Metabolizing Rejection & Getting Back on Mission

Dear Craig,  …you really find the wrong person. I am so sorry. I think you should spend more time on the other people, and I am not the right person…  I am very very sorry for this, and I hope you enjoy your life.

Rejection has many faces.  It comes to visit us if our passion runs counter to prevailing attitudes and actions.  Rejection can sit like a bitter pill in the soul for church planters.  We will become sick if it not metabolized or digested.  After an enjoyable conversation with a bright UBC scholar, I was served the most gentle rejection.  It was even accompanied by a blessing, “I hope you enjoy your life.”  Yet, I felt the weight of it in my gut.

Jesus was familiar with rejection.  His rejection ultimately became the pathway for our inclusion in the Kingdom of God by grace.  However, the great purpose attached to his experience did not shield him from the pain.  Researchers confirm that social rejection lights up the brain as if we have been punched in the gut.  It hurts!

When Jesus went “home” he experienced rejection as he lived out his Heavenly Father’s purposes (Mark 6:1-13).  After he taught in the local synagogue, Nazareth could not deny the greatness of his teaching or his works.  However, Nazareth would not accept him.  They rejected Jesus.  In the the anatomy of their rejection they got really personal.  They raised suspicions about his birth.  They limited him because of his training as a carpenter.  They compared him to the rest of the family.  And in the end they took offense at Jesus.

Planting the Gospel dominates our disciple-making journey at UBC.  Sharing what God has done through the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus sometimes provokes rejection of not only the message but also the messenger.  Because rejection strikes at the heart and generates fear, I have found it helpful to look closely at how Jesus metabolized rejection.

1.  He recognized it.  He said, “A prophet is not without honour, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”  vs 4

2.  He refrained from provoking them further.  Jesus began to withdraw.  “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.”  vs 5

3.  He marveled at their unbelief.  vs 6  Jesus reflected on their rejection and found their unbelief surprising for it was contrary to what had been revealed to them.

4.  He got back on mission.  Jesus set out and “he went about among the villages teaching.  And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two…”  vs 6-7

5.  He equipped the disciples for rejection.  “And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”

Jesus knows the spiritual warfare connected with rejection makes disciples vulnerable.  When rejection sticks to us we are in danger of anger, discouragement, vengeful thinking, and perhaps even abandoning the mission and the message of Jesus.  The prophetic act of shaking the dust off was meant to “shake off” the slime of rejection for the benefit of the disciples.  And the act also served as a note of caution and an invitation to those who rejected them to reconsider.  At Origin we are seeking to be a Gospel-shaped church.  Thank you for your support and prayer for us.  As you pray, ask the Lord to give us grace to metabolize rejection when it comes and then to get back on mission.

(This article was first published in the April 2012 edition of the WestCoast Challenge, a publication of the WestCoast Baptist Association.)

change on the horizon

Today has been a roller coaster of emotions, as I announced publicly at Cityview that I am responding to God’s call to plant a church in the UBC Campus Community.  God has blessed my family over the past 16 years with your friendship and partnership in Vancouver.  Starting early this morning I replayed the stories of many people who have seen Jesus lifted up and their lives transformed by the Gospel at Cityview.  Thank you for praying for us and for being a part of our lives.  If you would like to hear more of what I shared, listen to the talk that will be uploaded later in the week at www.cityviewchurch.ca In the meantime, please pray for Cityview and for my family as we go through this transition.  Our last Sunday will be July 18 and in September we will give our full attention to the UBC Campus Community.

Church 3.0 by Neil Cole

A few years ago I was confronted with this observation:  “Your system is perfectly designed for the results you are getting.”

Ok frustration.  What adjustments could we make to see our system, our experience of church actually become part of the movement that Jesus envisioned—making disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey everything He commanded?  How can we make reproducing disciples and therefore reproducing communities?  What am I missing?  What needs to change in me?

These questions set me on a journey and that journey has found an accompanying voice in the writings of Neil Cole.  Neil has been a pastor of an organic church movement in California called Awakening Chapels for quite a few years now and he has been coaching house church/simple church planters.  In the attempt to convey what he has been learning through actual praxis he has written several books:

Nurturing a Life for God

Organic Church

Organic Leadership

Search and Rescue

Church 3.0

In Church 3.0, published by Jossey-Bass, Neil’s thesis is that the adjustments required for a disciple-making movement is more than a functional or structural shift, it is an internal shift to a different way of thinking, believing and applying Jesus’ teaching from the typical (church 2.0) experience.  Anyone familiar with the organic missional church conversation will recognize the shift that is occurring across the world in the way many of us “do church.”  However, what is new in this book is that Cole is able to look back now on a variety of ways of applying the common principles accepted by people in the organic church conversation for movements and point to different expressions of them.  There is not just one way of doing this!

Some of the things I appreciate about Church 3.0.

Like his friend Alan Hirsh, Neil Cole emphasizes the Lordship of Jesus, the authority and power of God’s Word, the sacrificial engagement of followers of Jesus with people where they live, work, play, and the joy of a church community flexing their gifts for and with each other.  In Church 3.0 Neil delivers an insightful walk through Acts and the different multiplication impacts the following “church models” had:  Jerusalem, Antioch, Thessalonica, Rome, and finally Ephesus.  The move from centralized to decentralized mission networks is most helpful for dispelling the myth of purity in an organic church network.  His discussion on the “pragmatic” concerns also opens a window on what his network has been learning about evangelism, the ordinances, kids, heresy concerns, and finances.

My appreciation for Neil’s work has been its consistent emphasis on three areas:  1.  working out a mission lifestyle where people live, work, play.  2. His concern for planting the Gospel over planting churches.  And 3.  Ways for passing on the DNA (Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission) required for a multiplication of disciples three and four generations out from us.

if i could do it over again…

“What would you do differently if you could do it over?”  The question that begs an answer and creates learning.  Scot Thomas at Acts 29 Network has two posts and a third to come on 7 things he would do differently if he was planting a church today.  Thanks to Linda for sharing the link.   I’m intersted to hear what you all think about Thomas’s learnings.