If we have any hope of nipping gossip in the bud, it rests in the gift of the local church. Those who would gossip ought to be called to account for the reputational damage they cause and those of us further away would do well to heed the judgements of the local church who see matters up close.
If you go into pastoral ministry, it is likely you will be on the receiving end of some unwarranted and untrue gossip. I remember speaking to one person who had been publicly and clearly caught indulging in such behaviour. Their defence was, ‘well, that’s just ministry!’ I suppose, in one sense, they were right. That is ministry. But it is an unpleasant and nasty part of ministry that does not justify the one doing the gossiping. If you become a pastor, it will happen to you for such has it ever been. but that doesn’t mean we have carte blanche to gossip about our pastor. Just as sin is always inevitable until Jesus return, that doesn’t give us any right to sin.
I have spoken about Jani Ortlund’s comments on this before. I haven’t heard better advice since. She says:
After almost fifty years in a ministry marriage, here is a piece of advice I wish I had understood from the early days of marriage to my beloved pastor: be willing to risk your reputation.
Leaders are always talked about. I found that hard to live with, because many times I disagreed with the current conversation. I wish someone had mentored me in what it looks like to release my reputation to the one who lovingly made himself of no reputation for us (Philippians 2:7–9).
Her whole article is worth reading on this very thing. But as sure as night follows day, church leaders will inevitably be talked about and their reputations often unfairly maligned.
With the advent of the internet, how much more prevalent these things are. There are issues about pastors that I would never have heard about, but I have heard about, because the internet has told me so. There are things about pastors I have filed away and believed, that I would never have heard about to begin with and have subsequently been shown to be untrue, because the internet has told me. Reputational damage can be done through our networks, through relationships, and now across the internet. I suspect very few of us in any sort of ministry role, and all the more those of us with an online presence, will escape. The rumour mill presses on unabated and one cannot unhear what one has heard. It is all but impossible, try as we might, not to form opinions on what we hear.