Your Gossip Problem

Gossip is the quiet kid at the sin table. He makes sure whatever he does is unassuming, deliberate, and phrased in almost admirable terms. He’s the white-collar criminal of sins, if you will. He will quietly rob you of human dignity and smile during the transaction. He’s also considered a respectable member of society, a top-notch fellow who does the dirty work so others can enjoy the results. And he’s the one most people, especially Christians, tend to secretly enjoy keeping company with.

Where does he show up? Well, he can show up during prayer times – “So and so, you know ‘the drunk,’ needs some prayer right now since he got arrested last night,” or “Pray for miss what’s her face since she’s pregnant and not married to that boyfriend of hers.” He shows up on Facebook posts: “Look at what this pastor did!” “Can you believe what this celebrity just said?” “Aren’t those Christians over there heretics, or what?”

Look, we all have a penchant for curiosity, especially of the morbid type, but we need to be honest with ourselves. Are we really posting things because they are bits of information others need to hear, or are we just eager for someone else to smirk smugly alongside us as we deride and chastise others?

For Christians, this is especially important. Let me be clear. In the middle ages, it may have been necessary to publish polemic (attacking) articles in order to defend orthodox (commonly agreed upon truth) beliefs, in today’s communication-rich world, it’s not as necessary. Whoever needs correcting is a phone call, direct message, or email away. (If an idea is being criticized, it’s one thing. However, most of the shared articles are attacking a person, not an idea.) Chances are whoever is being admonished will never see the article you shared about their alleged heresy or weird spiritual practice, which makes that article nothing more than gossip. Why? Because it’s unhelpful (person in question may never see it), it’s divisive (probably not meant for the person in question, but rather itching ears waiting to pounce), and it’s hurtful. (And “being unable to reach the person” is no excuse. If the author truly acted in love, they would persist like the widow to the judge – not sink to the low standards of some modern speculative journalism.)

So before you share that article, ask a few questions:

Is this about an idea or a person?

If it’s about a person, is it an attack or a dialogue?

Is the article helpful for building up faith, or is it tearing down someone else’s?

Am I sharing this out of sincere love for my fellow Christians?

Gossip is often listed alongside things such as adultery, lying, and murder. And, yet, we often tend to overlook it. God doesn’t. God expects unity among his people. Gossip divides.

Do you discuss people or ideas at home? When you talk about others is it in context of prayer or genuine concern? When you think about your conversations or Facebook posts, do you sense gossip in them? What example are your kids seeing in regards to gossip in your home?

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Honesty Can/Will Get Me Killed (or at least blocked on Facebook)

Can I be honest for a moment? I mean, really honest? The kind of honest that makes people uncomfortable and you can hear the tense silence of thousands of people’s angry reaction building instantaneously as they read?

I have dreams of being a parent one day. I work in children’s ministry so I often joke about having 25+ kids, but we all know their parents are putting in so much more time and energy to raise those children the best they can. And, really, those parents are heroes in their own right: parenting is a challenge, but a blessing all the same.

And, truly, I have much respect for parents in today’s world. Maybe it’s the fault of history books, but I feel like life used to be less complex. Or maybe in the past many people were more concerned about survival than the details. Hearing about my family’s past and reading a fantastic book My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg points out that many folks struggled just to put another meal on the table. I guess, then, we should call it a blessing that new issues have begun to come to the forefront.

I have to chuckle a little at the change in mindset even in myself. There are people in our towns and cities today wondering where there next meal might be, and there are some reading this post wondering where wild-caught, organic fish might be on sale for dinner tonight. The issue of food has been one of my personal thought experiments for a while now. I have been doing some peripheral research (shallow and reductionist at best) and have decided that sugar is the enemy to fight in my own home. Others have decided to battle against genetically modified foods, or added chemicals, or to go vegetarian, or go organic. I think it is wonderful that our society has become so affluent that these options are available and, mostly, financially tenable.

Now here’s where I’ll be honest, I don’t get the reason for shaming other parents for what they are doing differently. I don’t understand why we cannot consider that some families do not have certain financial or time resources others do. Perhaps they have not become the enlightened paragon of purity to which some have achieved, and they are simply trying to put food on the table and provide the best life possible for their children.

At the risk of sounding cliche: some people live to eat, and others eat to live. We all eat, but some eat also because of the pleasure of flavor, texture, and origin. (I put myself in that category, all things considered.)  Others eat to stay alive one more day in the hope of making a better tomorrow. Some even go without.

Keeping with honesty, there are so many other issues that this applies to. Before posting one more article or blog post in the hopes of convincing that one person to come to your side, stop and thank God for your situation in life and your freedom and ability to advocate for a particular viewpoint.

Remember, as always, that as a parent and adult, others are always looking to you to be a model and example of how to behave. One day, your child will have social media. One day your child will be a parent. One day your child will meet their first vegan. How do you want your child to interact with others?

So, everyone, I have stopped and thanked God for my situation and for all of you. Now, please make sure that your toilet paper rolls under, your peas sit cozily in a bed of mashed potatoes, and you call it a buggy and not a shopping cart.

Though, if you happen to have a different opinion, I suppose you can continue doing whatever it is you are accustomed to doing.

Why your church can be a great place for kids. Or, why Andy Stanley had to apologize.

Ok, let’s be honest, Alex is behind the curve again. I didn’t hear about this Andy Stanley calling small church people “so stinkin’ selfish” or something like that until today. Understandably, all of the videos I tried to hunt down have been removed by North Point Ministries. Since the video went viral and generated so much vitriol on social media, Stanley has apologized stating that “even [he] was offended.”

First of all, Andy Stanley is a human being. He also makes mistakes, like the rest of us, and as Christians we should forgive and let go. (And, really, the high pedestal we put ministers on crushes more of them than it helps. Another topic, another day.) He’s already going to have to live with that statement for a while and has lost credibility with many that looked up to him. The least we can do is try to understand where his mind was. As I mentioned in a previous post, being happy that a successful church made a mistake is about as un-Christ-like as it gets. We are better than this as God’s children.

Secondly, he has a point. The point he was trying to make is that children need a healthy environment with other children to help them along in their journey with Jesus. Sure, we often like to cite the fact of “where two or three are gathered,” but try asking a child if they’d invite a friend to a 3 person party. Then ask if they’d be willing to be the new person at a 3 person party. Does that shed some clarity?

The church where I currently serve and worship has been my church home for nearly 14 years now. I grew up here. Much of my Christian formation was here. My youth minister from that time is a big part of why I decided ministry was where God was leading me. (Trust me, very few choose ministry – it chooses them. It’s a scary position – read Jesus and Paul talking about a teacher’s role.)

The reason my family stayed at this church? My brother and I. We were 4 and 10 respectively and we immediately fell in love with the other kids and the leaders in our groups. While we were visiting churches, both of us would beg to go back to this church because experiencing Jesus was fun and engaging.

The point I want to make is this: your church home will be a part of shaping how your children grow and develop as disciples. If your church is not equipping you and your children for faith development – ask your leaders about it and get something started. If you feel strongly about it, you may have to be the one to create children’s programs. You may be the one to ask for space for a nursery, or for children’s rooms. You may need to be the one to find volunteers and invite parents. As a very, very final last resort, after everything else has failed – if the leaders don’t act, maybe it’s time to find a church that considers children a priority.  (I’m very biased as a children’s minister as to the importance of Children’s Ministry, which means that as I write this I am keenly aware of what these statements mean for myself and my team.)

Can smaller churches provide the kind of environment where children can thrive? Of course. Can they do it with excellence? Of course. Does it take effort, time, and dependence on God? A thousand times yes. Could you be the one to lead the charge? It’s very possible.

I am not advocating that you leave the family that you worship with each Sunday. I am not advocating that you find your nearest mega church and be overwhelmed.

I am, simply, asking you to evaluate your church family. I am asking you to fight for your church family and challenge the leaders to step up to the issues facing kids, preteens, and teenagers – if they haven’t started already. I am asking you to think, love, and act like Jesus when it comes to bringing about needed change.

And if you’re church-hopping right now… maybe take some time and listen to where your children want to go.