It seems that sometimes we deal with sin in the church with the same approach that the government deals with terrorism: It is impossible to remove it completely so we just kind of have to accept it and do our best to keep people safe.

Buttressed up against this common practice is the biblical teaching that sin is devastating. Let’s not forget that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), the price paid for redemption from sin is death (Rom. 5:6), the reality for the a believer is that they are dead to sin (Rom. 6:11), and the ongoing priority for Christians is to put sin to death (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5; Heb. 12:1-2). This includes all sin. Every. Single. One.


Gossip is one sin that seems to fall in the spiritual “No-Man’s Land” between passivity and vigilance. But this should not be. Gossip is the RPG that blasts holes in the fabric of the church. The way I see it every time someone gossips they injure at least 3 people: the one speaking, the one hearing, and the one being gossiped about. Add to this that gossip is usually not a one time deal but rather involves multiple conversations, we can quickly see how this is the Devil’s Ponzi scheme for getting rich on disunity and providing quick returns to those seeking to gratify the flesh.


Let’s be honest; we know what gossip is. It is speaking about someone in a way that defames, dishonors or otherwise hurts their character. Sometimes it is subtle, like grumbling about someone, and other times it is loud, like ranting about someone. Further, sometimes the content of what is said is true other times it is not. Either way, the person hearing does not need to know the information, they don’t benefit from it. And, most times it is not actionable; they are are not going to go and help the person, instead they are just going to tuck away the information for selfish use.

Gossip, and its cousins: slander, divisive speech, and deceitful speech are roundly rebuked in the Scriptures (Ps. 101:5; Prov. 6:16-19, 11.13, 20:19; Titus 3:2). Instead of cutting people down with verbal assassinations we are to give words of life and grace (Eph. 4:29).

I don’t think we need to convince people what it is, but, we can bring an awareness of how God feels about it and how destructive it is in the life of the church. We need to know what to do about it. We need to know, how to shut it down.


(1) Refuse it.

The obvious first step to shutting down gossip would have to be to convince people of how God views gossip. We can do this by intentionally putting it before people. We can remind people in sermons, conversations, and prayer of the destructiveness of gossip. This is simply calling attention to it. Instead of being passive (not talking about it) we need to be active, without becoming preoccupied by it.

If this is done faithfully then people will become aware of gossip when it comes to them or perhaps when they find themselves scratching the seemingly insatiable itch to dish up a little sumthin on someone. They will also think twice about vocalizing their grumbling about another person to someone else. If convinced of the vileness of the practice in God’s eyes then they will carefully avoid “gossip-baiting” people. This is the practice when someone thinks that someone else may have some intel on another person or situation. Then they subtly begin talking about it, gently massaging the perimeter of the topic, while waiting to see if the person will take the bait and give up the goods.

What if the church could spot gossip a mile away? What if they hated it? What if they believed the Bible and were convinced that to gossip was to display hatred for God and others? What if they believed that it served to fracture the unity that Jesus bought and the Spirit created? Then they would react like an NBA big man and reject the gossip by swatting it into the 3rd row.

For example, as a pastor someone might come to me and say, ”I need to talk to you about something.” I usually reply, “Something or someone?” If they “someone.” then I say, “Did you talk to ‘someone’ yet?” I redirect them back. I don’t want to hear about someone if that someone hasn’t heard about it first.

This may be different for a laymen. Perhaps someone will come up to you and say, “I am really frustrated with ______ ‘s attitude. They walk around like they own the place. She never says ‘hi’ or even looks at me. What is her deal?” You may be tempted to say, “Yeah. You’re right. I’ve never noticed it but she ignores me too!” But, let me encourage you to think God’s thoughts after him. Reject the gossip. Instead, something like, “Have you talked to her about this? Please don’t drag me into your issues with her. You need to work this out–whatever it is–for the sake of Christ.” This rejects the bait of the complaint and sheds light on the issue.

(2) Rebuke it.

Let’s say someone is talking about another person. They may get started slowly but soon enough they carving up their character like a Thanksgiving turkey. As you get your bearings and manage to interrupt the onslaught, you should says something like, “Brother/sister, you are really speaking negatively about ____ is this even true? This is gossip. Have you even spoken to them about this?”

Go on to show them what the Bible says and how destructive this is. Show them that they are defaming their brother/sister, a child of God. Explain how this assaults God’s plan and harms God’s people. Call the sin of gossip what it is and tell them that they should in fact repent and bear fruit in repentance by controlling their tongue and speaking words of grace. Once we understand the damage of gossip we will become vigilant to ensure that it is expunged from our churches. This means that we will be compelled to have the difficult conversations that call it what it is and demand that our brothers and sisters think God’s thoughts after him, even about gossip.

(3) Redirect it.

There are three aspects of this: first to Christ, second back to the person, and third to others they have gossiped to.

First, redirect people back to Christ. The reason for gossip is because they are believing a lie about God and themselves. Remember, Satan was the first gossiper when he talked trash about God. Show them how Jesus died for their sins, even the sins committed post-conversion. This sin should be a magnet to draw them back to the person and work of Christ for repentance, forgiveness, and refreshing. (In this it should be noted that their issue is not just with another person but Christ. Jesus is Lord of the church; and so they are sinning against him.)

Second, redirect people back to the person. If they have an issue with someone they should go and talk to them. If they have done some damage to the person’s character then they should go and tell the person in humility and ask for their forgiveness. I will often tell the person that I will follow up with them in a week or so to see how the conversation went.

Third, they should also go in humility to the other people they have gossiped to. This closes the loop and reinforces the need to reject the sin of gossip. It reminds, or perhaps educates, those who have been exposed to this sin, of the nature and danger of it.


Gossip is nasty. It is never good and should be despised by all who love Christ and his church. Instead of being passive and tolerating something that is widespread we should be vigilant to remove something that is destructive and vile. Let’s step our game up and, starting with ourselves, work to shut down gossip.

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27 thoughts on “How to Shut Down Gossip”

  1. Yolanda says:

    Good article. You should note; however, that there are things that people may need to go straight to you as a pastor with–abuses for example. I dearly hope you won’t accidentally turn anyone away to talk to an abuser first. Or accidentally make a reader feel that he or she can’t talk about it.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Yolanda, yes, good point of clarification. Thanks for your comment.

      1. Kathy Johnson says:

        Erik, I seriously think that the whole counsel of God should be in this article. Gossip is idle chatter. I live in a close knit neighborhood and I know what that is and being a woman I experience this struggle. However, are we not told to go to our brother in love and when they will not listen, take another with you? My daughter has been recently married and has been the object of knife twisting “sniper statements” and quickly retracted by an insincere, “Oh I was just kidding”. I have witnessed this for myself. The sniper had been confronted by one particular statement with then finance with the mother and father present. She plead innocence. Then, after the wedding, out of the blue she tells me how she had been in big trouble and still doesn’t know what she did. All I said was, “Oh?” I would not get involved and jeopardize my daughter’s marriage. The remarks continue, my daughter tries her best to respond as God would want and later has melt downs pleading for help with her husband. Her keeping quiet about this isn’t helping anyone. Confronting her mother-in-law is met with an innocent, “Whatever do you mean?” They need a professional christian counselor, for sure. But, my main point is that her sharing this abuse is not gossip.

        1. Tam says:

          Kathy, I know what your daughter is going through. I went through the same things. She is in my prayers. May God heal the relationship,

  2. Chuckt says:

    Another way to shut down gossip is to ask the person, “Do you mind if I go to the other person and ask if it is true?”

  3. Mike says:

    As a full time missionary, mentor and ex-elder I have counseled, written and taught on this subject for years. Gossip rips apart the Bride of Christ from the inside. Erik, you have done a wonderful job on this subject. Thank you.

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      thanks for the comment and the encouragement Mike.

  4. Robert says:

    Thanks for your article. “Let’s be honest; we know what gossip is. It is speaking about someone in a way that defames, dishonors or otherwise hurts their character. ” I’m not sure it is always clear. Sometimes, defaming or hurting somebody’s character is inevitable – for example if a gross sin (perhaps stealing or adultery) has been committed by a church leader. “Love covers a multitude of sins”, but we can’t cover up serious sin in the church when others are in danger of being harmed, or if the sin concerned disqualifies somebody from leadership.
    In other situations, perhaps the problem is that we don’t know how to confront directly. We know the conversation is likely to go badly, that our Christian brother or sister will likely become defensive and refuse to accept our correction – and of course, we feel inadequate to do so. Who am I, a sinner, to correct my brother or sister? Let’s give a theoretical example (albeit based on my past experience) – perhaps there is a person in your church who tends to be grumpy and legalistic – he often complains to others for not meeting their commitments, rarely thanks people (and when he does it’s only a formality) – but he’s so touchy that he won’t listen to criticism himself. It’s difficult to know how to phrase the rebuke in any case – do you simply try to encourage him to see God’s grace? Do you merely refer to a specific incident of mean-spirited criticism – but he will quickly find justification (“He forgot to bring what I asked!”) ? Do you speak in generalities “I find you are often rather critical towards others – some praise would be good” – the trouble being that it’s difficult to model praise not criticism by criticizing somebody yourself! – and it seems so general that it’s difficult for the person to see his harmful behaviour when the criticism is given so broadly. So in the meantime, people are being discouraged by this person and they mention this you – but according to this article you should refuse to have anything to do with this criticism and refuse to listen to them express their discouragement. Also, what then happens when this person is recommended for leadership? Do we stay quiet and refuse to say any bad things about them? This of course is the opposite of the secular world, where in the workplace we are often given confidential review forms where we can freely express any difficulties or problems we’re having. The reason the employer makes it confidential is they know that often if there’s a mean or difficult line manager, the employee may feel unable to express the problems directly, and may need to “gossip” over the head of the line manager to get the issue resolved (which may in some cases mean getting the bad line manager removed).
    I guess one other issue I have with opposing gossip is that I once knew a church leader who used this as a way to protect himself, by labelling all discussion of the church’s problems, or saying anything bad about the leadership, as “gossip” so that debate about what he was doing was stifled. Perhaps sometimes a leader will accuse the church of gossiping because he secretly fears a leadership challenge, that members of the church are plotting against him behind his back. And occasionally a church can develop such a climate of fear, that a bit of “gossiping” (ideally with somebody from a different church) may be very helpful in trying to understand the problems going on in the church and get some perspective on them (or indeed, simply to decide to leave).
    A final example is if somebody is harmful – perhaps a con artist. If a person follows the advice in your article, then they won’t believe the warnings of a former victim and could fall right into the same trap! I can think of 2 incidents where harmful people were “gossiped” about in the Bible – Doug the Edomite in Psalm 52 (I somehow doubt David went to Doug beforehand before writing it) and Alexander the metalworker in 2 Tim 4:14. Paul clearly expected Timothy to heed his warning and act upon the bad report he gave of Alexander, not for Timothy to rebuke Paul for being a gossip.
    So I guess a better guideline when deciding whether to gossip is the 3 questions I read of somewhere: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it helpful?”. If you can honestly answer “Yes” to these 3 questions (so it’s not false, malicious or harmful gossip) then there should be no fear in sharing the information. Anyway, hope you won’t mind this rather lengthy reply!

  5. D'laina Hunt says:

    Love this article. One question though: what if someone wants to talk to their pastor first about something someone is doing to them or maybe just a way a certain person is living their life and they are concerned but unsure of how to approach the person about the issue? Is that wrong?

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      I don’t think it is wrong. There are examples where there needs to be specifics. I tend to use this phrase as more of a shocking statement in order to flush out potential gossips. It is often helpful to talk in generic terms about issues and then make a point to have a follow up conversation. Good points of clarification.

  6. Steph Johnson says:

    This article is very much appreciated. I do think there is some benefit to clarify gossip a little more, though. Everyone understands the malicious type of gossip…however the type of gossip that I believe is more common in church is the gossip that comes across as “sharing a prayer request.” Even if you mean no harm…it is still gossip. I ran into this recently where I called out the gossip, but because they were doing it out of love, it was defended. It is still wrong.

  7. Thanks for this article Erik, and for the very practical advice offered. Wanted to ask though whether you had any strategies for dealing with gossip stuff among the many “not-yet-Christians” I am friendly with. How do I close down or move on a conversation that is starting to get unhelpfully gossipy — but without appearing to be superior and unhelpfully holier than thou?

  8. Debbie M says:

    I belonged to a church where several were trying to get the congregation turned against the pastor. He was biblically sound and my husband and I saw nothing amiss with him nor his leadership. This one woman called me and began to tell me all kinds of things about the pastor and his wife. I stopped her midstream and asked her why was she calling me on this. She expressed that she was concerned as others were about the leadership of the pastor. I asked for specific areas of concern which she could not express. I then asked her why she was calling me. She said that since I was a leader that she felt I should be aware of what was going on. I expressed to her that she has never felt I should be informed on matters which would effect me. I told her that I felt that the phone conversation was over and that I would be considering this gossip since she could not substantiate any facts. I went to the pastor’s wife and discussed it with her. This resulted in a meeting with the two people who were trying to undermine the pastor, the head deacon, the pastor’s wife, some other leaders and myself. This woman demanded that she receive an apology from me before the meeting began. I apologized that she was offended at being referred to as a gossip. She accepted that apology. Since that time, my husband and I left the church the pastor and his wife left the church and the church continues going through pastors. I have been approached by several members who said we need to come back as that pastor was now gone. I have expressed to them that I had no problems with the pastor. He was biblically sound and he was the man God placed there. Never once did I hear the accusations which were being held against him and when I asked, they looked at me blankly. We have not returned.

  9. Jan says:

    As a pastor’s wife I have had more than my share of gossip mongers.
    And I’ve tried every which way of dealing with it.
    I think there is no simple way to approach this. There are levels of gossip even. Some just want to establish a sense of intimacy with the person they are gossiping to, or about. I think those are the easiest ones to confront and deal with.
    Others are venomous and out to destroy an individual and gossip for them is more than even bullying. It can be slanderous. We are actually going through that now with a women from 12 years ago who is intent on doing everything she can to ruin us in our small community. She does not attend our church and did when we first arrived. Her chosen pastor wasn’t candidated and she hated our guts from day one.
    This kind of person is not just dangerous, but used by Satan to destroy individuals and ministry. And I believe at some point enough is enough.
    We have actually had people come to our door, who do not attend our church, to find out if the rumors are true. I get messages from non Christians who are supportive of us, praise God, so far. But then there are those who blame, condemn and judge without any facts. This is just sin plain and simple. And I think at some point you may have to call it out in a more public way.
    I don’t have all the answers. But as our society deteriorates, and narcissists abound, along with unrealistic expectations of churches and their staff members, we are going to have to be more bold about saying enough is enough.
    Just my two cents!

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      I am sorry to hear this Jan. This is some of the burnt over impact of this sin. Boldness corresponding with speaking the truth in love is needed.

  10. Whitney says:

    What a convicting and edifying read. Perhaps I could get some clarification on your suggestion to approach the injured party? I can certainly see the need to make amends in instances where the person knows they have been gossiped about, but are you also recommending confession to those who might not have known they were gossiped about? I would think that more damage would be done to that person through revealing to them the sin that has occurred against them rather than confessing it to God and those who were parties to the gossip. It strikes me that taking such action would not be in wisdom. What are your thoughts?

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      There would need to be some care given here, for the reason you mentioned. I would not be comfortable saying always and every time do this exactly like this. However, there needs to be some consideration here.

  11. Highly recommended: Matthew C. Mitchell, Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2013); on Amazon at [accessed 9 MAY 2015].
    Matt Mitchell’s blog site is at [accessed 9 MAY 2015].

    1. Erik Raymond says:

      Will check ‘em out. Thanks John.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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