"Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm." 1 Chronicles 16:22
"In China, Christians are persecuted with beatings and imprisonment. In the West, Christians are persecuted by the words of other Christians." "The Heavenly Man" Brother Yun, with Paul Hattaway, Monarch Books 2002 pp.308-9
Those of us within the body of Christ have a responsibility to pray for our ministers and allow and equip and support them to do their job. In thirty years of church attendance, I have never met a minister who was not dedicated to his or her calling and who had God's will for their congregation at heart. There may be charlatans out there, but I think they're the exception. Today ministers must be theologically trained at university level, so spend long hours of study in preparation and training.
Why then should ministers be targets of people who want to criticize them and bring them down? I personally know two former ministers who are no longer in church ministry due to the treatment levelled against them by certain factions within their congregations. One is still attending church and works in a secular job ,applying his gifts in other areas. The other has not only walked away from ministry but is also struggling faith-wise.
Give credit where it is due. Satan saves his big artillery for those in the front line of Christian ministry. They are his main opposition. All Christians are involved in a spiritual war, so it's no surprise that those in Christian leadership are under attack. The evil forces in mainstream society may be quite obvious, but the ones ever trying to destroy Christian relationships and communities may be less so, and we all need to pray for discernment.. If the enemy can slip into the Christian community and infiltrate its ranks, he divides and conquers. "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." (Matthew 12:25).
Sadly, Satan uses the failures of Christians to attack their church communities, appealing to their baser nature- jealousy, pride, lust, self-centredness, self-pity. Criticism, bribery, seduction, manipulation and slander- just some of the devices that are levelled against those in ministry. Often the perpetrators have practised on members of the laity, ministry leaders or the previous pastor.
For further information regarding the realm of attacks upon those in ministry and church conflict as a whole, I recommend Jim Meyer's blog "Restoring Kingdom Builders" - link http://blog.restoringkingdombuilders.org/ (link is also in the right column of this page in Links section.)
Pastor Jim has provided me with much food for thought and encouragement in the two years that I've been interested in this area.
What can be done within church communities to protect those in ministry, whilst addressing concerns? If I had to make one suggestion that all members of the laity could follow, it would be - don't gossip. Not at all. Most, if not all, within churches, me included, have found themselves talking unwisely about other brothers and sisters in Christ. I've also been on the receiving end of some pretty vicious gossip. I still have to guard my tongue, but I pray that I will be more discerning than ever when I listen and speak in conversations. Because gossip doesn't start with a great big critique of someone, it starts as a little niggly observation about something unimportant. It permeates church culture. An like the heat of the sun through a child's magnifying glass, it creates smoke, then a tiny flame, then an unstoppable fire that burns a forest down. According to Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church in New York:
“I know what most easily destroys churches. It is not crack cocaine,
government oppression, or even lack of funds. Rather it is gossip and
slander that grieves the Holy Spirit.”
Don't talk about a third person with somebody else, unless you have something complementary to say. Praise your pastors and your church. If you have a concern regarding a brother or sister in Christ, pray first, then try to speak with them about it if you are able. If you have a genuine concern about a matter that impacts on the integrity of the church, pray first, then speak to a pastor about it, to them and nobody else. Abide by the decisions that they make in relation to your concerns and don't go around slandering them if their decisions are not what you would do. They are accountable to God in the long run for decisions that they make regarding the fellowship.
If somebody wants to draw you into their own little clique of alliances by sharing titbits of juicy information, (significantly unfounded and untrue), don't have a bar of it. If you have been guilty of gossiping, make a covenant with God that He will prompt you to speak wisely, to hold your tongue and to politely but firmly steer conversations away from subjects you shouldn't be discussing.
Just one way we can support those in ministry and promote church unity.