Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poisoning the church

Not long ago I had a conversation with a member of another church who needed a pastor's perspective. It seems that gossip is wreaking havoc in her church and negatively affecting her own family; especially the teenagers in the house.

James writes that "...the tongue is like a fire. It is a whole world of evil among the parts of our bodies. The tongue spreads its evil through the whole body. The tongue is set on fire by hell, and it starts a fire that influences all of life." Most of us who have been part of churches, even good churches have witnessed the damage that gossip and rumor can do. They really are killers.

At our church, while we're not perfect, we have a zero tolerance policy for gossip. If you want to be shown the door be a gossip. It's that simple. You'll get a couple of warnings first, but after that we'll let you find another church. Many seem to think gossip is something the church has to live with. It's not. And if left unchecked, the church will die from it.

Here are some simple ways to deal with gossip in your own life.

1. Refrain from being a gossip. If you have an issue with someone go to that person and no one else.

2. Refuse to listen to gossip. The moment someone tries to give you a juicy tidbit (whether it is fact or fiction makes no difference) stop the conversation and don't allow the gossiper to pollute your mind.

3. Rebuke a gossiper. Follow #2 with "Hey. Do you realize how wrong that is to spread gossip? Don't come here with it anymore." And may I add that in the church that includes gossip cloaked as "prayer requests".

4. Repent if you're guilty. That means you need to take these actions:
A. Confess your gossip and lack of control of your tongue to God. Before your gossip offended anyone else it offended Him:
B. Ask Him to give you control over your current inability to keep your mouth shut.
C. Go to whomever you have hurt, including the person being gossipped about and the person(s) to whom you have spread the gossip and ask for their forgiveness.

An entire "entertainment industry" has been built on gossip. Our culture can't seem to get enought of it. But this is one activity that needs to be kept out of the church.


Denise said...

AMEN! This was a great posting! I have seen gossip completely destroy the last church that I was a member of, and had to leave as the problem just got worse and worse. I do have a question for you! A large group of these "gossips" have started going to a new church together, and he is a young pastor whom I know fairly well. Is it wrong of me to send him a letter making him aware of the this problem, or is this too being a gossip? Thanks, and by the way, I think your family rocks!

Rick Lawrenson said...

Good question.

Any pastor who sees a large group leave one church and come together needs to ask some very pointed questions, both to those coming and to the church leaders, esp. the pastor, of the church they are leaving.

Unfortunately most pastors won't do that because they see the increase in warm bodies as a good thing.

I'd say, no, don't send the letter. You'll be perceived as vindictive and as a gossip.

His church is not your responsibility. That may sound hard, but its the truth. But you can certainly pray for God to give him discernment in protecting the flock he shepherds.

Mommy B said...

I have a saying for people that start telling me stuff I don't need to know "don't tell me because I don't want to be responsible for knowing it." or "Remember, once you know something, you can't un-know it, so make sure it's a 'need to know' versus a 'want to know' before you tell me, I don't have time for 'want to knows."

MilePost13 said...

I like Matt Glock's approach...

Andy Lawrenson said...

Hey Rick did you hear about. . . .?

Rick Lawrenson said...

Actually Matt's famous quote, "Next time you're going to throw up don't do it on me" was to someone being critical, not spreading gossip. But it works just the same.

Pipsylou said...

I JUST posted about this. Thank you.

Pipsylou said...

p.s. I just posted about this because I was in a similar situation where I told the people involved (and myself) ENOUGH. WE ARE DONE. And I didn't get the happy, repentant response I was looking for. :)

I guess just because something is the right thing to do doesn't mean it will be easy, right? God never promised me that.

Apple said...

People don't like to gossip to me because they know that, if they do, I'm going straight to the person that the gossip was about and I'm getting the real story. I'm not vindictive and I don't tell where the story came from, but I'm certain to get the real story and stop the gossip in its tracks.

I had to do something like this when I found out that rumors were being spread about why we left our old church. God bless our friends who came directly to us to find out the truth. I was immediately on email, writing to every person I had in my address book to make sure this rumor was stopped.

You'd think that there was enough evil in the world, outside our church family, that we wouldn't need to bring in our own.

Nancy said...

Great post Rick. This past year has been very hard for Dale and myself, and there was some very hurtful and very untrue gossip spread. Dale did exactly what you advised when he heard the gossip. He confronted the gossiper. If you allow it gossip can be so harmful, but Dale was able to keep our family strong and faithful through the whole ordeal.

Another thing, I have been in many situations with our church family and someone will come up (not from our church...heavens no!) to begin to share some gossip and the "church" will stop them right there...COLD, every time. I once asked an older memmber of our church how she could stop someone who gossiped so abruptly, and her response was "Rick says it is unGodly and he will not allow so I won't either."