I have to be honest. I love rumor boards when it comes to sports. These boards and, sometimes, articles will speculate on trade discussions, coaching hires, and, in college sports where a high school prospect might play. It’s fun and entertaining, especially during the offseason, and allows for conversations to take place in between games.
While I might love rumor mills when it comes to athletics, I recognize there is a cost associated with these rumors. A coach who is rumored to go to a different program or team may lose support with their current employer and fan base because of those reports. The rumor may not be true, but the mere accusation can promote uneasiness among a fan base. A player who is rumored to seek a trade may, as well, have a difficult time convincing ownership that they want to remain with a team, especially if the rumors proved to be false. As much as I love the game of rumors and speculation, I recognize there are real costs to them.
I wonder, though, if we recognize this within the life of the church. Do we recognize the danger of sharing rumors and gossip and how it affects our connection with one another and mission?
Rumors and gossip seem to come up in conversations about almost everything in the life of the church. Did you hear what this person said? I heard we are going to do this? When this happens, we are going to vote to do this? We could keep going, and going, and going. These are just some of the places that begin conversations that tend towards rumors and gossip being spread.
Rumors and gossip affect the shared connection within a community of faith and how we understand what is taking place. They have been around since the earliest days of the church. Paul writes warnings to several churches about their connection to rumors and gossip, especially the church in Corinth. The Corinthian community was, especially, dealing with divisions and rumors, which Paul urged against in 2 Corinthians 12:20. There he writes:
“For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be questioning, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”
Paul is quite clear how these attitudes, especially gossip, can lead to a community of faith moving away from its relationship with God and reflecting something quite different than what God intended. These attitudes create pain, hardship, and discord where there should be connection, transparency, and hope shared within the body of Christ.
So, why do we share rumors or gossip? For one, much like what we do with sports, we want people to believe that we have some special knowledge or understanding of a situation. Often times, though, our knowledge is only limited or based on a limited understanding of a situation, but that doesn’t prevent us from sharing with others what we think we know. We want to be seen as “in the know,” “smart,” and “aware” and, sometimes, the best way to do that is to share with others what we think we know, even if it isn’t the full story.
We also share rumors and gossip in the church, because we want to galvanize support towards what we want in a given situation. If we are unhappy with something in the community of faith, the best way to get it changed, we often feel, is to have support. The best way to get support, often, is to let others know what you think is going on and how it could have a negative impact on the church. It doesn’t matter if, again, our information is not fully accurate, all we are concerned with is getting people to agree with our take on a situation. What that does, though, is create distrust in the process and our shared connection with one another.
All of this and more leads to the church being absent of its true intent. The church should be the ongoing witness of Jesus Christ. It is to be a missional change agent in our communities and in the lives of one another. When the church is defined by rumors, gossip, and innuendo mission gets replaced by stagnation and connection is overtaken by disunity and fear. These attitudes do not spur growth, but promote decline and distance from our very mission to love God, grow in faith, and serve the Lord.
Sharing rumors and gossip may be enjoyable, but it has no place in the life of our shared connection and its detrimental to the body of Christ. If the church is to turn the tide of decline in the United States, it must involve us putting down the weapons of rumors and gossip that reduces our mission to mere talking points. We will have to get serious about having honest and open conversations with one another and remember what we are truly to be about.
That will not happen until we stop believing in rumors and gossip.