Random Article

Graciously Giving and Receiving a “No”



Author: Kendra Kirby
Leadership Category: ,

Posted February 13, 2017 by


vividly remember God’s profound words to my heart, “You may eat from any tree in the garden, I’m only asking you not eat from that one,”.  The sentence meant for Adam and Eve, was now uttered for me after receiving a significant “no” in my life.

It didn’t matter how much I kicked or screamed or tried to justify my case in His presence, the answer was still “no”.  Being on this side of history, I knew the ramifications of “eating the forbidden fruit” – I knew that I would be kicked out of the Garden he placed me in, and I knew God’s best would not be available to me should I chose otherwise.  I knew my path would be thorny, cursed and fellowship with Him would suffer.  So until my mind and heart could fully accept my fate, I would eat and eat from every tree I could get my hands on – well, except that one.

I splurged; I gorged; I binged.  Any other “fruit” my heart desired, I consumed.  It was true, there were no other limits.  As time passed, it was interesting – I actually began recognizing how much stress, time and effort the “no” freed me from and how many people could do my forbidden task much better than I.  At the same time, God showed me how unique my skills were and that few could execute the kinds of tasks I had experience doing.  God’s “no” was for a greater “yes”.   

Over time the pain has lessened, and I don’t think of it as a loss anymore.  In fact, I take pride in knowing I fulfill part of the Body of Christ which is unique, purposeful, and when missing, could slightly impair the full function of The Body.  The Body’s growth would be stunted in some ways and it would hobble along until God tapped another person to fulfill the job I obstinately shunned.  And that would be my version of leaving the Garden of Eden.

A “no” is someone else’s “yes”.

One of the most profound, rewarding and yet atypical friendships I have in life is with Tami.  The maturity, graciousness and level of faith in Tami’s life is quite understated until you get to know her story.  And part of that story includes her interview for the same job I received 5 years ago.  Most people would feel slighted, overlooked, and under-appreciated after serving so faithfully at their home church for many years and not rewarded with a staff position.  Many would “take their ball and go home”.  But rather than pulling up roots to use her God-given gifts elsewhere (which she had every right to do), Tami faced her “no” with humility and respect.   Watching God build this relationship has been beautiful as we’ve both reached toward one another, and now she is my right-hand leader.  I look to her for wisdom, prophetic guidance and spiritual discernment.  She possesses many things I lack, and we’ve learned that we need each other.  But the ability to step aside after a “no” and let another lead takes immense maturity.  And let’s face it, not many other people would/could do it. 

The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes. ~ Tony Blair

So now I am in a position of saying “no”.  I sit with a panel of other leaders while auditioning vocalists for our worship team.  If it sounds ominous just reading the sentence, that’s how it feels writing it.  The audition is a very open-handed process as we prayerfully seek to discern God’s direction just as much as the singer is seeking.  God has always led our team to a unanimous decision, which on some levels gives me more confidence the Spirit has spoken, but yet I’m the one left giving the “yes”, “no” or “not yet”. 

I’ve never been good at giving a “no” – unless it comes sugar coated with the full aftertaste sinking in minutes after the conversation ends and I’m not around.  There is hope with a “yes” or “not yet”; but with a “no”?  These days, I’m learning that rejection is redirection.  The least I can do to honor someone who is vulnerably putting themselves out there is to call out their strengths and look for every opportunity to use them in capacities they would succeed.  At the heart of a “no” is love and respect.  A love which wants people to succeed in ministry.  A love which respects a person too highly to save myself from the discomfort of a hard conversation.  A love in which honesty is the kindest thing you can do for them.  But above all, I pray that bitterness will not take root.  I pray they find the tree of ministry they can gorge on and find deep satisfaction.  I pray they trust Jesus as sovereign and if I’ve missed the mark, God will find a way to make sure no man will thwart His plans.  I pray they take the “no” as a sign that this is not God’s best for them.  I pray they grow deeper roots with Christ, learning to gain happiness when God doesn’t do things our way.  I pray for greater depths of surrender, faith and trust.   

Before one of these difficult conversations, Jesus was so sweet to remind me that even He received a “no” to a request made of His Father: 

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” ~Matthew 26:39 (NIV)

It sure helps to know Jesus is not above a “no”.  Any “no” I would ever receive pales in comparison to His.  Yet glory!  Jesus’ “no” was our “yes”.  Imagine if the cup passed from Him – we would be without redemptive hope, captive to our own sin, forever struggling with our menial forms of righteousness. 

In life, I’ve learned there are worse things than a “no”. 

But my people didn’t listen, Israel paid no attention; So I let go of the reins and told them, “Run!
Do it your own way!” ~ Psalm 81:12 (MSG)

That’s why when my husband and I discovered we couldn’t have children, we didn’t go through extensive procedures to get pregnant.  We’ve talked about adopting, but have acknowledged the timing has never been right.  In short, we feel like not heeding a “no” and pushing through with our own desires and agenda would be God saying, “Fine, have it your way!”

Life is full of “no’s”.  Somehow as a child or teen I received plenty of “no’s” and never doubted my parents had my best interest in mind.  But why is it as an adult I feel I’ve outgrown a “no”?  The truth is we need “no’s” as much as we need “yeses”, both keep us on track and walking in His perfect will.

Lord Jesus, I plead, don’t let go of the reins of my life due to any episodes of childish stubbornness.  Let me catch myself when I throw a temper tantrum at your feet knowing how short sighted my view is compared to your eternal glimpse of Glory while holding all things together.  I joyfully surrender to your prosperous plans for my future and hope.  Amen.

Kendra currently serves on staff at Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana, which embraces the artistic community and exclusively relies on its pool of volunteer artists to reach a congregation of 7,000. Passions of Kendra’s include creatively arranging worship music and shepherding the hearts of her volunteers.



    I’m very new to leading the worship ministry at my home church in Greencastle, In. Your article was really what I needed to read today. Thank you for taking on an uncomfortable topic. I’d love to know more about how you audition people, and what you look for in your musicians.

    Thanks again!


    Saying no is one of the hardest things for me as the worship leader. I serve in a very small congregation, and often I’m “desperate” for a person to fill a certain role that, in my eyes, “needs” to be filled. When that person seems to come along, and then they turn out not to be a good fit for whatever reason, it’s so hard to turn them down because I feel like I’m losing what might be my only chance at having someone do that thing. It’s so hard for me to remember that God will provide the right person in His time and not in mine, and He’ll provide for this worship team to minister effectively, as is, while we wait for that person – or that maybe what I want isn’t what He has in mind for this team at all. Thanks for the additional perspective and encouragement to do the hard thing when it is the right thing.


    Thanks for sharing this, Kendra. The truth I hang onto is that if I allow someone to take a role that they’re not clearly called to, then I may very well be preventing the person who *is* called from getting to serve the body with their gifts in that role.

    That goes for myself as well. I never want to be the person standing in the way of another whom the Lord has called to do a particular thing, especially if I’m the one currently doing whatever it is. Let us always have the attitude of John the Baptist: “I must diminish and He must increase.” Part of considering others better than ourselves is having that servant attitude with them to empower and equip them and enable them to do the love and good works that Jesus has created in advance for them to do.

    Marsha Craft

    Thank you for your words of wisdom

Leave a Response