DCL 5.2 Instruction | If You’ve Failed, Are You A Failure?

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John…they marvelled.

And they realised that they had been with Jesus.”

Acts 4:13

In this DCL module, the sessions presented by Tom Atema do not entirely follow the notes.  Tom decided to share on the subject of ‘Failing Forward’ from his own experience. The video has been included in full to use at your discretion.


Video Presentation: Tom Atema, VP of International Ministries and Strategic Partnerships, EQUIP


Many people struggle with feelings of failure. At the heart of their doubts and fears is a central question: Am I a failure? People are not failures until they believe they are. We must learn the difference between failing at something and being a failure. Mistakes become failures only when we consistently respond to them incorrectly.

The following list describes six abilities that enable high achievers to fail and not take it personally, learn from the experience, and keep moving forward:

1.  Achievers reject rejection. They do not base their self-worth on perfect performance.

2.  Achievers see failure as temporary.

3.  Achievers keep expectations realistic.

4.  Achievers focus on their strengths.

5.  Achievers risk failure in order to try new and better ways to solve problems.

6.  Achievers bounce back. They know that a failure does not make them a failure.



  • Is there an area of your life where you repeatedly have made mistakes?
  • Have you been thinking of yourself as a failure?
  • What can you learn from your mistakes?
  • How can you use your personal strengths and best skills to move beyond your mistakes?


Biblical Case Study: Peter (Matthew 26:69-75; 1 Peter 1:1-5)

Peter was in Jesus’ inner circle of disciples. He experienced many wonderful moments with Jesus.

  • He stepped out of the boat to walk on water (Matthew 14:27-30).
  • He identified Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20).
  • He witnessed the transfiguration on the mountain (Matthew 17:1-8).

At the moment of truth, Peter miserably failed his Lord, denying Him three times on the night of His ar­rest. Peter cowered in fear when a girl accused him of being a follower of Jesus. Yet this man, in the face of incredible persecution and opposition, got up from the pit of failure to do amazing things for Christ and His Church. He preached boldly even when he knew imprisonment and beatings, maybe even death, were the likely punishment. He wrote encouraging letters to Christians who were enduring intense persecution for their faith, encouraging them to persevere through their suffering by remembering that their reward awaited them.

This is the new Peter!  He is not the brash, impetuous, cowardly Peter who travelled with Jesus during his early ministry?  What happened?

  • He learned from his failures.
  • He refused to be a quitter.
  • He matured in his faith.
  • He was filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • He failed forward.

DCL Meditation and Inspiration Media and Notes © Willow Creek Association.
DCL Instruction Media and Notes © EQUIP Million Leaders Mandate Volume 2