In his book Sticky Leaders, Osborne argues that any meaningful change is brought about by those who have failed. He writes, “Make no mistake. It cannot be avoided. It’s the dark side of the creative process…failure is an integral part of the change process.”
Since we are not born “leadership ready,” then we must learn, grow, and mature into being the leaders that God wants us to be. There is a reason that an elder is not to be a “novice” (1 Tim. 3:6) or a “recent convert” (ESV). Simply put, at such a young spiritual age he is not ready. He has not learned, experienced, or failed enough to be qualified.
Peter is a perfect example of what it means to prepare for leadership through failure. How often do we highlight Peter’s missteps as a trainee under the tutelage of his Master, Jesus? He was abrasively hostile in the garden. He fearfully sank in the sea. He often impetuously responded revealing his ignorance.
This man could never lead. Right? Then Jesus promised him (along with the others) that he would receive the keys to the kingdom (Matt. 16:19). Furthermore, Jesus told Peter that he would fail, but when he got back up there would be work to do (Luke 22:32).
It all comes together in the opening verses of 1 Peter 5. Peter calls himself a “fellow elder” (1 Pet. 5:1). Wow! Hostile, abrasive, impetuous, fearful Peter was a leader. That is probably the last thing we would have assumed about Peter’s future role in the church. After all, the qualifications for being a shepherd are strict and rigid (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) and there are many moments in Peter’s early life when he did not meet those qualifications.
Might we suggest that his leadership was enhanced, not hindered, because of his failures? They made him stronger in the greatest task he was ever given – to shepherd the flock of God. Before we dismiss a man’s potential for leadership in the church, we would do well to stop and consider his growth, his maturity, and his development rather than just focusing on an aspect of his past that we deem troubling. There is a good that those moments and even seasons of failure have prepared him (like they did Peter) for greater service in the Lord’s church.
– Wayne Jones