When you read the results of a race—be it cars, people, or animals—it's not unusual to see DNF attached to some entrants' names. The letters—standing for did not finish—indicate those who had to quit. Sometimes the reason is also indicated: a blown engine, for example, a pulled muscle, or lameness.

What if the equivalent to a DNF were put by the name of every seminary graduate who is now doing something other than the ministry they once felt called to? Every study of dropouts I hear about suggests that it would be an enormous list.

If reasons were affixed, you might read stress/burnout, or conflict, inadequate people skills, insufficient leadership capability, poor work habits, family unhappiness, or mean-spirited congregants. There would be many others, of course.

And among those, be one that would probably catch the eye fastest: moral failure. The term arouses a lot of natural curiosity and not a little apprehension. The mind wonders: What happened? Why? How was it discovered? What has happened to the people involved? Could this happen to me?

The term moral failure covers a broad spectrum of tragic conduct. Someone has acknowledged an attraction to pornography; another is discovered to have engaged in an improper relationship (with either gender); still a third is found to have a history of some kind of molestation. Is this list large enough?

Given Jesus' sweeping definition of adultery (the intents of the heart), I suppose we are all moral failures in one way or another. Murderers, too. Some in Christian leadership go beyond the intents of the heart and act out the intentions. Almost every time, an unspeakable heartbreak ripples out into lots of lives. And, beyond that, there is always disillusionment, ...

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