bobby Gruenewald

12 comments (+ Add)

Failure to Try

The failure to try is one of the most common types of failure, and, in my opinion, one of the worst failures.  It is usually the result of a fear of failure or just plain laziness.

In December of 1999, I sold my last technology company.  Without going into great detail, selling the company at that time was a huge success for our investors and everyone involved.  However, as I drove home from our attorneys’ office the night we finalized the sale,  I couldn’t celebrate.  I began to be overcome with the fear of failure…I didn’t know what I should do next and if it would be as successful.  It was so bad that it effectively kept me from trying anything new for the next several months.

I talk to so many pastors who are either living on yesterday’s success or holding the pain of last week’s failure.  What is unfortunate is that this fear of failure actually guarantees failure…the failure to try.  Over the long-term, it will almost certainly lead to a declining or dead ministry.

On our team, we ask people who are interviewing for a failure resume.  If someone cannot list several failures in their life, it is sometimes a sign that they fail to take risks or try anything new.

What are some things on your failure resume?  What tips do you have for overcoming the fear of failure?

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there are a total of12
  1. Jul 16, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Hmmm…good stuff Bobby. I need to take more risk. Wow. Thanks for posting this!

  2. Jul 16, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Wow, Bobby, as a church planter I have found myself in the middle of so many failures over the last 4 years. I knew nothing about life in the inner-city, or construction (converting a bar to a ‘church’), or fundraising, etc…

    But, hey, I’m like Rocky Balboa - knock me down, and I’ll climb back up the ropes of my calling again, and again, and again! God’s in my corner and Christ is in my heart. Heck, WE HAVE TO FIGHT TO WIN! The apostle Paul makes that clear and I’m sure all of those awaiting us in the grandstands would echo Paul’s admonition: “Fight the good fight” - yeah, FIGHT. We must refuse to stay down.

    Henry Ford said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” - I hope I’ve done this!

    Thanks for reading my ramblings…

  3. Jul 16, 2008 at 1:54 pm


    One of the most devastating feelings of failure happened in 2000. After 13 years at a church I was sort of, kind of, asked/suggested I leave. It was one of those “either he goes or I go” deals. I was crushed. I was given 6 months severance and spent the next 6 months pondering what I wanted to do. I rode my bike a lot. I delivered pizzas & worked in a pizza shop (and found out that I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life). At the end of the 6 months I had a chance to preach again and that church asked me to be their pastor. If “felt” good to be wanted again but it still took me some time to recover. I am now at a good place after 5 years there and having it cemented in me what type of church I wanted to pastor/start.

  4. Jul 16, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    “The man or woman who is wholly or joyously surrendered to Christ can’t make a wrong choice–any choice will be the right one.”

    ~A.W. Tozer

    Walk in confidence that in your own human ability you will be failure proned! But God is THE FATHER of redemption!

    I think we are meant sometimes to fail. Look at Peter… He was passionate and purposeful, but failed… Or did he?? Keep your hope in the Sovereignty of God and live it out choice by choice.

    I find it interesting we never see God’s 10 year plan. Only ours… Just enough light for the step we are on.

    It seems like He’s more concerned with growing our faith. Habakkuk 2:3,4

    My most memorable failure, my marriage. I was addicted to gambling and kept it all from my wife. She left and divorced. But God… Years later here we are watching God put things back together in His perfect timing. He is SO GRACIOUS!

    John 6:63, Zec 4:6

  5. Jul 16, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    A huge failure I will never forget (but have learned from much) is when I tried to pioneer a campus ministry at my university. It was a worthy endeavor, but my approach was where I failed. Instead of focusing on relationships (spending time with people), I thought I could just transplant my youth group out there and wait for the folks to come rolling in. What I learned is how my ministry approach must be developed for the people I am trying to reach - this takes prayer and work. Also, it’s all about relationships and taking the risk to meet people on their terms.

  6. Jul 16, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    I am not sure I would call this a failure, but it did feel like it. I served as the worship leader in a church plant for 3 1/2 years and eventually was asked to step down because they decided they didn’t think it was right for a woman to lead worship. This humiliated and crushed me. While I dealt with the anger and forgiveness issues in the first few years, it took me at least 10 years to deal with how it made me feel about myself. But I have become so much more convinced of my calling as a result. It has really nailed that down for me as I’ve worked through it. But it wasn’t fun. And I was afraid to try again. But I did….:)

  7. Jul 16, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Great thought and post. I just got done reading an older book from Ed Young and a newer one from Ryan Dobson. In both it talked about these very topics.
    a. we’ll have wreckage no matter what that looks like to you or means.
    b. wreckage (failure) doesn’t have to be bad. it stinks yes, but we can learn a lot and in fact Jesus promises failure to us.
    c. not taking risk=slothfulness. slothfulness=knowing you should do something, but deciding not to act at all. this is far worse than any failure. it is automatic failure!

  8. Jul 16, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    failing to try… I think I am failing right now to make tough decisions.

    it’s tough to have people constantly question or hammer on your teams work. even if it is true.. it’s hard to get Google or Disney quality overnight especially at a 300 MPH pace.

    homerun projects really do not matter when the basics are executed poorly. for me it’s a constant juggle of priority, big vision requests and stretched resources. after a while we have to do a lot of cleanup and redirecting.

    I owned and sold a small new media firm back in 1999. I got my rear kicked by a $8.6 billion dollar company in a domain battle. it really felt like a failure at the time. I even had some peers raz me about heading back to big corporate mama… funny. God taught me so many things through all of that uncertainty. obedience and risking it all is worth the effort even if we can’t see the immediate reward, even when at first glance it looks like a failure.

  9. Jul 17, 2008 at 5:19 am

    [...] to try Here is the follow-up post about failure.  It mentions many of the things I said in my previous blog [...]

  10. 10Christy
    Jul 17, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Jason - Thanks for that quote! - One of my biggest fears and hindrances to trying something is a fear that I will make the wrong choice (and thus fail) - that I will somehow “miss” God - even in the midst of my seeking - so thanks for sharing! A scripture that often comforts me is Isaiah 30:21:

    “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

  11. Jul 17, 2008 at 9:24 am


    It seems like failing was easier when there wasn’t as much to “lose.” After our church finally broke the 200 mark I remember another pastor saying “now it’s serious because you’ve got something to lose.” How true. You are so right that we’ve got to keep putting ourselves out there, it’s the only way to grow as individuals. This is a great reminder to take risks…thanks Bobby!

  12. Jul 17, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    This is one that I struggle with. Not out of laziness but out of fear of what people may think of me - and I hate it. I hate giving into that fear, but it can be so paralyzing sometimes.