We sat together at a coffee shop in Pasadena. Me, a bit nervous. He, warm and kind.
He had committed to fund the spiritual formation work I will be doing at Fuller Theological Seminary for the next three years. I wanted to buy him a cup of coffee as a tiny gesture of thanks.
And then he said something that has become as important to me as his financial support. In fact, it was really the moment when I knew for sure that God was in this huge vision to transform theological education.
“Tod, I believe that our Plan A is never God’s Plan A and we only get to God’s Plan A when our Plans A, B, and C fail. So, you need to fail as soon as you can, so we can learn as quickly as possible.”
It wasn’t the first time he had said this line, but this was when it sunk in.
Here I was having coffee with a man who was making a significant contribution to an ambitious new ministry venture and he was telling me, “I’m funding this. Fail fast.”
My new mentor is an extremely capable, successful man. His business spans the globe and his philanthropy is as widely reaching. He loves Jesus and he wants to see the church flourish for the sake of the Kingdom of God. His passion is discipleship. He feels called to personally invest his life and resources in the spiritual formation of Christian leaders who can then disciple and spiritually form others.
The minutes flew by as we talked and strategized. I found myself taking mental notes, learning about how to lead a new venture from a man who spent a lifetime leading new ventures. When our President and Provost dropped in to greet him, he was polite and kind—but he really wanted to get back to the subject of discipleship. When a call came in from a very important public figure, he sent the call to voice mail. He was more interested in talking about the nuts-and-bolts of how a seminary really creates a culture of leadership spiritual formation than he was anything else.
That’s when I realized.
He doesn’t just want to financially support Fuller Seminary's Vocation and Formation division, he wants to personally be part of what God is doing in the world. He is fulfilling his calling as much as I am mine. (A pretty important realization for the Vice President of Vocation and Formation!)
He wants in—really in—on the experiments, in on the learning, in even on the failure of our best laid plans that will be necessary to find “God’s Plan A” for discipleship and spiritual formation of the Christian leaders of the future.
My new mentor not only gave us the funds for this experiment in leadership and discipleship, he gave us personal partnership in failing; he signed on to be a partner in the learning that will lead us beyond our best intentions to what God really wants us to discover.
That’s when I knew--really knew—that God is in this venture and that even our failures will be a success.