This article is archived. Some links and details throughout the article may no longer be active or accurate.

In early August, I had the opportunity to spend a little time in Burlington, Vt., on business, and my trip included a little golf.

As we were winding our way through the hill country of northern Vermont on our way to Stowe Mountain Club, my friend Jeff said, “Oh, by the way, there’s the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory.”

When he said that, my response was a little indignant. “Whoa, man, wait a second! You can’t just drop that on a guy and keep going!” He asked if I wanted to stop on the way back, to which I responded: “Well, duh! Doesn’t everybody?”

After a round of golf, we made some time to visit Ben & Jerry’s. When our visit was over, Jeff said: “My car is over here. I found a great space by the flavor graveyard.” I thought to myself: “Flavor graveyard? What is that?” Well, as it turns out, Ben & Jerry’s has a graveyard for all of the flavors that either didn’t sell well or just ran their course. There are headstones for each flavor, with cute little poems written on them and the dates that the flavors ran.

R.I.P. Peanut Butter and Jelly
An unbeatable duo!
Yet somehow it managed
To flop in a cone,
So we stuck to the sammich.
1989 – 1990 

As I stood there in this graveyard of past greatness, I thought to myself: “This is an amazing statement of a culture that is not only OK with failure, but also puts its failure on display so that the whole world can take selfies with it. They understand that failure is all a part of the path to success.”

As I was flying home, I couldn’t help but reflect on how the church might be able to be so trusting as to put our own failures on display. Rather than hiding our failures or mourning the death of paradigms that have run their course, is it possible to embrace a culture that proudly displays the things we have tried that didn’t work, or that had a shelf life shorter than we thought they should?

It’s almost as if Paul was giving us a hint in Philippians 3 when he said: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (v. 12, NLT). This is an indicator that failure happens all along the way. We will all try things that don’t work, and attempt ideas that ultimately cost us money and equity with people. Paul apparently was no exception, which is why his encouragement was to “press on.”

In other words, put those failures—both our own and the failures of others—in the graveyard. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of them because they are part of learning to succeed. If we never figure out how to fail proudly, we will never ultimately be free to succeed because we will forever be bound by those failures and unable to press on.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that the Lord will empower you and those around you, and for our movement to be free to press on.
  • Pray that release will come as we learn how to truly embrace the mistakes we have made.
  • Pray to have new creativity to be inspired as we learn to live in a culture where failure is not bondage and has no chains.

Share your thoughts. See comments below, and add your own.

is senior pastor of True Life Center (Cedar City Foursquare Church) in Cedar City, Utah.