Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.


May 1, 2010
I had a great time this afternoon leading a discussion at TransFORM.  It was a wonderful space to hear from a bunch of thoughtful folks about facing the failure that is inevitable when we involve ourselves with faith communities.  A couple of people asked about the dark benediction that I gave at the end, so I share it here:
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There are many ways to make/build a garden.  But three that work for my metaphor:
1.  A designer garden.  Professional.  Designed by architects and consultants, who study the world’s most beautiful gardens.  They use photos, software, and drawings to make it perfect.  A balance of size, proportion, color.  Then hire professionals to build it and maintain it.

2.  Indigenous.  Let that lot grow wild.  True emergence.  It would be chaotic and long-term, but have you ever seen an ugly forest?  Or an unattractive prairie?

3.  Trial and error.  Plant a bunch of stuff that you like.  Then see what lives, dies, thrives.  Move things when you need to.  Get rid of the stuff you hate.  Tear stuff out and throw it away when it dies.  But wind up with a really hearty and attractive collection of plants that are– by the very force of their existence– well suited for your environment.

Four years ago, I took a job as a caretaker of a modestly-sized house near here.  A sweet gig where my family would live in an apartment on site in exchange for me taking care of the place.  And a lot of my responsibilities were with landscaping and gardening.  But I’m not the greatest landscaper or gardener.  So it was a great relief to get this introduction to the yard by one of the owners of the house:  “This place is what’s left after 20 years of my mistakes.  Pure trial and error.  So you won’t be able to mess this up.  We can always dig stuff up if we need to, and if you prune anything back too far, it’ll grow up again.”

Do you want to be a part of a community– much less lead one, or have your name on the website for one!– that requires all kinds of unnatural work and irrigation and Herculean effort to maintain?  No!  So if something isn’t working, then let it die.  Or if someone squawks about maintaining it, let them run it!  You start stuff that you’d like to see, and allow everyone else to do the same.  And keep reminding yourselves that most of that stuff will fail.  When it does, simply say so and move on.  Embrace your failures, and add years to your life.  Because your life is failing, too.

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One Response to “FAILchurch”

  1. Great job at the conference Mike. The workshop and the closing worship were both useful and inspiring.

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