Every pastor has to decide how he is going to handle the old “Pastor, somebody told me….” or “Pastor, people are saying…” or “Pastor, I heard that…” and then the inevitable criticism, complain, whine, accusation or otherwise. I decided very early on that I would refuse to entertain any conversation that began with “Pastor, people are saying…” and simply cut it off at the knees by saying: “I don’t want to hear it. Please tell whomever has something to say to me, to come say it.” Worked pretty well. Similarly with anonymous letters and now e-mail. I don’t read them. They are immediately put int he trash and/or deleted, as the case may be. What about the “gossip” problem that we have in all our congregations? It comes in so many shapes and sizes, doesn’t it? I thought this was some good, practical advice, found via Ed Stetzer’s blog. I like Ed’s blog, always lots of interesting posts and information, helps me keep my finger on the pulse of American Evangelicalism pretty quickly and effectively.
In my job, I hear far more junk than I care to hear. The larger our church gets, the more mess we encounter among the people to whom we minister. We have designed our church to reach hurting people, so we are simply reaching our target audience, but some days it is more difficult than others to hear such sad stories.
One part of the drama of messiness that always frustrates me is how gossip begins about other people’s problems. As if dealing with the consequences of sin is not enough, many times some of the hardest repercussion is the gossip that occurs about the people involved and the situation that occurred. I have been the victim of unfair gossip and I know the pain it can cause. I have never found gossip to be helpful to the people involved or to the Kingdom of God. I have literally become a hater of gossip because I have seen it destroy so many people! Gossip hurts innocent people who are caught in the middle, it exaggerates the situation, and it keeps the one who did wrong loaded with guilt and frustration, and from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. (Consider these passages: Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13 … the Bible talks a great deal about this…)
With that in mind, I’m listing 7 suggestions for how to stop, or at least slow, the spread of gossip. Will you consider each and take them personal? If the shoe fits will you wear it. Together, perhaps we can help stop the deadly spread of this harmful virus!
Here are 7 ways to stop gossip:
1. Don’t repeat something you don’t know is true firsthand…secondhand knowledge is not enough to justify repeating. You will get something wrong and it will hurt others.
2. Don’t repeat unless its helpful to do so and you have a vested interest in the situation, the people involved, and permission to share…doing so in the name of a prayer request is not a good excuse…
3. Don’t “confess” other people’s sins. Even if the wrong included you and you feel the need to confess, share your story, but not someone else’s.
4. If you must tell, and have passed the test on the first three suggestions, tell only what happened and not your commentary or “I think this is probably what happened” or why you think it happened…
5. Choose to pray for others every time you are tempted to tell their story…instead of telling their story…
6. When someone tells you something you don’t need to know, don’t allow curiosity to be your guide…follow your heart. Stop the person and tell them you don’t want to know! Remember, if they will spread gossip about others they will spread it about you!
7. Keep the circle of confession limited to the people involved or to no more than needed for accountability purposes. The wider the circle and the more the story is repeated the more likely things will turn into gossip.