by: Rev. Ed Schneider
There is a certain fatalism that runs through most churches regarding GOSSIP. It is basically an admitting that it not only exists but it is inevitable. therefore, just try to mitigate its effects as best you can….and move on. The problem with this attitude is that it assumes God is not able to move in the heart and minds of those who are earnestly trying to walk their journey of faith in the light of Christ. It assumes that those who are going to gossip are incapable of change. Neither one of those assumptions reflects Christianity stated belief in a transformational God. That is exactly where the challenge lies.
I am NOT saying that dealing with this universal challenge is ever easy to deal with. It isn’t. However, the very act of gossiping and its underlying motivations are toxic to any Christian church! It can….and when left alone….tears at the very fabric of Christian unity. Unfortunately, an environment infected by toxic gossip is fairly easy to slip into and remarkably difficult to eradicate once it has been established.
All Christians everywhere, whether they be in the pew…the pulpit…the lobby…a fellowship gathering….in classrooms…even the parking lot or a local grocery store check-out line have GOT TO take an open and obvious stand against this insidious cancer that can and does break apart local congregations.
The definition of gossip is:
28 A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends. Proverbs 16:28 (NKJV)
19 He who goes about gossiping reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who speaks foolishly. Proverbs 20:19 (RSV)
20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 2 Corinthians 12:20 (NIV)
Among many of the great identities associated with the church that Christ gave His life for are;
* transformation, and
* to be empowered to both acknowledge and then MOVE FORWARD from one’s past.
The Christian church, no matter what flavor or expression may be, must positively change people’s lives! We can not accomplish this requirement if “believers” continue to be motivated by finding personal value and salacious pleasure in rumor mongering. It has got to stop!
When God calls to you to come to Him through the life and mission of Jesus….God is pulling you forward. When Christ is the foundation and food of your life…He pulls you forward. When the Holy Spirit engages with any person on any level…the experience pulls the believer forward.
There is absolutely NOTHING about the motivations and actions concerning gossiping that pulls anyone forward from where they were into what God is calling them to become…NOTHING! It is one of the easiest habits to indulge in and it is certainly one of the most difficult habits to break once it has infested someone’s thinking.
Our response to gossip can no longer be one of a whisper in the corner about, “Sister Somebody is such a gossip!” People stand around in their little groups and complain about “that group over there” or “that little ol’ man is always tallkin’ about folks.” The uncomfortable truth is that those who are gathered together and find themselves complaining about “those people” who are practicing gossip…without doing anything about it….are just as guilty as the malicious gossip participants they are referring to.
I’m telling you…by all that is holy….this GOSSIP is completely counter-productive to the gospel and it is the kind of human NONSENSE that is literally killing thousands of churches everyday and its got to stop!
Here are just a few suggestions on how to approach the issue of gossip.
- When someone tells you something you really don’t need to know, don’t allow your “very human” curiosity to be your guide. Stop the person who is about to spread some “juicy detail” and tell them you don’t want to know! Here is an important reality concerning not only the act of gossiping but also the person employing it; if they will spread gossip about others they will spread it about you!
- Don’t repeat anything you personally don’t have firsthand…absolutely true….knowledge. Secondhand knowledge is never good enough to repeat information…NEVER! You will get something wrong and it can quite easily end up hurting others and doing nothing but promoting negative feelings and outcomes.
- DO NOT CONFESS OTHER PEOPLE’s SIN! Unless you are willing to stand in front of the entire congregation and repent of every “juicy” detail of your life’s darker moments, please SHUT UP! You are not only hurting others you are making a complete fool out of yourself!
- If you just can’t help yourself when it comes to gossiping….only spread rumors and innuendo that are completely positive and empowering. That way when any of the “information” is “shared” you will be able to error on the side of building someone or some situation UPWARD.
The painful effects of any level of gossip are so dramatic that, we as leaders, can no longer teach about its evil without actively doing something about it. Here’s why…
Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure. Psalms 101:5
Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:16
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Col 3:8
to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. Titus 3:2
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 1 Pet 2:1
Finally, let me share with you some basic church growth, much less personal discipleship growth, information that is essential relating to attacking this vulgar habit.
All Christian leadership must recommit to the responsibility of removing ANYTHING that hinders the gospel. Anything that blocks another’s path to understanding and expressing Christ has to stop. I will grant that all we do must be filtered through God’s grace. There is no doubt about that. However, it is one thing to teach about a negative subject with the hope and goal of growing away from its affect. It is a whole other thing to ignore the responsibility to deal with it directly and openly so that it won’t take hold within the life of the local congregation as well as foster new disunity.
The Christian community has many challenges that we should be addressing with urgency. Violence, Racism, Hate, Jealousy, Errant Doctrine, etc. Beloved, I tell you the absolute truth…..what appears most of the time as something quite small when it first appears, can and does turn into a giant of a problem that has continued to kill and destroy missions, ministries, and lives. It is without question toxic, stifling, and devastating to any growth goals a local congregation may have.
Guarding the UNITY of the BODY OF CHRIST is a sacred responsibility. We must not fail in this endeavor.
In the Letter to the Ephesians 4:1-6 (CEV), Paul reminds the reader that,
1 As a prisoner of the Lord, I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own.
2 Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other.
3 Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace.
4 All of you are part of the same body. There is only one Spirit of God, just as you were given one hope when you were chosen to be God’s people.
5 We have only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.
6 There is one God who is the Father of all people. Not only is God above all others, but he works by using all of us, and he lives in all of us.