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HEALING THE WAR-TORN CHURCH

How a new pastor can help reuinte the house divided.

Only one week after I had candidated and been accepted as the new pastor of a different church, my future congregants began to call. Our conversations were not happy talk, not effusions of "Things are going to be great." Rather, they dealt with the near, dark past and the frightening future.

"Pastor, we heard so-and-so is leaving."

"Pastor, the church is going to fall apart."

After the first frantic call, I said to my wife, "We made a big mistake." In the days to come, two dozen more people called, intensifying my regret and foreboding.

In my ministry, I have begun more than one pastorate on a scarred battlefield. As new pastor in a civil-war torn church, you face a frightening task. Though you gallop on the scene like a hero, with back-slapping and cheers and words of encouragement, when you sit behind the desk the first week, the reality sets in-this church really has been at bayonet points. Casualties litter the field. Snipers are still firing. Many combatants remain mortal enemies. Morale ...

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