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10 ways to respond to gossip about your leaders

| by Brian Thorstad

It’s out of style in today’s world, but in the value system of God, church leaders are to be held in high honor. First Thessalonians 5:13a says we should “Hold them in the highest regard in love, because of their work.” 

The “highest regard” means that we treat our church’s leaders as being just as important as the President of the U.S., the Secretary General of the UN, our favorite rock star or our beloved grandmother.   

The tendency of our sinful hearts is always to resist authority; thus the ever-present temptation to despise and dissect those whom God has placed over us. So in any organization where somebody is in charge — and we all know this from experience – the default attitude is always to find fault with our leaders and to talk about them unflatteringly. 

I’m not suggesting that our leaders are always right, of course, or that we should maintain a cult-like level of loyalty. But what we can learn to do is to ask ourselves, and others, some good, thoughtful questions when we hear gossip about our leaders.

Is the source of this information – the person speaking to me – speaking with godly respect for the person he is talking about? If he isn’t, the information you’re receiving should be immediately suspect.

Do I really need to be hearing this? This one is easy. Most of the time the answer is “no.”

Does the life of the person speaking lend credibility to what I’m hearing? The Apostle James says (James 4:13-18) that the “wise and understanding” among us are known for their good deeds and humility. They are not envious or ambitious for personal gain. They are pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial and sincere. The overall affect of their lives is peacemaking.

Why is this person telling me this? This is not just a good question to ask yourself; this is a good question to ask the speaker. Ask it, and then watch the body language.

Has this person gone to the leader, one-on-one, and come away frustrated? If so, she might have a good reason for sharing this with you.  If not, using what I call the Everlasting Gossip Stopper is in order: “Whoa!  Wait a minute.  You need to talk to (the person being spoken about) about this.”

Is there another side to this story? You can count on it. There are at least three sides to every story: yours, mine and God’s, and only God’s is completely accurate.

Where did you hear this? Fake news doesn’t just happen via the web during political campaigns; it happens in church foyers and parking lots every week. 

Is this the realissue? Those in the caring professions know that there are presenting problems and there are real problems and the two are seldom the same. In many cases the gossip isn’t speaking about his real issue and sometimes isn’t even aware of what the real issue is. Maybe you can help him sort this out.

How much of this should I listen to? Sometimes we should serve as “conflict coaches” by listening to the speaker carefully and then coaching her in how to handle her information in a godly way. At other times, we should stop the speaker before she fills our ears with things that we will regret that we ever heard.

What does God want me to do with this? Let’s think about our options. We can ignore it, rebuke it, investigate it, use it as a teaching opportunity or pass it on. Once you’ve heard it, it’s time to pray for God’s wisdom.

Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.

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