They call it friendly fire. On the battlefield it is usually an accident. A soldier mistakenly fires his weapon and wounds or kills a comrade. The soldier thought he was shooting at the enemy, but fired directly at one of his own people. It is a tragedy. Everyone feels awful, but the soldier that is hit is just as wounded, or just as dead as if he had been shot by the enemy. Sometimes friendly fire is not so friendly. It can be intentional to settle some kind of score with an officer or buddy. Maybe the officer has pushed hard, maybe he has led the unwilling into a difficult place. Maybe the shooter is just scared or perhaps his intent is evil.
In the church we have incidents of friendly fire. Young Christians, particularly young pastors, are often victims. We old grizzled veteran pastors have learned to watch out for it, but sometimes even we older ones fail to avoid becoming a target. Pastors often lead out thinking that their men (the congregation) will follow them, support them, and do everything they can to win the battle with sin and Satan only to find themselves shot in the back, wounded by their own side, with their souls bleeding and no one to help them. The very ones who should provide help and support are often the ones who have done the shooting. Is it any wonder that so many of our churches are ineffective in reaching their communities? Is it any wonder that we have a leadership crisis? Who wants to face an enemy as formidable as Satan when he can’t trust the people behind him to follow and refrain from shooting him or her?
When a pastor has felt a few bullets whiz by, or has bled because someone who was supposed to be on his side in our battle with Satan shot him or talked someone else into shooting him. He gets into the habit of looking over his shoulder and sometimes expects friendly fire even when it isn’t coming. It is hard to do your best as leader when you always have to keep an eye out for shots from behind.
Pastors accept the call from God and work hard to prepare to lead God’s people. They are full of the Lord and they want to help the church change the world. I am confident that they are prepared for the battle with Satan, but I also know they are not prepared to be shot at by those that the Lord has called them to lead. Seldom are they shot because they are not doing God’s will. Usually it is because some folks in the church are unwilling to follow them in doing God’s will.
Many people in our established churches are comfortable. They don’t want things to change in their beloved church. I sympathize with that. My hair is gray, too. I remember a lot of the same things with fondness: large evangelistic Sunday night services, rousing old hymn singing that raised the roof, camp meetings where people came to actually have their lives changed (and not just to be reunited with old friends), and revivals where the Spirit of the Lord moved among us. I loved those things, too, but these days God is using different things to reach new generations. Way too often our young ministers are getting shot in the back by the very people that ought to be not only cheering them on, but also following them to reach a lost and dying world. These young men and women have a heart for God and an impulse from Him to win their generation. They are often begged by churches to “come and lead us”. Many times they hear a church say, “We used to be quite large and we can be again if you just come and lead us. Young couple with families will come and we will grow again.” That is what churches say, but is that what they really mean? As soon as the young pastor begins to make the changes in the schedule, in the music, in the program, or in the décor that he believes will help the church reach new people, the shots start coming. Not shots from the world, but shots from the church! “That’s not the music we like.” “That’s not the way dear old Pastor So-and-So did it.” “That’s not what we built that room for.” “Why do we need all this video equipment?” “Those new people you’ve got coming here don’t know how to dress for church.” Young leaders are just trying to get the Gospel to people in a way they understand, but too many old veteran church people see only that it is not the way it used to be done. It is the same message of salvation, holy living, and unity among God’s people, but it is packaged a different way. Like with any new package, some people like it and some don’t. The thing a lot of older church people don’t realize is that the new packaging is to attract new customers. Now is the time to present that same Gospel to younger folks who don’t have our background. This generation of young people have to reach is not like ours. Most of them weren’t taken or even sent to Sunday school by their parents. Lots of them don’t know the Bible stories that were so much a part of our growing up. To them the church is that mysterious big building that people they don’t know go to. If the church is to make a difference in the lives of these people, we need to support our new leaders as they reach out to an unchurched generation.
Some of us are probably afraid that we are not needed by these young ones. That is not true. They desperately need our prayers, our encouragement, and our understanding. They need us to get their sense of urgency for reaching people for God. They need us to love them and understand that they are attempting to build the Kingdom of God and quit accusing them of trying to tear up the church. Young leaders will make mistakes. That’s when they need us to give them the courage to try again. Put away your critical attitude and become a cheerleader for your young ministers. Ask God to give you a new burden to reach the lost. When others of your generation start to run them down, stand up for these dedicated young people. Love them. Be surrogate parents for them. Love their kids like they were your own grandkids. Many of them are far from their families, and they need the family of God to be family to them. Finally, when you aim your gun, be sure to aim at the enemy. When you do damage make sure the damage you do is to the Satan’s cause and not to our own people.