How can you stop gossip in the church? What strategies can you apply in taming the tongue? Maybe this can stop perhaps the most destructive of all things in the church…gossip.
Gossip: A Destroyer of Fellowship
I can think of anything that destroys the Body of Christ more than gossip does. Often it is prayer requests that are passed on to others but it turns into gossip. Gossip destroys fellowship, unity, and trust among the members of the church. Perhaps that is why many who request prayer at our church say them as an “unspoken need.” I can’t blame them. God knows their need and that is all that matters. How does gossip hurt the church? The Bible is clear on this. At the end of this article I will show what may be the most effective means in stopping gossip right at the source.
Bible Verses on Gossip
“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends” (Prov 16:28).
What will break up a friendship more quickly than gossip? I can’t think of anything that will drive a wedge between Christian brothers or sisters than spreading gossip and as the Proverbs say, it spreads strife.
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Prov 11:13).
This Proverb is spot on. When we reveal secrets about others like prayer requests that are given to us in trust and confidence, we are in effect slandering that person. The “trustworthy” person will keep it zipped.
“Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1Tim 5:13).
Not only do some spread gossip, they go “from house to house.” Today, this may be by the means of phone calls, emails, or even Bible studies. Paul was clear that they are “saying what they should not.”
Here is a great way to stop gossip in its tracks. I had a person come to me with a “concern” about another believer but it was really gossip and not brotherly or sisterly love or concern. In the first place, it was not a grievous sin or a serious matter that threatened the church or the person. They said something that sounded like it was a private matter and so I said, “Why don’t we go to that person right now and ask them about it.” Surprisingly, the person was not willing to do that and incidentally, they never told me anything about anyone ever again. At other times I have heard about rumors of someone doing something that seemed inappropriate for a believer in Christ to be doing. I asked, “And who told you this?” Again, the person (a different person this time) was unwilling to say just who said this and so that stopped that, as far as I was concerned anyway. When the person spreading a rumor or gossiping about someone else is confronted in love, it can stop the gossip in its tracks. When I offer to have the person come with me to talk with the person being spoken about, this offer has always been refused. The best way to stop gossip then is to confront the gossiper, ask if they are willing to take this issue up with the person, or to ask who the source was. Truly the one who “does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
The last time someone came up to me to tell me something about what they heard someone do, I said, “Hey, why don’t we go to that person right now and sit down with them and you can share your concern with them in person. Maybe we can find out what’s really going on and try to help them.” You know what? They refused to do it! This person also never came back to me again. I am not saying that if there is someone in the church that is involved in a grievous sin like adultery or drug abuse that we shouldn’t talk with them but the biblical model for confronting someone with sin is not to tell others but to go directly to them privately.
The Biblical Model
In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus gives us the model for how we should confront a church member who has sinned against us but we can use this same principle in how we should deal with unrepentant sin in the church.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you,that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
The first thing is to approach the person in private and not to speak to others about it first. Maybe there is a misunderstanding or maybe we are wrong and there is really no serious sin going on at all. Next, Jesus tells us that if this doesn’t work, take another person with you and speak with them again. This still doesn’t give us permission to tell others about it or to pass on our concerns about it cloaked in a prayer request. Finally, if this doesn’t work, bring the matter before the church and if this doesn’t work, they are to be disfellowshipped because ongoing, blatant, and unrepentant sin like adultery cannot be tolerated in the church. That is why Jesus said they should be “to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Paul used the same method for church discipline in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 “Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister” and “as the Scriptures say, ‘You must remove the evil person from among you” (1 Cor 5:13).
Gossip hurts the Body of Christ. It divides, it slanders, it produces strife, it separates friends, and it is sin. May it never be so in the church of Jesus Christ. If we have anything to say about someone else, let it be uplifting, edifying, and encouraging and “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29).
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon