Friendly Fire: We See It In Churches All The Time

“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)

Friendly Fire – It’s a term we often hear during wartime. Simply stated, it refers to the discharge of a military weapon that results in the death of an ally or fellow soldier.

A documentary premiered last week about that very topic. It was the story of Pat Tilman. Tilman was the young man who gave up his lucrative professional football career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist to serve his country in the war again terrorism. In 2005, it was reported that he had been killed by enemy fire. A few weeks after his death, however, we learned instead that he had been accidentally shot by fellow soldiers who thought his patrol of Army Rangers was the enemy.

My father-in-law, Everett, and I were discussing Pat Tilman’s fate one weekend. “I told a preacher I know that he ought to preach a sermon on friendly fire in the church,” he told me. “You see it in churches, too.”

“What do you mean,” I asked.

“I’ve seen too many good churches destroyed from within,” he explained. “And it’s being done by their own members.”

The more I thought about it what he said, the more I agreed. Friendly fire is alive and well in the church. Let me give you two examples of where we see it the most.

The most common example is where the church membership has run off a godly pastor who is following the Lord’s leadership. If you’ve attended church for any length of time, you’ve either personally witnessed it or heard accounts from friends where it has happened in their church. I never cease to be amazed at how critical, and sometimes vicious, church members can be when it comes to their pastor. Here is the appointed, and more importantly the anointed, leader of the church, who comes under attack because he doesn’t measure up to the expectations of the members. Hello – did anyone ever considered asking God what He thinks?

God will deal with those who partake in such foolishness. The psalmist wrote, “Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm.” (Psalm 105:15) Think about that verse the next time you hear someone “talk about the preacher.” Your pastor is called, not by the church, but by God. He deserves our respect and our support. The truth is, I don’t know of a more demanding and important role in our community. If the pastor is leading the church as the Holy Spirit directs him, we need be careful about giving our opinion.

Do you remember the comic strip Pogo? Pogo once worried out loud about the weakening environment of his home in the Okefenokee Swamp. He then found out it was the very ones living in the swamps who were destroying them. “We have seen the enemy, and they is us,” Pogo declared. Amen!

The other example is when we destroy each other in our churches. We talk about other members and sometimes seem to revel in their troubles. That’s what the Apostle James meant when he said, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” (James 3:6) Need I say more?

Think about your conduct in your church. Love your pastor and care for your members. Demonstrate the Christian witness that will serve as instruction for church members who might just be watching you to learn how to live out their faith.

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