How do you respond when rejection comes your way? Everyone experiences rejection from time to time. Friendships cool off and sometimes come to an end. For most people popularity is a fleeting thing. One season your presence is welcomed and another it is not. An actor or an athlete can experience a period of unparalleled success and suddenly, they are yesterday’s news.
In the world of ministry, a church or a leader can have a season of awesome bliss and meteoric success. Everyone wants to be associated with them. Time passes and seasons change; suddenly there is a new personality, church or ministry on the horizon and in the spotlight! The light fades and the crowds become less enthusiastic or lower in number. It is natural to look for potential reasons. To be certain – detractors, fair-weather friends and troublemakers will begin to prophesy your demise. So what should you do?
Well, that depends upon whether or not we are real men and women of God or merely, “actors on a stage”. If we are real and sincerely devoted to who we are and what we do, we press on and continue to be the best us we can be. We pursue a life of pleasing God as contrasted with longing for the applause of man! It also depends upon whether or not we have a Biblical view of gifts, callings and anointing.
Certainly, we must adapt (without moral compromise) to cultural shifts, technological developments and social trends. Relevance may demand some of that. However, we don’t change our character, our values or our motives in order to regain popularity or momentum.
Let’s observe how John the Baptist handled Himself in such a season of life! At one point, throngs of people from all walks of life came to hear him preach and be baptized by him. Even Jesus came to him for baptism (Matthew 3:5-17). However, though he remained popular with the common people, two things happened:
- He ran afoul of the modern power brokers – namely, King Herod and his wife (Matthew 14).
- Jesus arose to prominence in ministry, thereby producing transference of the interest and following of the Jewish masses away from John’s ministry. Jesus would even speak boldly about a different and more complete expression of baptism everywhere he went. Talk about perceived competition! What did John do? Did he panic and pursue a manmade “makeover”? Did he attack the credibility of Jesus? Did he hire a public relations firm to revitalize his popularity? Did he stop doing what he was called to and doing it with all of his heart? Let me declare an emphatic “NO” to the preceding questions!
John watched, waited and remained faithful to his calling. He sought out witnesses and inquired as to the message and ministry of Jesus. When he found it valid – remember, John himself had prophesied that One mightier than himself would soon surface (Mt. 3:11) – he made the appropriate adjustments. Upon verification that Jesus was the One, he relinquished all prideful inclinations and submitted to the plan, will and purpose of Abba. Here is his public response which was validated by his public actions:
“HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE.
HE WHO COMES FROM ABOVE IS ABOVE ALL . . . “ (John 3:22-30).
How could someone in his position be so humble? It’s simple! He knew who he was and who he wasn’t! He even made the prophetic declaration in Matthew 3:11 – “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John was comfortable in his own skin. He had no need to pretend to be someone or something he wasn’t. As a forerunner to the coming Messiah, he had no interest in perpetuating his own popularity or exalting his own “ministry” (something which is so common – even to the point of vain and idolatrous levels today).
John simply continued to stay true to his calling and his unique anointing. He ran well and finished strong. Undoubtedly, his name has “highlights” around it in the Lamb’s book of Life (see Revelation 13:8). Ultimately, the rejection of John by governing officials led to his execution. There was no swift resurrection as was the case with Jesus. However, there was most certainly, eternal life for this great man of faith and courage. He has surely found his reward, indeed, the greatest reward in heaven!
There are other parallel ministries in the Bible which demonstrate this very noble aspect of ministering respectfully in concert and coming alongside parallel ministries, without prideful competition and exaggerated claims of self-promotion or personal gift projection. Think Barnabas and Paul, Peter and John, Timothy and Silas, and the list could go on endlessly throughout the ages of time. Comparative analysis using such words as good, better or best are divisive. Judgments such as “anointed”, “more anointed” or “most anointed” do nothing to enhance the effective reproduction of the ministry of Jesus Christ.
The New Testament refers to a collective coalition called, “The Body of Christ” as the labor force for genuine Christian ministry. There should be no hint of celebrity among us. There is no room for “hero worship” in our ranks. Promotion comes from Him for His glory and His glory alone!