by Mark Dance
When soldiers accidentally shoot their allies in battle, it’s called “friendly fire.” That term falls short in describing what happens when a church leader takes a verbal shot at his or her own spiritual brother or sister.
Pastors and other church leaders are soldiers in a literal, albeit invisible, war. When you consider the collateral damage that results from some of our spiritual feuds, it gives us reason to pause and think before we shoot off our mouths at our allies.
I want to suggest a few ways church leaders can support, instead of shoot down, their colleagues.
1. Pray for and with each other.
Just a few hours before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, He took time to pray for His disciples to live and serve in unity.
“May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me … May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me” (John 17:21, 23).
Although those first century Christians would face horrendous persecution, Jesus knew future generations would face an even subtler enemy—disunity within the family of God.
We can assume Jesus is still praying for His bride to be unified (John 17:20). Maybe we should join Him in both saying this prayer as well as being the answer to it. Would you take time today to pray specifically for other pastors and churches in your town? Sincerely pray for their success and blessing, and you will certainly be blessed in the process. I know our Father will as well.
2. Celebrate the success of another ministry.
What if our Father wants more from His children than merely getting along?
Christian love and unity are central to our mission, just as disunity is a distraction to it. What kind of message would it send to other pastors and churches in your community if you started promoting their ministries on social media without them asking? What upcoming event is a sister church promoting to reach your community? Give them a shout-out and help expand the kingdom as you build unity within it.
When we celebrate the successes of sister churches, I believe we’re in a small way living out the answer to Jesus’ prayer for His children to become “completely one.”
3. Rebuke reluctantly and privately.
I’m not suggesting pastors should avoid a noble fight. However, the world and the church deserve better from us than a “sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” If you believe you must rebuke another pastor or leader, do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:16), as well as with love and in private (Ephesians 4:15, Matthew 18:15).
Although there has always been in-fighting within the family of God, there has never been as wide an array of weapons to shoot each other with. Social media snipers need to be exposed as the cowards they are, yet not by returning fire at them with the same worldly weapons.
Instead of fighting fire with fire, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you … Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them” (Luke 6:28, 31).
Godly leaders would rather devote their energies toward fighting against the kingdom of darkness instead of within the kingdom of God. Whether it is with a pen or the tongue, there is no excuse for “friendly fire” in the family of God. “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
4. Help a wounded colleague.
If you know a Christian leader who is under attack, why not initiate contact and help carry their burden? Someday you may need them to return the favor. After all, we’re called to “carry one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).
Pastors need friends, not friendly fire. There are too many hurting pastors out there for only a few advocates to help. Let’s all try to help another pastor or leader who needs our encouragement and friendship.