Disappointing Your Followers

By Rev. Tim Yee

October 28, 2017

… and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Mark 1:37-38


Street art depicting a person falling apart in disappointment.In this scene from Mark’s gospel, the crowds in Capernaum are seeing for the first time the amazing power that flows through the person of Jesus, who, until recently, was simply known as the son of Joseph the carpenter. Jesus amazes leaders with his teachings, stuns crowds by casting out demons, and heals with power. What an amazing beginning to the launch of Jesus’s ministry! In modern times, a ministry would be trying to capitalize on such momentum with a social media campaign and by hiring more staff to facilitate further growth. It’s clear that people are impressed and are clamoring for Jesus to do more. They are probably surprised—and likely disappointed—that Jesus leaves when there are still so many to help.

Why does he leave when there is so much momentum in Capernaum? At the very start of Jesus’s ministry, he is disappointing followers by not doing what they want and not meeting legitimate needs. Did Jesus also disappoint followers when he chose twelve to be in his inner circle, likely excluding many other hopeful candidates to wonder what they did wrong to not be chosen?

Jesus disappoints followers by not choosing some, not healing some, and not being with some. Yet the gospels never record Jesus regretting disappointing people. In fact, at the end of his life he prayed to the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Apparently the greatest leader to ever walk planet Earth understood that fulfilling his calling perfectly would leave many people disappointed.

Though we should avoid using this paradigm as a convenient excuse not to improve our own leadership, as criticism is sometimes warranted, we cannot avoid the leadership lesson that disappointing followers is something Jesus had to do in order to please his Father. If I want to fulfill the work that God has in store for me, I can expect to disappoint a lot of people on the way and can hope that, at the end of my life, God will still say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”


What are some needs people are asking you to meet? What are some desires of people you are being asked to fulfill? Which of these are reasonable requests that you can fulfill? Which are requests that you cannot fulfill?

Think of a recent time when you disappointed someone as their leader. How do you feel and think about your leadership when you disappoint people? How do others feel and think about your leadership when you disappoint them?


Lord, I know that there is so much more work to be done, more needs to meet, and more people to help. Help me to know my limits and to understand that Jesus didn’t do everything either. I want to know what you have for me to accomplish and then simply do that. When my leadership disappoints people, remind me that I am called to help people grow, not to make them happy. May my joy be in knowing that I obeyed you before trying to please people. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentaryThe First Days of the Movement (Mark 1:21-45)

Rev. Tim Yee

Contributor Emeritus & Pastor

Rev. Tim Yee is Pastor of Union Church of Los Angeles, a 100-year-old church in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo District where he serves a diverse church of professionals, internment camp survivors, artists and homeless. He serves on the Board of Union Rescue Mission where he leads the P...

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