By Pastors Dan Flynn and Justin Rossow
Do you know what it’s like to feel rejection? It can be something big or something little, serious or rather funny, but feeling rejected is a common part of life.
Pastor Justin remembers the first time he asked a woman to marry him. She said no. He was crushed.
Of course, it was third grade, and the proposal came under a big red slide, but still, the rejection felt real. (Justin says he can actually still remember the slide, the wood-chips, the girl.…)
Pastor Dan was much more mature when he also experienced a kind of relational rejection. He recalls saving allowance for months to take that special someone out on a real date. The day arrived, the carnival was in full swing, and among all the happy people, an eleven-year-old Dan was waiting at the gate. And waiting. And waiting. And … waiting. He had to go all the way home and make a secret phone call to find he had been dumped. Rejection stinks.
This week our congregation heard back from Pastor David Gaddini: he has decided not to join our faith family as pastor and site leader at the Chapel. The whole process has been covered in prayer and wrapped in God-talk, so this should be a time to thank God that He is moving in His Church. But it still feels a little bit like rejection …
And in some ways, returning a call is a kind of rejection. As pastors here at St. Luke, we definitely believe the process was Spirit-led, so we know we should trust the outcome; right now, it still kind of stings.
So let’s take a step back and remember what’s actually going on. A bigger picture view might help us process this call returned.
As a St. Luke multi-site, we extended a divine call to Pastor Gaddini. After a lengthy call process—in which we asked ourselves who we are and where we are going—we as a congregation gathered to affirm by discussion and prayer the diligent work of a call committee who themselves had spent months seeking God’s will.
The result of that process was a call—the invitation that says, “We firmly believe God want us to ask you to be our pastor.” Just because he said no, doesn’t mean the call or the process were somehow less than God-pleasing. Just like our ask was the result of seeking God and His will, so Pastor Gaddini’s response was a result of seeking God and His will.
Pastor Gaddini’s response was a result of seeking God and His will.
Remember, once we issued the call, he actually had two calls from God in his hand. David and Tina, his wife, had to discern which call to honor. In this case, the choice was between two good options. The Gaddinis made clear that they thought they could serve God faithfully, joyfully, and well in either place. And they also shared how difficult a decision it was. They expressed love and support for the people and the ministry of the Chapel and of the St. Luke multi-site.
Which is just another reason we trust this answer is from God: Dave and Tina got to know our faith community enough to love us, and as they talked to God about it, they were led to do what they thought was best for their family, their current congregation, AND FOR US.
They were led to do what they thought was best FOR US.
Their answer isn’t the same as the rejection Justin experienced under the big red slide in third grade. Their answer isn’t the same as Dan getting stood up at the carnival gate. They said, in effect, we love you, and we think God wants us where we are. We know the Gaddinis well enough to trust that answer.
So where does that leave our congregation? First, we have freedom to experience disappointment, frustration, sadness, and whatever other feelings go along with hearing a word we didn’t want to hear. Jesus is with us right in the middle of our feelings.
Next, we continue the conversation. Though we did the homework before issuing the call, we also learned some things about ourselves in the process. So we will reevaluate who we are and where we are going so that we can be even more engaged in the process as it continues.
And we recommit ourselves to moving the mission and ministry of ULC and of the St. Luke community forward, even in vacancy. God is still God; Jesus is still leading; the Spirit still has work for us to do.
Ultimately, we can thank God that His will is being done, that He granted clarity to the Gaddinis, that He still has ULC and St. Luke on His heart and in His hands.
And we’ll pray for our new friends, David and Tina, that God would bless and increase their ministry right where He has put them.
If the Gaddinis were a NO, wait ’til we get to see God’s YES!