Ministry: Are you in obscurity? Popularity? Rejection?

Sep 2, 2010Find joy today, Kingdom Uncaged

Yesterday I read through part of Matthew in my new ESV Study Bible. Oh how I have a crush on that Bible! Anyway, one of the notes on Matthew 4:12-25 struck me. It says this: “The duration of Jesus’ ministry has traditionally been thought to have been three years: a year of obscurity, a year of popularity, and a year of increasing rejection.”

It got me thinking of my own cycles of ministry, and how this transition might be helpful in understanding where we are today. Certainly our time in France was one of increasing rejection. The whole time we were there, it seemed, we experienced more and more spiritual warfare (in alarming intensity) and over the top rejection. I know this sounds like I’m exaggerating, but trust me on this.

Prior to France both Patrick and I labored quietly, in obscurity. We loved folks. We made lots of mistakes. We parented our kids. Not much notice came our way. Then Patrick started seminary, and the tide started turning toward popularity. It’s not that he won some sort of “cool guy on campus” award. Not at all. But we found a good church, and he started leading a Sunday school class. And we began to see fruit. Lives changing. People encountering Jesus.

And when we raised support, the Lord saw fit to make that process pretty easy. A few months after graduation, wide-eyed and happy, we moved to France. And then our period of darkness came.

It’s taken us four years to crawl out of the pain, to heal from what happened. We will both probably walk with a limp from this point on. We’ve spent our years back in Texas in obscurity for a time. And now Patrick’s teaching a Life Group, and we’re seeing lives changed. Maybe because of what we experienced in France we’ll be able to face the rejection phase with more grace, grit, tenacity, and endurance. Maybe this time we’ll be able to laugh and choose joy. Maybe we won’t let the circumstances of our lives dominate our moods. I hope so.

It’s interesting too how my writing career and ministry have followed this Jesus pattern. I wrote for ten years in obscurity, writing miles and miles of unpublished words. I’m not sure that I’m in the popularity stage, but in terms of publishing, I have. I’ve published. I have an agent. I’ll (so far) continue to publish. I’ve been meeting with a coach who has great discernment. Yesterday she said something like, “God often brings me into people’s lives right about at the time they’re going to go through a new transition.” The pessimistic side of me worries, “Does this mean the rejection’s coming?” But I do know that my career has shifted this summer. That my influence has changed. That honing my message has opened doors for me. So I wait. And wonder. And cling to Jesus through what might come.

Mind if I pray for you?

Jesus, for those toiling in obscurity, bring Your kingdom perspective. Help them know You are working through them in hidden, secret ways. Help them not lose heart and grow weary. Give them tenacity and perseverance. For those in the midst of popularity, I pray You’d bless them with perspective. You are the God who gives and takes away. Blessed be Your name. May they withstand this trial of popularity with grace and humility. May any fame that comes their way become an avenue for Your fame. And for those who are walking through rejection right now, I pray for relief. I pray You would show up in secret and open ways. You have deeper fellowship and communion with those who suffer for Your sake. lift up their eyes, their heads, their hearts. Send encouragers. Bring relief. Show up. Amen and Amen.