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 ...

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