HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.—Romans 1:28–29
When I see a list of the sins associated with abandoning God, I expect to see things like wickedness and murder. I don’t expect to see gossip and slander. Why? Because those they’re so commonplace—even in our churches.
Because we tend to use information as a commodity when we’re building relationships and alliances, gossip gets woven into the foundation of most human communities. The truth is that its cancer that ultimately eats away at the core of a community’s security until there’s nothing left.
What makes gossip particularly nefarious is our attitude about it. We expect people to gossip, we make jokes from the pulpit about women and gossip (regardless of the fact that loose talk is no respecter of genders), and it’s this casualness that empowers and emboldens this sin.
If you’re ready to wage war on this unity killer, keep reading. I’ve put together some tips to help you put gossip in its place.
1. Be a model of love and solidarity
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.—Ephesians 4:29
As a minister, I struggle with gossip. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been in a church where it wasn’t an issue in leadership. The ministry’s tough and sometimes you just want someone to commiserate with.
But every time you gossip with someone, you’re modelling that behaviour—and there is no sermon that will undo the bad example you’ve set.
The first step in eradicating gossip lies in showing your church what healthy communication looks like. That means you need to:
- Share information with only those who can legitimately contribute
- Immediately shut down gossip when you hear it
- Protect the victims of gossip
2. Define it
Identifying what is and isn’t gossip can be difficult. When your church has a working definition of gossip, it removes the mystery. By leaving it undefined, you give people an ignorance loophole to exploit.
Here are some definitions to help you get started:
Rumour: any unverified information
Slander: false or malicious information with the intent to harm
Gossip: sensational talk passed on because of it’s “juicy” nature, whether true, rumour, or slander
3. Communicate its significance
It couldn’t be more clear from the verse that opens that God takes the issue of gossip very seriously. In John 17, we see Jesus praying for the church, and his number one concern was that we would be unified. (John 17:22–23)
Ministers need to be champions of unity and stalwart critics of anything that would jeopardize that togetherness. This means we need to preach strongly and often about the evils of gossip.
Here are some Bible passages to use for inspiration:
- Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.—Exodus 23:1
- If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.—James 1:26
- Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.—James 4:11
- He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.—Proverbs 10:18
- A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.—Proverbs 11:13
- A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.—Proverbs 16:28
- Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.—Proverbs 26:20
4. Make gossip a staffing issue
Your church leadership sets a tone that the rest of the church follows. It really doesn’t matter how great anyone operates in their position if their presence undermines the church’s unity.
You need a staffing policy that elevates the significance of gossip. Not only should they be free from gossip themselves, but they also need to be equipped to shut it down when it rears its ugly head.
5. Cover gossip in your discipleship program
Gossip isn’t one of those things we just stop doing. We are set free from gossip at the place where information and spiritual empowerment intersect.
Keeping a rein on our tongues is such an integral part of our spiritual maturity that it’s worth creating a program that everyone goes through. These classes are for every member especially the modern day ministers with no knowledge or understanding of the office they hold.
The important thing is to ensure that you have a systematic plan in place to help your church members understand gossip’s significance and a safe platform to talk through its implications.
We don’t have to accept gossip!
We need to recognize that gossip is contrary to the gospel. It is love and acceptance that creates life-changing community. Whispered shame is a terrible motivator and a destructive habit. If we want to reinforce real unity, we need to work on talking up each other’s strengths and encouraging them when they’re doing well.