Search This Blog

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Common Traits of Those Who Fail in the Ministry

No one goes into the ministry planning to fail, their expectations envision success. Being sensitive to some common causes of failure can help avoid a ministry going down in flames.

1. Wrong thinking patterns:
•    “My value, worth comes from my performance”: Our worth as individuals comes from what Christ has done for us, not how well we perform. We dare not confuse talent with self worth, or functional ability with acceptance before God.
•    “Victim mentality”: There are those who seem to see the glass always as half empty, and believe that everyone is after them, that others are always picking on them, and that the dark clouds just seem to follow them around.
•    “I can not be wrong” and “fear of failure”: The  issue here is insecurity.  A fear of failure means loss of self esteem or a sense of worth as an individual, or an issue of pride, and a resistance toward humility.
•    “I have all the answers” : The “know it all” attitude can stem from over confidence, or a false sense of superiority. Sometimes the underlying reason is insecurity, but also can be just outright arrogance.

–What can be done? Paul in Romans 12:1-2 gives us great help: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.” [emphasis added] Patterns of wrong thinking are common even among those who name Christ as Savior. So how do we “renew our minds” so that we can be “transformed?” Again, Paul gives us some great help in Philippians 4:8:  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  We must change the focus of our thinking. 

Another great help is to articulate the truth of the situation.  The truth is that we don’t have all the answers, only God does; that everyone isn’t out to get us, since “he that began a good work in you will carry it on until its completion” [Phil. 1:6].  The truth is that our worth as individuals comes from what Christ has done for us, not how well we perform. The truth is that failure is the confirmation that we are not perfect. Everyone fails at something. We chose to think in certain ways and develop patterns of thinking that are not healthy nor biblical. Choosing to think in other ways takes deliberate effort and practice, but is a biblical principle that can change our lives.
2. Those who fail in the ministry have tendencies to rationalize their actions rather than understand the reasons for them and they provide excuses for why and what they have done, rather than true explanations. Sometimes this is accompanied by an inability to accept responsibility. Unfortunately, rationalization becomes the pattern of justification for an inability to complete a task, or to admit wrong. Time was not taken to think through issues involved or to seek council about implications of a course of action, resulting in poor outcome at best, or failure at worst.  More time is spent in making excuses for what went wrong than the time it would have taken to adequately prepare in the first place. Rather than preparing, life becomes a series of reactions to one life event after another.

What can be done?  Careful preparation, thorough considerations of issues related to the problem, and seeking wise counsel can go a long way in preventing such disasters. Proverbs 15:22 says: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”  If there is a deficiency in one of these areas, then asking for help and accountability from others can help retrain old patterns of response.

3. Failing to develop a servant and learner’s heart and failing to love people
.  Leaders that fail often lack love for those to whom God has called them to minister. As someone as said, “People don’t care about what you say, until they understand how much you care.” Jesus was the supreme example of the servant leader, washing the dirty feet of disciples too proud to even do it for themselves.  Leaders that fail are also those who are unwilling to learn from others. God provides a myriad of opportunities for us to learn from those around us, even from those who do not know Him, but we must we willing to be taught.

4. Failure to keep on growing: spiritually, musically, physically, relationally, and intellectually.  Living things that cease to grow and develop often die. Leaders that fail have stopped growing spiritually, too busy or tired to maintain the personal spiritual disciplines necessary for an intimate relationship with Christ.  Regular physical exercise and healthy diet rarely are high their priority list. Investment in relationships and continued study never seem to find their way into the scheduling process. They are driven by the tyranny of the urgent, lost in a sea of activities that seem out of their control.

Learning to make healthy boundaries for one’s own spiritual life, family life, health and ministry can revolutionize one’s life and effectiveness and provide a healthy model for families with whom they minister.


  1. Thanks, Paulo. I appreciate your taking time to read it. It was good to meet some of your members at El Congreso in Waco, too.