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WHAT I LEARNED FROM MORDECAI HAM

Ever since I heard TV's Jim Rockford call a mobster's henchman a "pet squirrel," I've had a hard time shaking the expression. Headed to seminary, I wondered whether I might one day become some congregation's pet squirrel. Now, four years into my first pastorate, the threat still seems genuine.

Throughout seminary, in books, and from conferences to conversations, I've been cautioned to go easy-that boldness and bluntness are imprudent, or immoral. There's always pressure to lighten up.

If darling Missy wants to marry a thrice-divorced avowed bisexual, then the pastor should comply, since to turn his back on their union would mean that he "isn't loving" and "couldn't minister to them later." The furor raised if he doesn't would underscore the maxims that "You have to be careful not to get too far out in front of your troops, or they'll mistake you for the enemy and start shooting" and "You can't lead them if you no longer work there." You know the words.

Which brings me to Mordecai Ham.

I'd ...

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