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Freed from Needing the Numbers

In grade school I played baseball for several years. Only once did I pitch. After several other pitchers had taken their lumps, the manager summoned me to the mound. It was awful. I threw one ball after another, walking the batters, loading the bases. Then I walked in run after run.

I don't remember if I started crying, but I know I felt like it. I died a dozen deaths that day, my ego mortally wounded each time my pitch skidded in futility to the backstop, each time the umpire yelled out my failure, "Ball four," for all to hear. Finally, after far too long, my coach walked to the mound and mercifully took away the baseball.

Pastoring a church that is stagnant or declining feels like that. Everyone (including God) is looking to you to save the situation—or a few souls—and you're not doing it. You feel like a fool and a failure; worse, you're doing it in front of an audience.

Sometimes I dream I'm naked in a church meeting. The shame in these dreams is overwhelming. Proverbs ...

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