Not long ago the website for our online campus crashed. Our team worked for 25 minutes to get it back up and running. And for that whole time 250 people hung with us and didn’t log off.

We were frustrated about the crash and anxious to solve the problem.

We were grateful—amazed, actually—that all those people refused to give up on us.

The whole experience got me thinking about how common “crash and burn” happens in life and in the life of the local church. The church is made up of humans who fail. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. When “crash and burn” happens in a high capacity church, it’s OK. People like to know we’re about something more than a perfect, polished production.

We have a new worship leader at our church, an experienced professional performer and recording artist named Christon Gray. I’ll always remember what happened on one of his first Sundays with us.

A few seconds into a song he was leading, he waved his hand and stopped the music. Something was wrong. The musicians weren’t together. “Let’s start this over,” Christon said. “This song is too good to do poorly.”

And I thought, bravo! We need the courage to back up and try again when something we’re doing doesn’t work as we wanted.

Unanticipated Progress

Sometimes “crash and burn” ignites a fire for progress we hadn’t anticipated.

The leaders at our church have a vision for multisite campuses. We started one at Cincinnati Christian University a couple of years ago. But it’s not meeting today, because it didn’t work. There’s no need here to analyze why. Suffice it to say the following facts are undeniable:

• Our multisite campus crashed and burned.

• And that experience pushed us to find another way to do multisite. Our solution today is in the online campus I mentioned to you at the beginning.

If you visit it at live.ourchristschurch.com, you’ll be one of many to do so. (We’re more conservative about numbers than most. We do a one-to-one count of online worship attendance; i.e. we count one person for every log-on. Using this method, we say about 550 people attend our online worship services each weekend. But many online worship leaders figure 1.5 or 2 people for every log-on and would count our reach at 1,500-2,000 people.)

We’re getting ready to launch our sixth house-church campus made up of folks worshipping with us online. We reach people in more than 30 states and 50 countries.

Because of our first multisite “crash and burn,” we’ve discovered and we’re embracing this new strategy, and it’s working.



Unafraid to Fail

There’s a principle in this. Keep taking risks. Keep trying new things. Failure is not a dirty word. Be willing to “crash and burn.” Those with the greatest successes usually have experienced the most failures. We shouldn’t be afraid to embrace that philosophy when we’re leading a church.

The really great church leaders I know don’t talk much about their successes. They speak more about how they messed up and how to avoid their mistakes. Their “crash and burn” moments are the ones that refine them most.

We like to rest on our success in the church. We love to lift up the golden moments from our history. But, as one leader told me, “That home run you hit today won’t win tomorrow’s game. You don’t learn from the home run. You learn from the errors in the field.”

Church leaders can get addicted to growth, but Ben Cachiaras, minister with Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Maryland, says this: “It’s easy in high-capacity churches to get addicted to success. But success is not an indicator of health.”

Are you preaching the gospel? Are you loving the people? Are you lifting up Jesus as Lord? These constants are our foundation, regardless of how our methods change. And in our fast-changing culture, methods must always change.

When we regularly try something different, sometimes we’ll “crash and burn.” When that happens we must decide, we must agree, and we must proclaim, “That’s OK.”


What have been your “crash and burn” moments? What did you learn from them that can help other readers?



Trevor DeVageComment