Healing from Rejection in Ministry

Any form of a rejection mindset can limit our potential and leave us feeling stuck. But when experiences in ministry unleash rejection, the effects of it can seem nuclear.  

Rejection coming out of ministry experiences, whether it be in church or some kind of spiritual environment, can be so incredibly painful. They often involve relationships that are so close and meaningful; people you run with and see as your own family members.

That’s what we are supposed to be, right? The family of God.

But when dysfunctional practices manifest, it can leave wounds of rejection on the lives of many brothers and sisters, leaving them spinning in a rejection mindset.

My Rude Awakening

When I set out into ministry at a very young age, I braced myself to experience rejection from the world and those who did not believe. I was aware of the world’s resistance against the things of God. Yet little did I know, my experiences with non-believers was a candy store visit compared to the surgery I would need from hostile interactions I encountered with my own brothers and sisters.

Just as rejection from a friend can be so painful, wounds from the family of God can at times feel debilitating.

Rejection in ministry can be traumatic. It’s like being in an emotional car accident, where the car suddenly jerks and the seat belt tightens against your chest.

As Cortney Whiting writes, “The word rejection comes from a Latin word that means to be thrown back. When we experience rejection, the feeling not only stops us in our present pursuits, but it sometimes causes us to retreat from progressing because we fear future failure. In psychology, this phenomenon is called learned helplessness.”

The goal of any kind of rejection in ministry is to throw you back from your divine potential.

The Carnage of Rejection in Ministry

Out of the pain many have experienced, I have watched many leave and then never return to ministry life again. Sadly, much of the woundedness came from either people acting in extremely painful ways of rejection, or rejection mindsets that were never healed throughout their journey finally taking a toll. Rejection took the pain of their life and kept them from never experiencing healing or breakthrough they needed.

Therefore many stopped following the call they had on their life.

I wish I was making this up…. Many have even stopped serving God.

The Wide Spectrum of Rejection Wounds

Leaders having moral failures is becoming a pandemic issue. This comes out of unhealed rejection wounds. Then what can make things even worse is the response of the body of Christ, which doesn’t allow for safety and healthy restoration. 

Many other pastors are walking around feeling like failures. Rejection has told them they are failures, because their church is still small or their dreams have not come to fruition.

I have met many leaders that have so much to offer, but they are under disempowering leadership structures that do not know how to raise up, equip and send out people.

Others need to move on to new horizons, but their departure from the church was met with coldness, hostility or even gossip that created an unhealthy narrative. Deep wounds in people’s lives get worse as they are shunned, shut out and demonized by the church.

Rejection gains further power in environments that are not safe, especially in cultures where there is a dominating pressure (that can be from leaders or the church family) and even abuse.  

Why It Hurt So Much

We put our trust into church leaders. They often become your confidant for some of the deepest pains and weaknesses of your life. They are people you get incredibly vulnerable with. You do so much of life together. So when this all turns upside down, and they can’t or don’t meet your expectations or needs rejection seeks to come in and destroy the potential of the relationship.

In the end, no matter who is right or who is wrong, rejection wins, because painful relationship separation is now manifesting.

The Enemy’s Assignment

Experiencing rejection is painful, yet it can be an incredible place for God to heal us and empower our next chapter. The enemy’s desire is for you and I to come under rejection’s lies, so that we live from a disempowered and dysfunctional perspective from that moment on.

I have watched hundreds of people limp away from rejection-fueled experiences, only to slowly get more hardened and even more mentally ill. The wounds they experienced never received the healing and help needed.

Working with people from many walks of life in Christianity, I have witnessed first hand the effects of deep wounds coming from a leader that was trusted. This quite often creates limitations on our future purpose and direction. I have sat down with many Christians who carried amazing potential, but through misunderstanding, insecurity or unhealed wounds, there were hurtful exchanges that left severe damage.

If a leader is not working on his or her own issues of healing and growth, then their unhealed spaces can often trickle out onto the people they lead, creating unsafe interactions that spread the woundedness.

The Need for Fathering and Sonship

The biggest problem is that we are still living in a religious culture of spiritual slavery. Therefore, leaders become more like slave masters, rather than spiritual sons and daughters, who grow into fathers and mothers.

Our churches are filled with hearts that need healing from their rejection wounds, while the leaders don’t always know how to create safe environments. To be honest, the leaders themselves do not have safe environments to process through their own pain. People in the church run to them with high expectations that can never be met. This leads us to a massive collision that becomes a perfect storm of disaster.  

Developing a Value for Wholeness

I’ve been on both sides of experiencing deep pain and hurt from leaders I worked with as well as from those I was seeking to care for. I watched rejection hit my family. I personally observed it wipe out wonderful people, with great intentions. But the hurt unleashed rejection in epic proportions.

I am highly acquainted with how rejection can work on many sides. If I didn’t understand what rejection was seeking to do with my painful experiences, I don’t know that I would be helping people today. The hurt could have possibly taken me out. To this day, God is still healing me of rejection wounds from intense interactions with actual Christians.

The only way I see anyone get healthier is when they have a value to experience greater wholeness. It’s only when we have a value for living healthy and whole as the family of God that anything will change. Unless wholeness is a value in your home, church or community, these relationship problems will continue to steal, kill and destroy our potential. By breaking through these rejection wounds, we can discover the beauty of what we can experience together. We can get out of survival modes and learn to live in fruitful love relationship.

Right now, the world doesn’t need to reject us. We do it to each other so often, we are becoming a literal autoimmune disease–a illness where the body attacks itself.

Everyone has to face rejection and the lies of a rejection mindset that stem from our broken experiences in ministry and church. In order to heal and move forward, here are some things I needed to be aware of and practice:

1. I Sought to Lean into the Pain Rather than Avoid It

I was not trained growing up on how to deal with pain productively, so I either shoved it down or complained about it unproductively. Too much of Christianity is teaching people to ignore pain and practice various forms of denial. When in reality, we need to face the pain, cease our avoidance habits and find out how we can heal. The pain will not disappear because you ignore it. It will simply go underground and torment you in another way. We have to face it, so I mind as well lean into it.

2. I Gave Myself Time to Process What I Went Through

I wasted so much time, hurrying myself and trying to get over wounds that we going to take some time. I found the more I yelled at myself to “get over it” the harder it got. Becoming patient with my healing process actually improved the flow of what I needed to work through. You need time to grieve your wounds.

I needed to find a safe person to process out the pain. It takes time to find that kind of a person, so don’t rush into telling your pain to someone who has not built credibility as a safe person. It’s a mistake to vomit your story on just anyone or on someone too soon.

3. I Surrendered the Story and My Need to Be Vindicated

One sign of a rejection mindset is when we repeat our story of hurt so many times, we forget we’ve shared it with people 10 times already. It’s important to share what you are going through with a safe person and to get helpful feedback. But the incessant need to recycle the story and make sure people hear your side can leave you stuck.

One way I moved forward, was I let go of the need to have my side heard and I let go of my need to be vindicated. I left that in God’s hands. Vengeance is His. When I keep vengeance in my hands, it only makes me bitter and more tormented.

4. I Used My Pain as a Place of Learning

I want to take every area of pain and let God heal me, so that I can grow and share with others what God has done in my own life. With that in mind, I sought out people that understood what I was facing and listened to what they shared. I paid attention to their feedback and listened to helpful advice.

5. I Forgave

Many times, I had to do it over and over again. I needed to forgive, where I could see the people and situations with a heart of compassion.

6. I Renounced the Lies and Limitations

Rejection wants to take your negative church and ministry experiences to keep you cycles of limitation. The enemy wants to take those past experiences and continue to repeat them in continual patterns. I needed to become aware of those disempowering agreements I was giving to the enemy that were keeping me bound and limited.

7. I Sought to See Those People in a Lens of Love

The greatest place of healing arrives when you can see those who wronged you, misused you and rejected you with eyes of compassion and love. It does not mean you are going to become best friends with them. It does not mean you have to be in fellowship with them either. Some people are just not safe. It just means you do not have to be a victim to what they did.

8. I Learned More About Who I am Apart from Ministry

Most pastors and church leaders don’t know what to do with themselves outside of their ministry role. So when rejection strikes, it hits them at their identity, which has gotten lost in their ministry role.

You are not your work. You are also not your ministry.

Many times, negative experiences in ministry cause you to step back and see who you really are; to get a perspective of who you are apart from all that ministry involvement. God has taken me through many seasons where I have had the opportunity to step back and look at who I really am, so that I can stop the temptation to find my identity and validation in ministry activity.

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