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Ed Jordan: Failure Is Not an Option

Posted: 3/17/18 at 3:00pm. Column by Ed Jordan.

Last weekend, I watched a movie about the Apollo 13 moon mission.  The future of sending manned ships was being questioned at that time, since American astronauts had walked on the moon in the previous flights and accomplished the United States’ goal to put a man on the moon before 1970. As the Apollo 13 crew approached the moon they experienced a loss of oxygen; so the mission was aborted, and Houston had to find a way to get the crippled ship and astronauts safely home.

It was during the making of the movie about Apollo 13 that a NASA Flight Controller named Jerry Bostick was asked by the filmmakers if the staff of Mission Control ever displayed panic. He responded that when NASA deals with unexpected crisis on a space mission, they lay on the table all potential options for solving the problem and that failure is never one of those options. From that comment came NASA’s unofficial slogan: “Failure is not an option.”

Our world is drowning in Rapid, Unsettling, Transformations (RUTs). As ironic as it seems, a very common response to RUTs is to slide into a rut and continue in that rut until we can see the way to adapt to the RUTs in the road ahead. People do this, and organizations do this.

The unsettling problem with RUTs is that they are rapid. These transformations occur so quickly and last so briefly before entering another phase of RUT that by the time the dust clears, the road ahead dissipates like a jet’s vapor trail. Then your guidance and mobility abilities can’t keep up with the newly created jet flying over the horizon. Just when you think that things just can’t change any faster or more frequently, they do.

This scenario is especially troubling for churches, which by their very nature preserve and transmit values which have endured for millennia. Furthermore, churches are comprised of a wide variety of people. In a lean, authoritarian business organization, it requires only a few people to mandate new changes.

Of course, mandates alone do not a change make. In many churches change comes with great difficulty and takes a long time. In a culture that is already changing again before the former changes are even implemented, slow-moving organizations can become despondent.

So what is the good news that gives us hope for the future of the church? First, remember that it is God’s church, not ours. Jesus said that the church he is building will not disappear (see Matthew 16:18).

We as the church need to be continuously active and to be a learning organism.

Second, we must realize that the church is Jesus’ body and a living organism made up of many body parts. The life of Jesus lives within us and impacts others through the church. The church is not a building—nor only a pastor or elders—but Christ’s body. And as a living organism the church needs to be alive, adapting to thrive in changing situations. We as the church need to be continuously active and to be a learning organism. When we face obstacles or challenges, we need to lay out the options on the table, seek God, and let him guide us in the way forward.

God does not fail. Many onlookers thought that Jesus failed when he was crucified. Indeed, Satan himself seemed to think that he had defeated God by killing Jesus. But we know how that ended. On the third day the ground rumbled, the stone rolled away, and Jesus, who had died, was raised from the dead—defeating death for us all, once and for all.

After the resurrection Jesus sent his Spirit to live within all believers to transform our lives and to be the perpetual source of life we need to accomplish God’s purposes in this world. Far from failing, Jesus unleashed the power of God as it was never experienced before. The church grew and is alive today in almost every country in the world.

Failure was not among the options in the ministry of Jesus. This same Jesus is alive today in his church. So don’t lose heart. Remember whose you are and that the church is the living presence of Jesus in the community! Death may seem to be winning, but Easter is coming!

Invite the living Jesus to breath on you and make your church his presence in the community. Believe Jesus’ words in Luke 12:32 (NLT): “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.