My friend stood before a group of seminary students and said, “Ninety-nine percent of the fire that you will face as ministers and church leaders will be friendly fire.”
I suspect that for most of us, my friend is right.
Friendly fire is the term we use to describe the threats that originate from one’s own group. Most ministers in America are probably not going to undergo persecution from the outside. Most are not going to be arrested for the cause of Christ. Probably, we will not be stoned or beaten to death.
We may undergo friendly fire.
1. A person you trusted is sabotaging an effort that you have put much time and energy into . . . friendly fire.
2. An elder talks with you as if you can’t be trusted . . . friendly fire.
3. A person attempts to embarrass you with a loaded question in a class . . . friendly fire.
4. A co-worker in whom you confide is sharing matters with the church that you shared with him in confidence . . . friendly fire.
5. A woman in your church has been slandering your spouse . . . friendly fire.
Friendly fire hurts.
What makes this even more difficult is that churches are often unwilling to hold these people accountable for their actions.
I know of a person who did great damage in a church. He manipulated the fears of others and took advantage of friendships. When the minister of the church suggested a particular initiative to the elders, this man played on the fears of others through phone calls and private meetings. In more public settings, he remained in the background, having manipulated others into speaking out against the effort.
Although he was never vocal or confrontational with those whom he opposed, his behavior nevertheless hurt. Friendly fire can do great damage.
A young preacher was just starting his ministry in a congregation. An older gentleman who had been in higher education for many years openly communicated his displeasure at the young man. This young preacher was just beginning his ministry. He had little confidence and just enough formal training to get by. He told me one day that an older man was taking detailed notes of each sermon that he preached. I assumed the man was trying to encourage this young minister.
I was wrong.
His notes highlighted every grammatical error and disagreement. This preacher said that after each sermon, the man would give him these notes with a disapproving frown. The young preacher felt condemned as the man critiqued and criticized his sermons. More than the notes, it was the man’s attitude that discouraged this young man. Instead of trying to help him in his effort to preach, the older man seemed bent on shaming him each week.
Does any of this sound familiar? How have you handled friendly fire?