Handling Rejection

“We’re leaving.”  I was sitting in the makeshift office of our financially struggling church plant.   A wonderful couple, who had been with us from the very beginning, had just dropped the bomb.  Once my brain succeeded in telling my body to breath again, my legs wanted to use that oxygen to run to the parking lot and throw up.  If you’ve planted a church, you’ve probably been there.  If you’re getting ready to plant a church here is one of the ugly truths – people leave.  Some get new jobs.  Others have unmet expectations.  A few are downright divisive. Here are a few practical suggestions for handling rejection in church planting:


Send Missionaries – Our society is more mobile than ever and very few people spend their whole lives in one place.  When life changes take people away, celebrate what God has done in and through them, and send them out as missionaries.  Change always creates opportunity.  Use this opportunity to communicate clearly about the value of people and bigness of God’s mission.


Accept Goodbye – We have a word for people who can’t or won’t accept goodbye – stalker.  It won’t do you or your church any good if you become one.  That doesn’t mean you should ignore people who fall away into sin or wander away in to relational isolation.  Consider how much integrity and respect it demonstrates to tell a friend, leader, or pastor, “I’m leaving.”  Respond with a similar level of grace and gratitude.  Make it your goal to keep a bridge between you, rather than create a chasm or a wall.  You’ll enjoy trips to the grocery store and soccer games a lot more if you do.


Confront Division – Otherwise healthy baby churches have died, because leaders were unwilling to confront divisive people.  Learn to recognize the difference between whining and dividing.  Whining is a sign of immaturity and the whiner’s goal is usually to get someone to feel bad for them.  They want attention.  Division is a power play and the divider’s goal is to get as many people as possible to agree against leadership.  They want alliance.  When you see that, call it what it is and confront it quickly and decisively.  (See Titus 3:10-11).


Love Abundantly – When you catch your breath and the need to throw up is replaced by a much more profound ache in your heart, not your stomach, there will be a temptation to protect yourself.  If I don’t love, I can’t be hurt by rejection.  Love anyway.  Love abundantly.  Dare I say, love recklessly.  The one who loved us first was and is rejected, yet he loves without limits.  His love is enough.


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