Trading the Gospel for the Gossip
Gossip has been an issue since almost the very beginning of man’s existence. In fact, the conversation between Eve and Satan, was Gossip.
Gossip is defined as idle talk, it is a rumor, here-say, sometimes dealing with the personal or private affairs of others which the speaker, the gossiper has no firsthand knowledge of or with the gossiper view is colored by a personal bias. It can also deal with the affairs of an organization. In a Church, this happens far to often, there is gossip about how decisions are made, about how programs are carried out, how events are planned and no matter how the church is organized, by Committee, Teams, or Elders, it seems that often “They” are to blame when “someone” doesn’t like the outcome.
We see this played out in the very first book of the Bible.
Gen 3:1 (NKJV)
1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"
Gossip often starts with a false premise, a poorly formed (or manipulative) question, or a less than factual accusation and sometimes as an emotional (non-factual) expression of displeasure with how something turned out.
The Devil misrepresented God’s word by not stating it accurately, in fact we know from verse 1 of chapter 3 in Genesis, that his misrepresentation of God’s word was calculated. And Eve fell for it. We see that Satan expressed the question to Eve as a negative, this left her to affirm a negative view of God. But there was another option.
Gossip has been a challenge for mankind ever sense this first encounter. As flawed and sinful people we may, as Eve did look for someone, for anyone but ourselves to be responsible for our sin, displeasure, or other emotions and gossip helps us place blame. Gossip is often a product of our emotions or a statement of our self-view.
Psychologists have several terms for the ways which people will attempt to handle their emotions about an event, one such term is “Displacement”. People use Displacement as a way of handling their emotions about an event or events, especially if they find the event unpleasant emotionally. Displacement is when someone takes their negative emotions and focuses them on a different person or thing, a safer target. We may do this, focusing on an individual outside our circle of acquaintances or an individual in leadership, who we believe will not be told or find out how we feel and sadly sometimes we “take it out” on the ones we love. The feelings are shared within the group, not to seek facts or a solution but to build an emotional barrier, an affirming consensus among “friends”. This is unhealthy in a Church because it segregates and divides the congregation. If a church has a lot of “clicks” this is possibly what has and continues to happen.
Others will use “projection”, this is when someone attributes his or her own feelings to another person or group. The person who is not well versed in Scripture or is a casual, cultural Christian (religious, but not born again) may look inside first, decide what kind of world they want to see and then project that world outside, making that the truth as they see it. This is also unhealthy. This makes the individual the creator of the World around them, causing them to believe that everyone thinks like they do or at worst can make them believe that they are the center of the world. This is harmful because it discounts the importance of different views and gifting within the body of Christ. It can lead to feelings of superiority, arrogance, and prejudice, with one person or group feeling they have all the right answers.
Both Displacement and Projection leave the gossiper guiltless (they feel) and not to blame (responsible) for any of the events or the gossip that followed. These feelings are affirmed and reenforced by the “click”, small group, or class. Both psychological characteristics stunt the growth of a Biblical world view in the life of not only a believer, but in the life of a Church. They cause strive and division in the church. These attitudes form clicks, and sub-groups within the body of Christ and can and often will cause distrust in others. Sadly, many just accept it as the norm and write it off as being “just who they are.” Too many in church leadership would rather ignore gossip and gossipers so as not cause a fuss, but in so doing will compromise the Gospel and the truth of Scripture.
Truth is not an Emotion
The truth of scripture is the foundation of all creation. We find in scripture the answers to all life’s questions. We also discover the reality and comfort of God’s revelation of Himself. While all these important realities can and do excite an emotional response, they are not emotional responses, they are truth. When an individual comes to understand what Christ has done, for them and in them, there will be an emotional response. Some people will openly weep, crying out, recognizing how unworthy they are, some will somberly bow with their face to the ground, some will kneel with hands raised to heaven in praise, but no matter the response, the salvation is still the fact and motivation for the response. Sadly, the response is far too often identified as the motivation.
Too many times we come to Church looking for an emotional connection and not spiritual revival.
We identify with the emotions of the moment and miss out on the reason for it all. Some will come to Church for the pep rally, to get the emotional high or for the memory of days gone by. For them church has simply become a comforting connection to the past, to their hay day, or some past relationship with a now gone family member. Some attend solely for the social interaction, it is where their friends are. Some only come for the feeling of it all. Once someone has made that connection, every decision made by the leadership will be an insult to the past and the “we’ve never done it like that before” comes, and while most would rarely express it in those terms, that is the motivation. The emotions will rule the day and leaders may fall into the trap believing that they must keep everyone happy.
If an event, program, worship, small group, or other regular occurrence in Church cause someone to think first about anyone else but Jesus, it may be time to refocus. Having fond memories of former members, loves ones, special times and events is not a bad thing, but if we always think of those, and are motivated to come to church for those reasons we may need to address our relationship with Christ. Many regular events at church are wonderful tributes to the past, and a heritage that we must pass down to our children and grandchildren, but we should remember, we are not passing down great memories, we are passing down Christ. The memories will be emotional, but if we do not focus of Christ, the memory will not be enough to bring our children and grandchildren into eternity in the way we would like. We should want to give our children new memories of their own, memories of God moving among His people. Moreover, when a person enters our midst who does not know Christ as Savior, our memories have no bearing on them. To the unbeliever, a memory lived out can look a lot like a ritual, with no real meaning to anyone other than the group who shares that memory. Only the Holy Spirit can truly move someone from being lost to being born again, a memory is powerless to do that. When we speak of days gone by, of events in the past, wouldn’t it be wonderful to start by expressing how powerful the move of God was at that event, program, or service? Instead, an individual or aspect of that event, the food, the entertainment, or the now departed loved one is the focus and God is a secondary thought.
Faith is a Defense
The solution to defeating gossip, a self-centeredness, or others focus within a Church, or an individual is the ingestion of truth. Paul reminded the church in Rome, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17, KJV) Our faith is built, rebuilt, enforced, and reinforced by God’s word. We have no other defense against the gossip of the enemy by the Word of God. The Word of God guides, supplies, and nutritious us. When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He used the Word of God to keep from being drawn into an argument. In fact, the first challenge Satan spoke to Jesus was one that addressed physical hunger, and Jesus responded with a Spiritual lesson, “It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD." (Matthew 4:4, NKJV) The Word of God is our only source. When we surrender to Christ, the Holy Spirit of God becomes our comforter. His primary way of Comforting us is by using the Word of God to remind us about the character of God, and the truth of God. A person who is light on reading God’s Word is light on understanding how God operates in, not only the world around us, but in an individual life. If an individual does not continue in the Word, their faith will struggle, and they may fall back on the things of this physical life ignoring the things of the faith life. The physical life worshipper will seek to confirm how they feel and what they know. They do this by building a consensus with other like-minded individuals. They form “clicks” and “groups” based on feelings, memories, and earthly knowledge. The Enemy is quick to find these in every church and start the Gospel with, “Did God really say…?” Sadly, even in a time when we have more Biblical information than ever before more and more church members are Biblically illiterate.
It would stand to reason that if you have been and are now a part of a church that focuses on the importance of reading God’s Word that you would read God’s Word every day. It is relatively easy for the average reader to read through the Bible in a year. Yet so many people who attend Church regularly confess to not reading the Bible.
- American Bible Society in January released the 12th annual State of the Bible report, which highlights cultural trends in the U.S. regarding faith and the Bible. “Our research clearly shows that when people read the Bible and apply its message, it brings them hope and introduces them to full life in Christ. That’s why it’s disheartening to see that millions of Americans have lost interest in the Bible. And millions more are struggling to connect Scripture to their daily lives,” said John Farquhar Plake, PhD and Director of Ministry Intelligence for American Bible Society. According to the American Bible Society, scripture engagement is at a historic low in America, in the past year, nearly 26 million Americans decreased or stopped interacting with Scripture. Interesting enough however, nearly two-thirds of people who seldom or never read the Bible indicated some curiosity in what the Bible has to say to them. One-third of non-Bible Users said they were “very” or “extremely” curious.
While Bible engagement is down, the curiosity is still there for non-Bible users. This is a great opportunity for those of us in Churches to share the Word of God, sadly, even within the church, Bible engagement is down. In order to share effectively we must turn back to Bible Engagement in our Churches and in our lives. We must pick the Bible up and put the Gossip down and stop trading the Gospel for Gossip.