Called to Reject

What is it we are rejecting?

[006] Called to Reject Guerrilla Pastors

We have used the word reject in past episodes, so we thought it pertinent to outline what it was we are specifically rejecting. Join us as we continue on this journey of being Guerrilla Pastors seeking to minister through subversive presence.  Books referenced in this episode:  Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation This episode is also available as a blog post: — Send in a voice message:

We have used the word reject in past episodes, so we thought it pertinent to outline what it was we are specifically rejecting. Join us as we continue on this journey of being Guerrilla Pastors seeking to minister through subversive presence. 

Josiah (Narration): Welcome to the Guerrilla Pastors Podcast, I’m your host, Josiah. On this episode we pick up where we left off last time in our discussion on vocation. You may have noticed that a lot of our understanding of what we were called too has changed over the years of doing ministry. With our shifts in understanding of vocation, came moments of evaluation. To borrow a phrase from our last episode, each of us went through a process of finding out what it is that brings us to life while at the same time, determining what it is that takes life.

Now, you have heard us talk about this in another way, using the word rejection. This is a word that you may have remembered us using in our past episodes, which is why today we want to make very clear what it is we mean when we use it, and what specifically we are rejecting. This friends is what today’s episode is all about.

Join us as we continue to explore a world of subversive presence on the gorilla pastors podcast.

What I noticed was christians could not have conversation with each other if they disagreed with one another.

It’s all about entering into the textured presence of lived lives, and so, The, the sanitation of it just broke for me. Like, church can’t be sanitized.

I always feel like I’m not what people think of when they think of a pastor.

I went to school for youth ministry and have now figured out how to do like construction work. It’s good. Good stuff.

The church is struggling and declining in ways that we’ve never experienced in the United States and Canada right now.

We have to like allow ourselves to embrace new ways of being in a place.

Insurgent revolutions, i e guerrilla warfare is 20% bullets and 80% blessing the people.

How do we be eternally faithful? Like literally, like how do we be faithful in a way today that in 20 years people aren’t going … He was evil.

Why are we still afraid? We believe that God is at work in all places and all people at all times. That is amazing, and that should give us hope.

We are the Guerrilla Pastors. Join us as we explore a world of ministry founded on subversive presence.

Josiah (Narration): At this point, it’s almost routine. Something that we hear about on nearly a weekly basis. The latest lead pastor of some mega church who has had yet another fall from grace. As I record this episode, a wildly popular documentary is chronicling this with the Hillsong church in New York. Perhaps the most famous Christian podcast of all time made a name for itself by discussing this very issue in the Rise and Fall of Mars hill.

Through the years, these sorts of things have become a mainstay in the American evangelical community. At this point, we basically expect it to happen, which is a problem and sheds light on what we specifically reject. Most of these stories have a common thread and once you pull it, the whole thing unravels

In her book Jesus and John Wayne, Kristen Dumez chronicles this well by showing the progression of the American evangelicalism as it seeks power and influence. They have historically done so by naming their next biggest and baddest champion to create their cult of personality around. As a result, pulpits become soap boxes for partisan politics and sanctuaries become places for campaign rallies.

This formulaic and institutionalized version of Christianity becomes problematic at best, as it seeks to eliminate all who disagree. But the common ground in all of this is something that can be found in each and every one of us…

For the thing we strive to reject is in fact… pride…

Brian: Yeah. I, I think I had to realize I was rejecting something, um, based on, uh, the way that people responded to the way that the three couples that started this ministry in Seattle with me, when we would talk to people within the church, uh, people would get very defensive about what they were doing. And I struggled to say, wait, wait, wait, I didn’t, I didn’t say this was… our way was right and your way is wrong.

Um, there’s an “and” in all of it. Um, and so I think what I rejected and both intentionally, but also by accident was the idea that pastoring could be brought down into a very small and, uh, concrete job description and hours. That someone who’d been doing it for 20 years could then say, “this is what it looks like to be pastor” to a young pastor.

Um, and not this, but not that. So it’s a lack of humility within the, within, within, uh, uh, the description of what it means to be pastor. So I think that’s what I mean is when there’s a lack of humility when we pigeonhole stuff. I mean, it’s all part of like soundbite culture, everything where we say, oh, this is what my 20 years of pastoring looks like.

And therefore young pastor, this is what pastor it looks like. Um, and forgetting that we’d live within not only a crazy Kingdom imagination and kingdom ministry. That is huge, that needs to reach into all parts of this world, um, to say that and not, and that’s leaving out the internal. Create a person of the pastor themselves, uh, and, and their trauma and shadow self and everything they’ve been through and victories in their own life to say that those, all of this isn’t connected.

And so it, it, it can only be defined in this job description and then these hours and in this way, I just it’s it’s it’s it lacks it lacks theological imagination. It lacks humility. I mean it’s, it’s out. You’re ridiculous. And yeah. So that’s, I think that’s what I’m intentionally rejecting. Uh, now that doesn’t mean if you preach three times a week and you know, and run a church of a thousand and manage a team of pastors and office staff, you know, like many big churches do that.

It’s unfaithful. I’m not saying that at all. That’s that’s the point is, I’m saying it’s it’s it’s and it’s. It’s as big. Let me say, let me say it this way. Try to say clearly the job description of pastoring is as diverse as the kingdom imagination.

Yeah. Yes. And because I’ve seen it scar people too, I’ve seen young ministers, uh, who go into a church. And they in their first job and they’re narrowed down into a job that doesn’t fit who they are as a person who they recreated to be and who their vocation is. Okay. And therefore the experience is so negative and so full attention that they leave ministry and sometimes leave faith altogether.

And so if anything that we talk about in this podcast, it’s a hope. That this gives a huge kingdom imagination, a benevolent orthodoxy to young ministers who are going, who may or may not be stuck, uh, going with, with, in paradigms that are going, this is only what it looks like. And it only can be this way, uh, to say, man, there is more, and there’s more in the reflection and the pastoring of it.

Josiah: So my understanding of vocation is absolutely why I’m no longer a lead. Uh, that’s pretty, pretty much on the nose. Why I’m not interesting and be interested in being a traditional Sunday morning lead pastor anymore because there was a confliction about what vocation meant as lead pastor. There was a difference of expectations.

There was a difference of desires and what my time should be spent doing what I was paid to do, what my values should be and how my time should reflect. And so my understanding of vocational ministry is absolutely linked with what I, I guess, one aspect of something that I am currently rejecting. So this rejection is not a rejection of a person.

It’s not a rejection of a people group. It’s this rejection of a paradigm. I, I love church. I think Sunday morning gatherings can be incredibly meaningful and formative and they can be. Such a wonderful time for people to gather together. But when this understanding of pastor is handcuffed to a particular style of vocation, that is a very using our own language, narrow kingdom mindset.

That is where it breaks for me. That is what I would like to reject. I also specifically want to note that I don’t think that everyone needs to reject that vocation. There are many I know. So I currently work with. Their vocational calling perfectly fits into the Sunday morning worship, traditional gathering vocational ministry.

And that’s great. We need that. I think that’s wonderful. I just know I don’t fit that. So my understanding of vocation, why I’m doing what I’m doing now is directly connected with, with what I guess I’m rejecting with how I do ministry now.

Ryan: I realized that there was a concoction of a couple of variables that made for this sort of toxic cocktail in the nineties for me. And that was a very limited understanding of vocation, which was to be called by God from outside ourselves towards an ideal, which was this image of a pastor, generally male, generally middle-class, et cetera, et cetera, leading by way of articulate presentation of the gospel from the.

That was one variable. The other variable was the rise. And what we now understand as celebrity pals. Right. So there was the epitome of that calling, which looked like someone with a 10,000 or 20,000 person church. Right. And that was highly toxic for a young person like me, that was inherited that sense of calm, that understanding of calling while there was an increased amount of public exposure for people that were evidently succeeding and fulfilling that calling.

So what did, what was I to do at 16, 17, 18? It was to desire literally to lust after that successful concert. Of pastoral ministry or in my case, personal calling. And, but, and it took nearly a decade and a half and a lot of hurt and failure after failure of trying to pursue someone else’s concept of what pastoral ministry was and someone else’s concept to be quite honest of what calling was for me to finally realize one critical piece.

I take that back to critical pieces. That’s not what calling is necessarily. And that’s definitely not what my calling is. I reject that. I reject that. Not because the call to a particular kind of image of embodiment of leadership is something that is all together. It needs to be disposed of, but because it’s not my vocational path, I reject the dishonesty that I gave myself when I said, yes, that is what I’m supposed to do.

I reject the foolishness and the lack of wisdom and the immaturity to covet a massive congregation because it was so attractive, appealing, glittery, whatever you want it. Right. I reject a lack of understanding of my true self. I reject a,

I reject that I could get away without doing my own inner work to truly discern the unique, unique nature of my call. And lastly, I reject, you know, the two decades. That I invested into somebody else’s understanding of successful ministry. What I embrace is not less pastoral and what I embrace and embody is not somehow less vocationally, you know, sincere what embrace is not, you know, less faithful.

What I embrace is actually the opposite. It’s more consistent with my inner self. It’s more consistent as Parker Palmer said, Eh, you know, my true self and, and certainly it’s more, it’s an embracing of, I think what’s a more sustainable model of ministry. So essentially what I’m saying is what I reject is what I formally pursued, which was someone else’s call that wasn’t mine.

You know, and I’ve, I think in recent years, I’d say maybe the last five years I’ve fully embraced, you know, a vocational uniqueness that parallels my created uniqueness. And it’s, uh, it’s, it’s in that sort of symmetry that I think we, we tap into kind of a well of, you know, of resource both, you know, in terms of our giftings, but also in terms of just a divine inspiration that is bottomless.

Right. Um, that is what I might call you. You know, magnificently inspired or something like that. If I have to frame rejection with, with some sort of really concise language, I would say I reject anything that sacrifices, real relational fellowship, faith, community living, and instead prioritizes institutional success.

I think that’s, that’s how I would articulate what I particularly reject. So you could go down the list of what is institutional success look like?

Josiah: I would say, you know, what you were talking about, the cult of personality, megachurch celebrity thing is one thing. Church growth models, attraction models that, that hinge on having the best pre-packaged show on Sunday morning, that just lends to a more consumeristic mentality instead of a genuine faith community gala.

So if there’s a rejection of something, it’s where we prioritize some sort of measurable, successful growth metrics-based institutionalized way of doing church, as opposed to, Hey, let’s care about people, let’s gather together and understand that this, this book we read a lot, the Bible has something to say about what we do when we’re together and what we do when we’re not, and what we do in the communities that we live in.

And let’s just, let’s focus on that. That simple approach to doing church.

Ryan: Yeah.

Josiah: That’s the specifics of, if I have to get really concise, that’s the specifics of what it is that I would reject.


Brian: Can I just jump in real quick? And I just ask a question, cause this is what I’m hearing from both of you, the specific there’s some specificity,

Josiah: specificity…

Brian: specificity. There you go. Uh there’s that, uh, that you guys are, that you’re at Josiah. You’re naming what? I’m also hearing a lot, Ryan and I wanna, I wanna like is this is like you are rejecting a prescribed calling without the personal inner journey or doing the journey, the work like with like, it’s almost like I’m 25, I’m graduating from seminary. This is what your calling looks like because I’m the senior pastor and this is what my calling has looked like. And so go do that with… and forget all that… the inner work will happen.

And maybe if you, if you look inwardly, but you know what I mean? That makes sense. Like, but as if, as if it’s not all tied together, um, like I think the openness, if I was a lead pastor in those, a young seminary and just graduated and they’re going into, and I’m saying you don’t have an identity yet as pastor, it will be for.

In your ability to do work in community and do your inner work and that’s the spread of it, right? I mean, is that what I’m hearing?

Ryan: Yeah, that that’s that’s exactly… Well, that is, that is capturing a large component. And, and here’s how I came to that. Or here’s the component I think it’s capturing and here’s how I can.

I realized that I didn’t need to reject all of these broken systems. If I was aware of my inner brokenness that needed to be daily nursing. Understood addressed held given grace, right? Like they wouldn’t have even been appealing to me. But what I was is I was this young kind of ego-driven highly goal oriented, sort of empty vessel, not realizing there was a universe of me within, and I was saying here, go take on this load of work.

The implicit message there is that you will find your identity through this work. I.E. your vocation will emerge within the boundaries and limitations of what we’re presenting you as your new job, as opposed to you are a complex, you know, human being that has an inter world that needs exploration and nurturing, and you’re faithful.

Vocation can only emerge when that’s holistically done. When that journey is entered into with slow reverence over many years, which is why now I’m 40. Okay. I lied. I’m 42. I don’t count two of those years because of COVID, which is only why now having been on that journey, am I finally being able to specifically name my unique vocation. Right, but we weren’t, we weren’t given that kind of long view when we were young and ambitious and, and, and driven, and quite honestly only given one model of vocational ministry. Right. Um, and so yeah, it, it, it certainly names that, that component of it, of it, Brian, and it would, it also does, is it frees me of the need to have to reject.

By extension, I’m rejecting all this other nonsense, right. By just be holding my own true self. Right. And, and continuing in continuing to walk the inner journey of discovery. And that gets to, you know, to sort of, you know, jump the gun here that gets to the whole subversion thing for how’s it going to ask if I was going to immediately ask.

Josiah (Narration): We’ll have to save that discussion on subversion for our next episode. But instead I would love to introduce you to yet another pastor one you’ve heard in our introduction, his name is Sean, and he has yet another unique story of growing up in the place he currently ministers, but his story nails, what we’re trying to convey in our discussion.

On rejection. Here he is.

Shawn: So my name’s Sean Mattson and, uh, I’m a pastor of west Seattle church in the Nazarene, uh, in west Seattle, Washington. Uh, it’s a neighborhood I’ve grown up in. So my dad, uh, was actually the pastor. I don’t know if anybody, either you watch. The, uh, I know we’re pastors Nazarene pastors, aren’t supposed to watch HBO max, but, uh, this is our own like little succession plan.

Uh, so my dad was the pastor before me, uh, in this congregation since 1994. And so I’ve grown up in this neighborhood, uh, with the exception of college and then two years, uh, youth pastoring in a foreign country, uh, Boise, Idaho. Um, and I was born in Idaho, so they couldn’t be mad at me. I was a youth pastor.

The other than I’ve lived in, I’ve lived in the parsonage next to the church since 1994, growing up in the neighborhood in west Seattle originally hated it. Uh, probably the first three, four years. I w I actually, I was, you know, I lived much. Kid life in Vancouver, Washington, right across the river from Portland.

And so for the first three or four years in Seattle, I just wanted to go back and root for the blazers some more. Um, but, but Seattle grew on me and it’s come to be home. And, uh, I I’ve been back, uh, pastoring at this church for, uh, eight years now. And there a lot’s changed, uh, there’s some new folks, but, but also there’s a segment that knew me as a middle schooler and, and saw the temper tantrums and the awkward haircuts.

And. Um, I, now I’m 39 and my wife and I have two kids full of, uh, bundles of energy. Uh, we have a five-year-old and a three-year-old Tanner and Parker. And so we’re having as much fun as possible. We also asked him to share just a little bit about the congregation that he serves. So my, I would say my congregation, first of all, it feels like my neighborhood, uh, it feels like west Seattle feels and, and we.

We fit within the urban stereotypes. It’s a very, uh, progressive neighborhood. Um, very much de-churched post church, pre church, whatever, you know, there’s, everyone likes their own little flavor on that. Um, and, and. It’s a growing neighborhood. I think I read recently the median age is about 43. So you’ve got a bunches of families and kids.

Um, it’s, it’s deeply connected to Seattle by a bridge that’s currently not working. Hopefully it will be in the next year. Um, so it’s the, it has traditionally been a place where, uh, young families like. To move because it’s so connected and so close to Seattle, but also kind of feels like a small little offshoot that has its own little flare and identity.

Um, so a lot of the Amazon workers in tech workers west Seattle has been traditionally one of the places to go. I think the median I read, uh, yesterday, the medium. It’s like $743,000 right now in west Seattle. So, um, and, and there’s several neighborhoods, so different neighborhoods have their own kind of style.

And, um, my church, I think reflects many of those neighborhoods. Uh, if you think about it, let me say this about west Seattle for many at best the church, uh, is. Uh, and it works for part of the problem and, and, and you can play that out. Be it politics, be it issues of justice, um, be it racial issues, be it, uh, the conversations around our brothers and sisters from the LGBTQ community.

Um, Often the body of Christ is seen as not contributing to the Shalom of, uh, of our community, our neighborhood. And so I think the beautiful part then of my local congregation. So it’s a small, uh, church, uh, prior to COVID I would say we were about 50, um, post COVID, who knows? Uh, it depends on the day. It depends on if the sun’s out and if the Seahawks are playing.

So, uh, But it is reflective. We certainly, we have, um, folks who are deeply connected traditionally to the church. I’d say that’s maybe 40% of my congregation. Um, but probably 60% of my congregation, it really does feel like west Seattle. And, and I’ll say this half of my congregation is 35 and younger, uh, and prior to COVID.

About 45% of my congregation was non-white, uh, Samoan, Filipino, native American African-American. And so that just creates like this interesting dynamic of worldviews and different kind of cultural, um, ways of looking at culture. If you think about some of the hot button issues that maybe Seattle cares about and west Seattle cares about, and some of the ways in which Seattle and west Seattle might name the church as part of the problem.

Um, issues of justice issues around our LGBTQ friends. Um, even like Nazareen type issues of like alcohol, uh, my church, like my local congregation would fall within they, they would be closer, uh, to, to reflecting the worldview of Seattle and west Seattle. And they would, uh, maybe your typical like Nazareen church.

And so, so like in the makeup of my congregation, it was about three years ago. We did a survey on the issues of like, should the church be affirming or not? Um, and 45% of my congregation. Absolutely. That’s a no brainer. Why would you even ask that question? 45% are like, no, we’ve gotta, we’ve gotta be conservative on that issue.

And then you got 10% that just can’t make up their mind. Um, I, I see. But 70% of the adults in my church are very comfortable going out with their neighbors and having a glass of wine with dinner or going to a bar for a beer. And that’s the way they connect socially in their neighborhoods. And so, um, it’s, it’s, it’s beautiful in that the congregation, I get to walk alongside.

Is very similar to the neighbors that I live next to that don’t attend the church. We also asked him how a pastor’s kid would end up back in the church that he grew up in pastoring, the same community that he was a part of as a child. And his answer is this beautiful story of not only a call to ministry, but a call to rejection.

Yeah. So that. To tell it, to tell it well, and to paint the whole picture, you really got to go back to the fall of 94. Honestly, when we moved, uh, we moved, I was in, uh, it was the middle of my sixth grade year. I was in, uh, elementary school in Vancouver, Washington. That was predominantly a white. Uh, community, um, and, and school, and in the middle of the year, we moved to Seattle and, uh, L uh, middle school and, uh, to, to, to a very diverse school.

And, uh, you know, we can look back and critique that. But for me at that time, that was a culture shock. And, um, It had taken me kind of out of the space. I’d grown up very, you know, we were very much the church family, uh, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, choir practice Thursday. And it just like my whole world had been up ended and I didn’t respond wellness first for years had issues of school getting picked on.

And so, I mean, you fast forward by the time I graduated high school, uh, going to college was the last thing on my mind. I, uh, middle school and high school were tough enough for me. That I, I just, it wasn’t even on my radar. I don’t think I, I don’t think I put in an application even. And so I, I had been working at Safeway during high school and I just decided to kind of go down that road.

And it was, it was in those early young adult years, 18 to 22. Really? It was the first place, uh, outside of my little church world where I had found. Any form of, um, affirmation, who I was and skillsets and friendships of people who we just, you know, we chit chat and we talk about, uh, the world and sports and I mean, you name it.

And over those four years, I began to find myself. And, and even potentially having options to go kind of in management training down that road. Um, but it was at that same time, I was also volunteering, uh, as a youth group, uh, at the youth group at my dad’s church. And, uh, and my dad was kind of ahead of his day and he was, he was having some of the conversations about.

How big the kingdom message really is and how gracious and loving God is. And, um, and conversations that can at times make people nervous. And, and I appreciate him for that, but also I was like, but we gotta grow this thing. Right. We’ve got to do the church growth thing and he was. He was not doing that.

And so, so even in our home deeply love, my dad deeply formed me, but there was a bit of tension of if only my dad could have my philosophy of how we should grow the church. Oh, we could grow this puppy. Um, And it was just, it was fun. It was a father son thing. And, and, and he kept showing me lots of grace and let me do my thing and rainy me in where needed.

Um, ultimately I as much fun as I had at Safeway and it was good. I found my wife there. Uh, I was doing, I was stocking the milk shelves and she was the Starbucks barista. And so I ordered way too much, uh, way too many lattes. And, uh, so I, I deeply love Safeway, but in terms of. Uh, vocation, it was not fulfilling.

And so ultimately found myself at NNU and, and over those four years, that, that brought back a lot of, kind of, I mean, I had to work through some of the identity things that I had felt in high school, high school. And so just working through some of my own issues of confidence and, and identity formation and skillsets, but what as I was working through.

One of the things in, in you did was helped to open a worldview that really said, I think my dad wasn’t crazy. In fact, I think he had been onto something because he was my dad. I wasn’t able to fully see it. Uh, and, and, and so as I, I graduated from, um, as I got done with college and I, as I moved into being a youth pastor, it had planted the seeds in me to begin to think about.

What it truly means to be the church, what it means to be a pastor living faithfully among the community and, and walking alongside them and leading them. Um, and, and, and beginning to just form some of those big questions that I’ve continued to ask since moving back to Seattle, Sean says if only my father had my philosophy of ministry, this is something that each of us has said in our own way.

Josiah (Narration): At some point in our ministry, we all thought we knew what was best and it led us to creating goals that were wrapped up in ego and pride that focused on the size of our congregation, the reach of our influence and the amount of power we could wield. Fortunately for Shawn’s congregation, he chose relationship and presence instead.

As we heard, he knows the hearts and minds of his people and he is fully and completely present within his neighborhood. Instead of chasing numbers on a spreadsheet, Shawn has chosen a Guerrilla style ministry that is founded on subversive presence. This is exactly what we will be talking about on our next episode.

So join us as we have yet another round table discussion about what it means to choose subversive presence over an institutionalized approach to ministry. I have been your host, Josiah. This has been the Guerrilla Pastor’s Podcast, and I would like to thank you so much for listening. Join us next time on the Guerrilla Pastors Podcast!


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