The concept of being too big to fail has been apart of the American conscience for several generations. The term was popularized during a 1984 congressional hearing by U.S. Congressman Stewart McKinney. According to Wikipedia, Too Big To Fail theory or TBTF asserts that certain corporations are so large and so interconnected that their failure would be disastrous to the greater system, and therefore must be supported when they face potential failure.
What happens in American culture naturally affects the American church as well, but Too Big To Fail just can’t become a motto we adopt in Christendom. In the wake of the recent Ravi Zacharias scandal, we are once again reminded that on a seemingly yearly basis, Christian leaders suffer major moral failures, or a complete departure from the faith. Do these leaders suffer from TBTF ideas, falsely believing that they are so key to the church today that sin must be covered up and overlooked? Or worse, do we also believe this about leadership in our faith?
Scripture addresses several individuals and groups who bought into this false ideology. Babel believed this lie. As brick after brick rose higher towards the heavens, the men sought to declare a name for themselves. All of civilization had come together for one purpose. Certainly this was too big to fail. But God saw their hearts, came down to them, and confused their language. Yes, it could fail and it did.
Nebuchadnezzar also believed that he was too big to fail. He ruled the world. Power was at his disposal; everyone bowed before him. He ruled an advanced people, during an advanced age. But God saw his heart, and cursed him to live like an animal for seven years while others ruled in his stead. Yes, he could fail and he did.
The secular world isn’t the only peoples in Scripture who struggled with TBTF. David, God’s anointed king over His chosen people, came to a point where he believed he was too big to fail. After years of waiting, the kingdom was finally his, and prosperity abounded. But David stayed home when he should have gone to battle. He took another man’s wife, and then had him killed. David knew the law of God, so much so, that he wrote chapters about how much he loved it, but when everything around him felt secure, he falsely believed everything was settled and nothing could be lost. But God saw his heart, sent the prophet Nathan, took the child, and divided his family. Yes, David could fail and he did.
Even within the ranks of Jesus’ trusted disciples this faulty thinking arose. Judas traveled with Jesus for the better part of three years. He got a front row seat to miracles, transformed lives, and explosive ministry growth. This operation was huge, and when things started going a direction in which Judas didn’t approve, he tried to take matters into his own hands. He saw that this ministry was big, way too big to fail. But God saw Judas’ heart, allowed his plans to crumble, and desperation to set in. Yes, Judas could fail and he did.
Nothing is so big that it can’t fail. So when ministries crumble, and leaders are exposed to be less than we expected, there are two questions we should ask ourselves in light of Jeremiah 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked, Who can know it?”
1. Am I shocked by the exposed heart of others?
I Cor. 11:1 tells us to, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Paul knew men could go astray. Christ is to be our marker, our compass; any deviation from Him means a big fail is right around the corner.
2. Am I shocked by my own exposed heart?
As ministry leaders we must understand that our own heart can and will fail us. What safeguards do we have in place to protect the flock, the name of Christ, and our personal testimony?
Too big to fail takes God off His throne and replaces Him with whatever small god we feel is the hinge point of Christianity. Let’s keep God in His proper place and remember that, while it’s a privilege to serve in ministry, it really is all about Him.