I was putting away my sermon notes one night after the evening service when I noticed a light under the door of an elder's office. I wasn't surprised. As a volunteer staff member, this elder often put in long hours at the church. I decided to pop my head in to say good-night.
When I opened the door, I was left speechless. There sat the entire elder board, meeting in an unscheduled, secret session.
"Uh, hi," I said, groping for words.
Equally unnerved by my chance discovery of the meeting, the elders' faces blanched, conveying both embarrassment and guilt. After a few moments of awkward small talk, I excused myself and hurried out of the church. I knew my days in that church, and maybe in ministry, were coming to an end.
Beware of Sheep Dismissed from the Fold
I had accepted the call to this church with zeal and optimism. Recovering from the devastation of a pastor's moral lapse, this church, by the time I arrived, had shrunk from 800 to 175 members.
I threw myself into the work. My wife and I soon fell in love with the people. Emotionally I was on a high. The church began to reverse its course. Within four years, attendance reached 400, and the past wounds appeared to be healing.
About this time, two families began visiting from another church. They were candid about the fact that the board of their previous church had asked them to leave. I didn't ask any questions. Looking back now, however, I wish I had.
At first the new families were supportive and enthusiastic. They seemed overjoyed to have found a church home-a congregation that would love and accept them. They quickly volunteered to serve. Within one year both men were elected to the elder board.
I had felt a vague discomfort with each family. They seemed to have trouble accepting ...