As the world now knows, the Philadelphia Eagles and Nick Foles won Super Bowl 52. The improbable start of Nick Foles from backup quarterback to Super Bowl champion is the stuff of Rudy-like movies that make you feel good. Everyone loves a good underdog story. In his victory speech, Foles shared something that every church, pastor, and lay leader should listen to.
Nick Foles’ faith has been well documented. He’s a committed Christian, shares his faith publicly, and even took seminary classes. The Eagles as a team have also been public about their Christian faith. If you have followed Foles’ story, you know that he almost gave up professional football altogether. He attributive his faith in God as motivation for sticking with football.
Churches should note the storied season of the Philadelphia Eagles. Faced with losing their starting quarterback, the Eagles had to readjust their game plan with the challenges of injuries and losses they faced mid-season. Foles stated something that all churches, in a time of decline, challenge, and changing religious environment, need to hear:
“I think the big thing is don’t be afraid to fail…. In our society today, with Instagram and Twitter, it’s a highlight. It’s all the good things. When you look at it, you have a bad day, you think your life isn’t as good, you’re failing. Failure is a part of life. It’s a part of building character and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be up here if I hadn’t fallen thousands of times, made mistakes. We all are human. We all have weaknesses. Just being able to share that and be transparent.
“I know when people speak and share they’re weaknesses, I listen. Because I can (relate). I’m not perfect. I’m not Superman. We might be in the NFL and we might have just won the Super Bowl, but we all have daily struggles. That’s where my faith comes in. That’s where my family comes in. I think when you look at a struggle in your life, just know that it’s an opportunity for your character to grow.”
Churches face challenges today that they have never or rarely faced before. Declining attendance, shrinking membership, fewer donations, or shifting attitudes about religion, churches cannot afford to keep doing what they are doing. It doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, churches are often the last institutions in our culture to make changes.
In all the churches I’ve worked with, advised, and served, the number one thing that churches can’t seem to deal with is the prospect of failure. A new direction, idea, worship element, program, or initiative never gets off the ground because it might fail. Church folk are often in such a deep place of fear that they can’t muster the spiritual capacity to think beyond scarcity. Foles, in all his wisdom and spiritual depth, expresses the true nature of failure: it teaches, builds, and redirects. Churches often do nothing and die because they don’t want to try something new – it might fail. Failure is often the best teacher in life – up there with success. Churches must adaptively adjust as they stand on their faith to respond to the Spirit’s guiding.
Churches, if you do anything this year, do this: Listen to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. The guy who almost hung up his cleats for good. If a backup quarterback from a team that never won a Super Bowl in its existence wasn’t afraid to be open to new experiences, challenges, opportunities, and the possibility of failure – you don’t have to fear failure.