Gossip and slander are frequently found even among those who consider themselves good Christians. Few things, however, are more harmful to a community. It can start innocently enough. One person makes a comment to a third person about something someone else did or said. Perhaps this first person doesn’t even intend the comment to be negative. The person hearing the comment, however, sees it as reflecting badly on the person being spoken about. Instead of clarifying the situation, he passes on this juicy tidbit of gossip, possibly distorting it even more in the process. The telling of this rumor ceases to be merely gossip and becomes slander, that is, the making of claims detrimental to a person’s reputation with reckless disregard for the truth, disregard for the fact that one possesses no substantial evidence for these defamatory claims. The whole process is deeply opposed to charity and very harmful to the relationships between people. The slide below illustrates the origin and spread of such malicious rumors:
Such things are, regrettably, all too real and all too common.
The biblical rules for dealing with the faults people commit are aimed to avoid this culture of gossip and slander.
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reprove him openly, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:1 18)
Sometimes we think church is supposed to be a sacred space, where we only talk about certain things or only address certain subjects. There are subjects we would talk about in our families, for example, or among friends, but it seems like we feel afraid to discuss them in church.
Yet when I read the New Testament, it doesn’t seem to me like Paul had this fear—or that he made this separation between secular and sacred. When he wrote to the congregations where he was ministering, he spoke directly to what they were going through and what he saw in them, regardless of topic.
Our churches can take note from this, I think.
In fact, I think if we neglect to talk about things that are trending in wider culture, we miss opportunities to invite new followers of Jesus to see these topics in different ways. We miss the chance to call disciples deeper into their walk with Jesus, and we give popular culture the chance to have the final say on these issues.
Here are 10 things I think every church needs to be talking about:
Sex has become such a mainstream part of wider culture, you can hardly go through a day without being bombarded with sexual messages. Television commercials are sexualized, magazine covers are right at eye level as you go through the checkout line at the grocery story, and catalogs that come in the mail are sexier than they once were.
As if that isn’t enough, the ease of access to the Internet makes pornography and other sexual addictions that much easier to come by.
We have to be talking about sex in our congregations, or we give culture permission to override what God teaches about sex, love and the sacredness of our bodies.
Marriage is hard. If you’re married, you know what I mean. If you’re single, you’ll probably know sooner or later. We need to be encouraging married couples to keep working on their marriages, even when it’s difficult. We need to remind people about the purpose of marriage so they don’t lose sight.
It’s no surprise that when people don’t understand God’s true purpose for marriage and marriage becomes hard, many marriages will end in divorce. We need to be sensitive about how we talk about divorce, recognizing that, statistically speaking, a large portion of your audience will be divorced or come from a divorced family.
But we need to talk openly and honestly about God’s plan for marriages, as well as his redemptive power even in the midst of broken circumstances.
When we choose to follow Jesus, that decision should impact every area of our lives, including finances. Most pastors I know hate to talk about money. They’re each trying to avoid the stigma that pastors are always trying to get money from their congregation. Be willing to check your motives on this: Are you trying to get money from the people in your church, or do you really want to help people manage their resources in a godly way?
Addictions reveal themselves in all kinds of ways: Alcohol. Drugs. Pornography. Food. Internet. Exercise. Chances are, most people in your congregation suffer from at least a common addiction, and maybe a more serious one, and it’s preventing them from a satisfying, fulfilling relationship with Jesus.
We need to recognize there are people who are walking in the doors of our churches each Sunday who aren’t sure about Jesus. They might be new believers, they might not be believers, and they might be long-time members of our churches. Let’s give these people room to ask questions and room to answer them.
God is not scared by our questions. Let’s not make a villain out of doubt.
7. Mental Illness
The church cannot continue to ignore this conversation. We have to create a safe place for people who are afflicted to find hope and healing. We have to be willing to talk about it honestly.
8. Physical Health and Healing
Nobody wants to talk about this in our current culture, but Jesus makes a strong connection in the Gospels between our physical health and our spiritual health. Often He heals a person’s soul and their body simultaneously. I’m struck by the way He often asks, “Do you want to be well?”
Most people who come to church on Sundays are not asking themselves what they think about Calvinism vs. Armenianism. Most are asking these questions: Who am I? Why do I matter? Everything that matters about our walk with Jesus flows out of the answer to these questions. Don’t miss the chance to answer them.
10. Social Justice
We live in a place and time where we have more expendable resources than ever before. It might not feel like we’re rich, but we are, and that wealth comes with incredible responsibility. Are you talking with your church about how they can use their time, money and other resources to bring justice to the world? Are you promoting and partnering with any of the hundreds of social justice initiatives around the world? Are you helping people get connected?