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How do you minister to a congregation whose trust has been broken?

I was jogging down the street, thinking about my new church (I had arrived only a few weeks earlier), when a man I had never seen motioned with his hand for me to stop. I slowed down, stopped, and tried to catch my breath.

"Are you the new pastor of Suburban Baptist?" he asked.

"Yes," I said, smiling.

"I'll never go there again!" he hissed. Then he began an angry tirade about the church's hypocrisy, its control by a few members, its lack of love. It took him thirty minutes to finish.

I could tell he had been deeply hurt, but I wasn't sure what to say. I only knew this was going to be the most difficult pastorate of my ministry.

Following a Fallen Pastor

The previous pastor at Suburban, whom I'll call Fred Sharpe, had resigned under pressure from charges of sexual indiscretions and aberrant theology. When I had candidated, the pastoral search committee described the problems in general terms, with a note of sadness. "Fred was a man of unusual abilities," they explained.

Before Fred had become ...

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