How Bart Millard Transformed Rejection Into Opportunity


In a previous post, I briefly shared about MercyMe’s first showcase in Nashville. A full house, a powerful worship set, a handful of record executives—this was supposed to be the band’s big break. But in the end, the night turned out to be nothing but a bust.

The I Can Only Imagine movie captures this moment in cringe-inducing detail. After the showcase, we see a young Bart Millard anxiously pacing backstage. The band’s manager, Scott Brickell, is doing his best to sweet talk the executives out front.

Unable to contain himself, Bart bursts through the curtains and demands to know what they thought of his band. The response wasn’t pretty:

“Your stuff doesn’t cut it.”
“You’re not good enough.”
“Go home.”

When We’re Not Good Enough

This scene landed heavy on my heart. I felt Bart’s pain. More than that, I felt my own. How many times in my life have I put myself out there only to be criticized and rejected?

How many times have you?

Whether we’re on the receiving end of a breakup, our kids have ditched us at the mall, or our boss gave that promotion to the “other guy,” the pain of rejection cuts us to our very core.

We almost never take that news in context—the chemistry was wrong, the kids still love us, the other guy was a better fit. Instead, we perceive it as a complete dismissal of all that we are as human beings and everything we bring to the table.

Rejection tends to confirm our most profound and ugliest suspicions about our inferiority.

Like Bart, we can’t help but hear, “You’re not good enough.”

Paul’s Thoughts About “Inferior” Christians in Corinth

When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, he sought to heal and unify a church that was slowly being torn apart. The church was splitting over disagreements about leadership, sexual ethics, idol worship, and just about anything else you can imagine.

In chapters 12-14, Paul focuses on the tension over gifts in Corinth. The “stronger” members of Christ’s body have judged themselves superior to the “weaker” organs. Paul’s not having any of that: “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (12:12-26).

But, what constitutes “weak” and “strong” here?

As far as I can tell, the “strong” believers in this context were those who possessed the “flashier” gifts and used them to show off rather than to build up the church (cf. 14:4-5).

The “weak” members of the body, at least in this context, were those who stayed behind the scenes. They built up the body just as much as the strong, but were made to feel inferior because they weren’t “out front.”

Can you feel this dynamic in your church today?

Worship leaders stand up and exercise their gifts in the spotlight, while the best you have to offer your church is a chicken casserole in a foil pan.

Pastors and Bible teachers wax eloquently about the Scriptures, while the best word you can bring is the one you scribbled on a sympathy card.

In a world that idolizes the celebrity, the one who works in secret will almost always feel inferior to the one who works in public (cf. Matt 6:3-4).

Casseroles are less critical than sermons, or so our culture would tell us.

A More Excellent Way

But that’s not how things work in God’s economy. The Father sees what others can’t, just as the body’s function depends on the cooperation of all its members—seen and unseen.

There is a more excellent way, Paul says, to coexist in the midst of our diverse gifting.

That way is love.


The stronger, flashier gifts of public proclamation are just noise if not motivated by love (13:1). Without love, prophecy loses its power (v. 2). Apart from love, sacrifice is meaningless (v. 3).

Love inspires patience with those whose gifts seem meager and manifests kindness towards those with “less” to offer. It warns off envy over the contributions of others, even as it reminds us not to boast in our own. It refuses to be arrogant about what God has given (13:4-5).

Love doesn’t insist upon its gifting—somehow making everyone else subordinate to its whims. It doesn’t get irritated or resentful at the elevation of others, nor does it glory in their humiliation. Its joy is in truth, not in falsehood (13:5-7).

Yes, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (13:7).”

Love Never Ends

The gifts we bring—to the church and the world—are only temporary. The higher reality to which they point, however, will abide forever.

When that reality appears in all its glory, all our imperfect offerings will fade (13:10). With them, we’ll leave behind the childish ways in which we compare ourselves to others as we step into the maturity of glory (v. 11).

For those facing rejection, this is a profound word of encouragement. All that we are and all that we bring is but a faint reflection of the One who made us. Still, all our gifts—weak and strong—fit within God’s perfect plan for Christ’s body.

Right now, we see only the rough outline of that reality as in a foggy mirror (13:12). We seek approval and acceptance from others, forgetting that we already have it in the One who said “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Through faith in Him, we will never find rejection—only love, acceptance, and joy.

We may not see or understand that now, but when the perfect time comes, we will.

–Kenny Silva


Get the Imagine Sermon Series inspired by Bart Millard’s Story and the movie. Click here to learn more about this FREE four week video series taught by Kyle Idleman, is centered on the gospel and ministry of Jesus. It includes four video sermons titled Imagine a Loving Father, Imagine Forgiveness, Imagine Redemption, Imagine Going Home. Bart Millard’s Story has impacted 100’s of thousands of people and we hope this free church leader resource encourages and impacts your church and community.

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