9 Reasons Gossip is Destructive to a Church

It’s both a verb and a noun. We’ve certainly all heard it, and perhaps we’ve all done it. Maybe we’ve even been the butt of it.

“It” is gossip – and it’s destructive to a church. Here’s why:

  1. It’s evil. How else would you describe an act that’s so often included among lists of sinful acts in scripture (Rom 1:29, 2 Cor 12:20, 1 Tim 5:13)? In fact, “gossip” is sometimes included as a marker of lostness – not Christianity.
  2. It’s idolatrous. Gossips love having information, even if it’s wrong and harmful. They even get angry if others have information they don’t have. Having “the dirt” becomes their god – and that’s idolatry.
  3. It’s self-centered. Those who gossip put themselves in the middle of everything. And, if they’re not in the middle, they talk about those who are so they draw attention back to themselves.
  4. It’s divisive. Talking about other people behind their backs never promotes unity, especially when the conversations take place in the back room or the parking lot. 
  5. It’s often deceptive. Sometimes the “reported” information is cloaked in a prayer request (“now I don’t want to spread rumors, but we need to pray for _________ because ________”). That’s gossip, and it’s a lie to call it anything else.
  6. It harms reputations. It takes only one rumor to harm a brother or sister, and it’s tough to recover once the rumor’s out. We only weaken the family of God through gossip.  
  7. It destroys trust. Here’s where gossips are often so focused on spreading their news that they miss their own foolishness. Gossips may be trying to hurt others, but what they prove is only that they themselves are completely untrustworthy.
  8. It indicates hypocrisy in the church. James puts it this way: the tongue is a “world of unrighteousness” (3:6), a “restless evil, full of deadly poison” (3:8). When the same tongue blesses God and curses others—including through gossip—hypocrisy is in the room (3:10-12).
  9. It risks God’s judgment. Jesus told us that we’ll answer for every word we say (Matthew 12:36-37). Gossips who continue in their pattern (and most gossips do) are inviting judgment – and judgment on one member affects the entire church. 

So, what do we do? If you’re a gossip, stop talking. If you like to hear gossip, you’re also guilty. Stop listening. And, if gossips continue to talk and create turmoil, it’s only loving to confront them and call them to repentance. To do anything less is to give the enemy a foothold in your church.

What are your thoughts? 

20 Comments

  • Allen Calkins says:

    Gossip is a major pblm in every human organization…where three or more are gathered together there will gossip be also. The church is NOT exempt because not all ‘church members’ are spiritually mature…some are likely not even believers. SO GOSSIP will happen…but mature Christians (not staff or pastor) have a responsibility to shut it down! The staff and pastor cannot address gossip without emboldening it. But other church leaders can and should!

  • clawlessjr says:

    Thanks, Allen.

  • Joe Turner says:

    Right on target. We should seek to practice Eph 4:29

  • Here’s a positive but revealing story from my personal life as a clergy going through a marriage breakdown.

    After putting together a support team for myself of therapist, brother, best friend, and closest colleague, I asked my Board Chair to meet me and I told him about what was happening. At the next Board meeting I told the Board and asked them for a few weeks of confidentiality so I could speak with others on staff, and our key lay leaders personally so that they would be prepared for whatever fallout there might be. It was a good plan, and once I’d had those conversations I knew people would need to talk to each other and some of it might be hurtful but I’d done my best to be honest and careful at the same time. There were two people (a man and a woman) in that congregation that I knew were the worst gossips in the church, and one of them (the woman) in particular loved to tell tales about me—you know—give people half the story so I looked bad, or just plain make stuff up. So I expected a few bumps along the way. But nothing ever got back to me. Well, both of them were in the choir, and nearly two years later at a choir practice (I got this from the choir director) someone made some oblique reference to my marriage breakdown, and these two gossips had eyes bugging out of their heads, jaws dropped, etc—gasping for more information! They had NO idea. It seems that my congregation cared so much for me in my personal pain that they, in their informal way, made sure they did not speak of it with the two unspoken but known gossips in the church! They had protected me as best they could from the gossip. It was one of the most loving things that congregation ever did for me. And I have to say, I laughed myself silly as the choir director “delightedly” described the faces of the two gossips when they learned for the first time what was almost two year old news.

  • hopeful says:

    What if the lead pastor and elders are the ones spreading half truths about troubled church attendees? And what if the lead pastor is very popular in the community and furthermore spreads the gossip to other lead pastors?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Gossip is a problem regardless of who’s doing it.

    • PastorT says:

      Hopeful… As a pastor I would advise that if your lead pastors are hurting you or some one close to you in any fashion consider and pray about going to another church. You should feel safe in God’s house atleast with the pastors and senior leaders. I had to cut ties with a pastor because he gossiped and talked bad about other pastors in the city and then would try to lie and cover it up… It was hard bc I went to that church for many years before my husband and I got married and then eventually started pastoring ourselves but I felt free.

  • PastorT says:

    Hopeful… As a pastor I would advise that if your lead pastors are hurting you or some one close to you in any fashion consider and pray about going to another church. You should feel safe in God’s house atleast with the pastors and senior leaders. I had to cut ties with a pastor because he gossiped and talked bad about other pastors in the city and then would try to lie and cover it up… It was hard bc I went to that church for many years before my husband and I got married and then eventually started pastoring ourselves but I felt free.

  • Undershepherd says:

    Thanks for this really helpful article Chuck. Can you offer a clear definition of gossip or point me to a resource that gives a robust description of what is and isn’t gossip? I find that many people don’t think that gossip is a problem for them because they don’t clearly understand what it is.

  • Scott says:

    Anytime anyone starts to complain about someone else, the person listening should immediately stop them and ask if they have talked to the person about this issue in a manner that is seeking a peaceful resolution. That is what Jesus tells us in Matthew 18. Taking the time to listen to gossip only draws you into the other person’s sin. Pastor’s are notorious about listening to gossip, and justify it by saying they are trying to keep tabs on their church. Most times, however, they are just serving as enablers, though.

  • I believe you are delving into one of the weakest areas in the modern church. Matthew 18 is not practiced and no follow-up is pursued after a confrontation to call a brother or sister to repentance. We as Elders and Pastors have failed to follow a consistent Biblical approach so there really is a culture within the church that is in many cases disillusioned. It’s as though sin is being given a passive entry into the life of the church all because we want to hear more.

  • clark shaka says:

    My pastor listen to gossips and is making his church to depreciate.

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