Most businesses fail in the first five years.63399507023589182799

We know what failure means when it comes to business. It means that the business did not make enough money. It means that the owner could not feed his or her family. And beside the financial cost, there is probably a big emotional cost to a failed business as well. People pour their hearts into something that they hope will succeed and when it does not, it feels more like a personal failure.

But what does it mean for a church to fail?

This last week, I saw not one but two blogs about churches that “failed,” meaning they closed shop, went out of business, so to speak.

My heart went out to the authors, because I’ve been there. I’ve been a part of a church that ended. And it is heartbreaking.

But at the same time, I ask myself, what do we mean by a church failing? A church is not a business. A church is not a corporation. So what happens when we define a church in the terms of a business? What happens when we define “success” and “failure” the same way Wal-Mart defines those terms?

I have made a realization in the years since my own church failed. What happens is that the church has not failed. We have failed to define “church.”

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People are natural storytellers.

Stories are how we make sense of the world. Stories are how we make sense of ourselves and our past. Stories are how we identify our culture and identity.

It’s little wonder to me that so many people want to be storytellers. And there are a ton of people who can give advice, write blogs and books about how to be a storyteller. I have more than one book on my shelf, thank you.

I am convinced that as much as we want to be storytellers, most of us do not know how to tell stories. For as many stories as we have heard, we cannot tell them. Why?

Because we are not good at listening for stories.

We are not good at collecting stories.

Some people collect comic books or Star Wars toys. Others collect music or art. And some people collect stories.

And I think that is the key. Real storytellers know when a story is being told, even if no one else hears it. They know how to collect the stories that no one else is listening for. Most of us want to jump to the finish line and just be great storytellers. We want people to listen to us, as if we have the right to be listened to. But long before we become worthy of being listened to, we have to learn to listen.

Take one of my favorite short story authors, Eudora Welty. Her stories made it look easy. But no master artist, author or musician just skips to the finish line. There was a time when Welty shut her mouth, was not trying to be heard, and instead just listened.

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That listening may be the most important first step. And who knows how long she just listened. 

Our generation wants so badly to be seen and heard. But no one will feel seen and heard until they make other people seen and heard first.

Happy Friday, ya’ll.

It’s hard to believe, but next week, we are going in for our first “birth class.” I really have no idea what to expect from that, other than, “stand there and don’t be an idiot.” Or something like that. I don’t think there is much for guys to screw up in the delivery.

There was an awesome amount of stuff throughout the week, but these are the items that kept me most entertained, challenged and encouraged.

In My Netflix Queue

Several months ago, I recommended a documentary, That Guy from that Thing, a look into the world of character actors. This week, I really enjoyed I Know that Voicea similar documentary about the lives and work of voice actors. It’s actually more entertaining than That Guy, and it’s an interesting look into an industry that I know next to nothing about, though we are all touched by their work nearly every day.

In My Blog Reader

Leanne Penny wrote a postmortem on the little church plant that she has been a part of. When I say postmortem, of course that should indicate that the church plant is now over. If you have ever been a part of a church that ended, you know that it is a very emotional thing. The questions and self doubt are endless and it really does change the way you feel about church. Leanne captures all of this in all its painful beauty.

Caleb Wilde, our favorite funeral director, discusses a grief that is all too often born silently and secretly. It is the grief over a miscarriage, a life that was never known or seen by anyone, but is no less real. And again, I know from personal friendships and experiences that everything he writes is very true.

Jeff Anderson writes why loving God and loving others too often turns into just blah blah blah.

Emily Wierenga shares the truth about mental illness. Again, I cannot think of too many topics that affect more people than this. An important discussion to keep having.

And finally, Zack Hunt shares the ironic thing about fundamentalism, an opinion very similar to something I have shared here on the blog.

And that’s it for me this week. I will see you on the other side.

There will be a time, perhaps several years, when I am infallible, invincible and completely inerrant…

Yes, the time that my family will look at me this way and sincerely believe that I know best will be all too fleeting.

Yes, the time that my family will look at me this way and sincerely believe that I know best will be all too fleeting.

At least, I will be these things in the eyes of my child. I have to be honest and say that I’m looking forward to this, because the last time I was all of these things was when I was a teenager, and that’s been a while.

Yes, they say that parents are the equivalent of superheroes from a child’s point of view, able to do anything at all, solve any problem, and speak words of truth at all times. Every word I speak will be completely true to my child. Everything I do will be great in the eyes of my child.

Those will be nice days, the days when I have someone around who is too innocent to know the truth about me. Those days will not last long enough. Because the fact is, one day, a day that I cannot see nor prevent, my son will discover the truth about me.

That I am a hypocrite.

And maybe you have not realized it…but your children will discover the same about you.

But don’t worry. It’s not all bad news. In becoming hypocrites, we become human.

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So, I had kind of a revelation this weekend.

Cheri is 28 weeks pregnant. And my revelation is that we are, like, less than three months away from having a baby.

28 weeks

I know, kind a dumb revelation.

But the thing is that we are finally in kind of a sweet spot. Cheri’s miserable first trimester is a distant memory, and despite her discomforts, she’s actually enjoying herself. She says she can see why some women enjoy and anticipate pregnancy.

She also said she can see how women get postpartum depression. Because after the better part of a year of anticipating and having this little thing doing bicycle kicks inside you, it’s a shock to have reality hit.

I actually knew all-too-well what she meant.

I know I’m not supposed to. Postpartum is supposed to be a woman’s thing. But I am actually enjoying my wife’s pregnancy too. I’m going to miss “Big Cheri.”

For me, the anticipation of something new is always great. Whether it’s my first child or a new job or a new book that I’m writing, I love the anticipation. My mind builds up the excitement and the expectations. It idealizes and romanticizes.

But that’s a problem, because anticipation doesn’t get to last forever. And when it ends, reality sets in. I have had some of my most depressing episodes immediately after some big ambition is fulfilled. I know, that’s weird. But anticipation has a way of screwing up our enjoyment of the real thing.

I think a lot of us must have that feeling, that let down, whether it’s real, clinical postpartum depression, or we just got a new job or moved to a new city or we just finished a great big project. It’s that feeling of empty, that dread that maybe there is nothing left to do, nothing left to look forward to. It’s that feeling of being drained of all of the exciting brain chemicals that have been steadily dripping for months on end.

But the postpartum is always a lie.

There is always more to do.

Always more to look forward to.

Always a new horizon.

Because soon, this horizon that we just reached will be old news.

And our adventurous, primal human brains will tell us to go on another hunt.

I’ve spent most of my life in Kansas City.

That’s Kansas City, Missouri, mind you. Not Kansas. A few out of town sports announcers will arrive from time to time and say something idiotic on television like “It’s such a clear day here in Kansas City that you can see all the way to Missouri!” 

Anyway, for my entire conscious life, it has been pretty easy to not be a sports fan in Kansas City. I mean, I’ve literally never blogged about sports. Don’t even have a post category for sports. I’m not a fair-weather fan. It’s just that tuning out a terrible season is a self-defense mechanism.

We Kansas Citians are a long-suffering breed, the kind of folks who will diligently root for our teams through 100 loss seasons. But we won’t talk about them in mixed company. If you are from another city, I will not discuss our hometown teams with you. Yeah, our house is a mess, but it’s our mess, so leave us alone.

Needless to say, it’s been a busy week in Kansas City, as a sort, not really, but eternally hopeful sports fan.

I was honestly not going to watch the Chiefs on Monday night. I did not think I could stomach our city being humiliated. I would never have guessed it would the Patriots who would be humiliated in front of an international audience.

And then our Royals, pulling off one of the most dramatic wins ever…in their first postseason appearance since I was two years old.

I think our sports teams really might be like our messy homes. It doesn’t matter if the house is a mess. And it doesn’t matter how the season turns out. It’s our mess, and we are happy with it.