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High-Stakes Gamble


Before making a change, confronting a member, or launching a new program, the pastor needs to figure out if there are enough chips to lose and live.
—Leith Anderson

Pastoring a church is like playing a game of poker (although I must admit I've never known a real poker-playing parson).

Like poker, pastoring is an exercise that combines skill and providence to sort out winners and losers, often with frighteningly high stakes.

Your initial stake


Just a desire to play and win never got anyone a seat at a poker table. A poker player needs chips to enter the game—a stake. When a new pastor is called to a church, a pile of chips is normally stacked up for use as the pastor chooses. They represent the good favor and support of the church people. They may be saved for a rainy day or risked in the first hand of play.

Many complex factors contribute to the number of invisible chips provided the new pastor. If the vote to call was 99 percent affirmative, it's usually good for ninety-nine chips. However, ...

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July/August
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