Mistakes I Hope to Make Next Year


Sometimes the best mistakes are premeditated.

We can sometimes assume that to lose in any way is a horrible thing that must be avoided at all costs. I disagree.

“Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide.” – Colin Marshall

How is that fear a form of suicide? Because if we walk the path of avoiding anything other than perfection, we begin to paint ourselves into an emotional corner and spend great energy trying to convey a false message that we can succeed without ever failing. If you spend your life working to avoid vulnerability you will never authentically connect with others.

By accepting that we can make positive mistakes we set the stage to begin to see them as positive booster rockets that can propel us toward our goals. In light of that, here is a list of my planned mistakes for the coming year.

Cause some great ruckuses.

Sometimes the most effective way to stir a logjam is with a bit of the power in dynamite. There are human ways to cause a dynamic change that will work. An even more powerful and lasting change comes when God comes with his presence to invade our situations.

It’s inevitable that as change agents we are going to kick up some dust. That kind of kicking is part of the positive calling on the life of a leader. The word Paul chose that is typically translated “deacon” has with it a sense of dust being kicked.

A helpful picture might be the Peanuts character Pigpen. It’s not that we necessarily need a bath, but in the sense that we kick up the dust as we are active in doing ministry. That kind of activistic approach to the Christian life is what is going to change the world.

One ruckus that is sure to stir things up in some circles, is in a word, “Newcomers.” I mean outside people coming into where they find themselves different than the already gathered congregation. It’s natural to want to grow as a congregation. The Holy Spirit who lives in us is a magnetic Person who is bent on connecting and growing the family of God.

There’s a problem. When newbies come, if they are different than the “Everyman” slice of your congregation and as a result, they don’t feel it’s a fit. As a result, they may well not land.

Of all the glorious mistakes I plan on making, this is the biggest. I hope to stir up our greatest ruckus ever. It’s one you might even read about.

We are heading out on the road after the first of the year doing “Kindness Explosions” where multiple congregations join forces to do a variety of outreach projects in their greater community. It’s not just serving in general, but serving individually to bring people the kindness of God in practical ways.

At the center of a flurry of outreach activity is a giant commode. We have a sixteen-foot tall inflatable toilet with the words, “Make Kindness Great Again” printed upon it.

We have a costumed superhero character with the letters “CK” on the chest for “Captain Kindness.” This hero twirls a prop toilet brush that is several feet long. This is a visual that we do “heroic” levels of kindness, even cleaning toilets!

Take a punch better.

Any time I’ve tried to do something new I’ve drawn a punch or two from a dissenter. Of course, I don’t mean a real punch. but now and then it can be good to take a metaphorical one for the team.

The main thing about punches — when they come, you have to keep moving. If you stand still, if you give up on forward progress for long, you’ll end up on the mat with someone giving you the ten count.

Be taken advantage of.

We all have a sense of what is the right response when a panhandler approaches to ask for money. I have a hard and fast policy in those situations. In spite of the fact that people might purchase alcohol or drugs, I listen to my heart. I depend on an assignment from God versus responding to all the needs that present themselves. There are “assignments” from God I am determined to not miss.

More than worrying about being taken advantage of myself, an even greater concern is that I might take advantage of the good nature of someone — whether intentional or not.

Look dumb more frequently.

When change is introduced, some will get it, even a few will get it quickly. On the flip side, some won’t get it quickly because they don’t want to get it. That’s par for the course so that’s okay.

More than a few times Jesus and his gathered group of disciples looked a little dumb.

Jesus said it’s not just okay to be misunderstood and perhaps even look dumb. He said that we are blessed when the negative things happen but we choose to respond with a superlative on the other side.

When we are approached by even an enemy who asks for our coat, we are to bless them with it. We will be taken advantage of as Jesus’ followers when we reach out to those in need.

In a fallen world it’s inevitable that we will end up being taken advantage of our good nature. Odd as it may sound, it’s by losing that we will win, though sometimes the payoff is a little on the slow side!

More irresponsible than ever.

An Israeli friend says that the word “Sabbath” can be summarized pretty much with the English, “irresponsible.” To have true sabbath rest means we give up on productivity for that one day per week. When we practice premeditated rest, rejuvenation comes to our whole being. I have been inconsistent in that habit to be healthy. This year I am going to relax on matters I’ve tended to overvalue.

Our call from God is to be useless for a day a week. To attempt to make that a hard and fast rule versus the gift of relief from our routine work is the rough equivalent of telling children to go out to play for recess with the warning, “And you’d better have fun, or you’ll be in big trouble!” As crazy and opposite as those words sound, we do essentially that when we make the sabbath a law. Drop the legalism and become whole hog irresponsible one day a week.

Invest time, energy, and money in causes that are difficult but vital.

In other words, go against the grain that gives up and becomes overwhelmed about the future.

Several of my leadership friends have reached retirement age at about the same time and have made the same mistakes. A number of them have not done adequate advance work prior to relinquishing their leadership role. The result has been, in several cases, less than ideal. Among other things, they’ve ended up walking away from ministry with their tail between their legs like they’d been through a good scolding. The problem in each case is they were too picky about the preferred future of the congregation so put off investing in their replacement process.

Sometimes causes can seem so difficult to maneuver, they seem like an entirely lost cause.

“Not all lost causes really are.”

A few years ago I had the desire to become a small-time investor. Against the advice of my official retirement mutual fund manager, I took a few thousand dollars and bought Apple stock just as it was taking off. Later I converted that to Facebook stock. Here we are several years later and those investments have gigantically grown. In part, I succeeded in this because I didn’t take the advice of all the experts in my life as the gospel truth. 

Part of the point of this exercise was simply to continue to live a bit in the risk category. When we start to shut down all measure of risk we start to shut down in other important areas of life.

This year go back to a few lost causes you may have given up on along the way — the sorts you might have jumped at an earlier season in life.

May this year be one where you release world-changing, world-saving, godly ruckuses!