Christian cancer: How gossip is killing the Church


Did you know that there is a form of Christian cancer. Its also known by another name: self-righteous gossip. It shows up in prayer meetings, board meetings, side bar conversations, “processing” with  a friend, and yes, therapy sessions. It is found in Christian institutions where we discuss who has the best vision, is the most doctrinally sound, or has the most maturity. It spreads quickly from the heart over the tongue and in just a few minutes, it can be around the country. It tends to increase cynicism, egotism, the freedom to sin against a worse sinner without penalty, to justify our own flaws, etc. I see the impact: bitterness, stalling ministries, backbiting, etc.

I confess I am prone to have a case of it. As a counselor I hear all sorts of pain and brokenness in Christian circles. One pastor lacks integrity, another leader is a megalomaniac, another provides dangerous, superficial counseling, another has a farce of a marriage. How will I handle it? Will I tell a trusted friend? Will I “process” with my wife? Where is the line between needed debriefing and gossip? I fear I’m far too willing to cross it at work, church, and the neighborhood. In a discussion of church vision, we criticize the pastor/elders. In a driveway conversation, we discuss the neighbor’s recent arrest, In an office discussion, we discuss a colleague or board member’s missteps.

Where do you think the line is? Is the amount of time spent discussing vs. praying for? Is it the attitude? Is it something else?

5 Comments

Filed under ethics, self-deception, sin

5 responses to “Christian cancer: How gossip is killing the Church

  1. Shirley Peter

    I have a problem with those who gossip. I hate gossip as I have seen fisrt hand what it can do in others lives. It is a terrible sin as far as I am concerned. But my problem is that I do not know how to deal with others that gossp without offending them and than becoming the name at the end of thier toungue. Shirley.

    • Sometimes it is a tough line to find. Often we want to help the other person by bringing other people on board in an attempt to solve the problem. Maybe we think another person praying would help. We might believe another has better resources or tools at hand. I am sure we would have a “good” reason for talking about someone else’ problems.

      I think the key is simply whether we have the permission of the client to speak to others about the problem. There is nothing wrong with asking. A request will clear any misunderstandings and prevent serious, possibly even legal trouble, down the road.

  2. Daniel Santiago

    Gossip is an interesting cancer in the church, because the bible teaches that its something that should be frowned upon and we should not entertain it. However gossip seems to permeate and/or infiltrate the church the most and not by the doing of anyone else but the Body of Christ itself. It’s a sad thing because all gossip brings about is discord, strife and slander against a person/christian. It defames their character and puts their integrity in question; unfortunately most people don’t look at the hurt it causes the people that are being slandered. I think what interests me the most about gossip is the different guises it goes under, some people call it “Sharing their heart” while others call it “Processing”. At any rate no matter what category you want to justify gossip under, its as harmful to the Body of Christ as any cancer. It always seems to start small and continues to grow until it consumes the Body, possibly causing death (Spiritual death, discouragement, bitterness, rebellion and deep rooted resentment) to the person that is being slandered. Gossip is selfish in nature and can be attributed to being one of the main causes for ministries being stagnated.

    In my own life, I have dealt with this vile cancer and because of it I have lost friends, credibility, testimony and the ability to minister in the giftings that God has given me. Gossip has put me in a position where as I have been ready to leave my local church in order to start anew. I have been ostracized and rejected by those that I once considered friends, all because of an “Perception” that was incorrect. Unfortunately most people don’t want to deal with the bothersome task of finding out the truth, gossip is just more convenient and entertaining.

    At the end of the day there will never be a remedy/solution to this epidemic seizing the local Body known as gossip. My question isn’t how will this be stopped but more over has anyone thought of the countless souls that have been lost from the kingdom because of this righteous venting (Gossip).

  3. Jeanene Barrett

    I RECENTLY HAD A PERSONAL ENCOUNTER WITH THIS VERY ISSUE FIND IT HARD TO FOCUS ON THE LORD WHEN SOME LEADER DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN debriefing and gossip SO TO SPEAK.
    You never understand it fully until it happens to you and you love your church home but dont love the gossip.
    Im going to take this up with the lord on what to do because this is the very reason people leave the church. theres no perfect church but can we have a church who has integrety

  4. W. Huldah

    This is a very serious issue. In Matthew 18 Christ speaks of the sin of causing the “little ones” to stumble, how it would be better to have a millstone tied to your neck and be thrown into the sea than to cause a little one to stumble. He was speaking of children, but metaphorically of people seeking to follow Him. And then he tells us how to address the issue of a brother who sins against us.
    Mat 18:15-17 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. {16} “But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ {17} “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

    This is not what happens in the churches I have attended, and I don’t think my experience is unique by any means. Step One is to go alone to the brother and speak to him about the issue. This step almost never happens. Instead, the injured party, or the party who feels injured or self-righteous, goes to his or her friends and talks to them about the issue. And it goes on from there. If the brother in question ever learns that someone felt he had sinned, he will be the last one to hear about it. But quite often I’m afraid that brother is never told. He may notice that people look at him differently, or act toward him differently, or maybe someone makes an ambiguous comment in his presence which doesn’t make sense to him. But if he asks the speaker what was meant by the comment, he is told it was nothing or some other non-answer. In essence he is isolated from the group, and whether he ever figures out why, he realizes that he is the object of scorn. And he will leave the fellowship.

    I have even heard pastors gossip about others. I don’t think the answer to this issue is political correctness, i.e. refusing to recognize sin, or just trying to make the brother “feel better”. The answer lies in Matt 18:15, go to the brother and tell him the problem you have with him. Tell him the truth in candid terms, in love. Then, if you cannot settle the issue, go to him with one or two others, and then to the church as a whole.
    This is a huge problem. I have seen people destroyed by gossip. It is a cruel form of mental torture, and there are some Christians who enjoy administering it.

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