Have you ever been fired?  If so, it was probably for non-performance, or misbehavior on the job, or company-wide austerity measures.  Not fun, but understandable.

            Have you ever been fired because people gossiped about you?  Probably not.  But preachers get it all the time.  Let me try to explain how it happens.

            Someone — frequently a very close friend — gets his knickers in a bunch because of something you say from the pulpit.  It wasn’t wrong.  You had Scripture to back yourself up.  But he felt picked on.  He can’t talk to you about it because, deep down, he knows he doesn’t have a Scriptural case.  So he talks to the elders.  He accuses you of insensitivity, or being unavailable, or preaching your opinions.  The elders, seeking to keep the peace, promise they will “take care of it.”  The word “gossip” never comes up.  The obvious question, “Shouldn’t he be here to defend himself?” is never uttered.  The complainer is placated, not rebuked.

            The elders go to the preacher.  No names are attached to the charges.  (Gossip ceases to be gossip when it is the elders listening to it, evidently.)  Assurances of their support are given.  “No big deal,” they say.  “Keep up the good work.”

            The preacher tries to tweak the “problem” areas, but since no one is criticizing him to his face, it is impossible to tell whether he has tweaked it enough to suit.  He probably suspects who the complainer is, but he (being a Christian) gives the benefit of the doubt.  It will blow over, surely.  But it doesn’t.  And the next time the preacher does something even moderately incorrect, the gossip is rekindled and spreads to others.  Before long there is an undercurrent of insurrection — at least, that’s the way it is portrayed when the complainer goes back to the elders a second time.  Maybe the elders still don’t see the problem with the preacher, but it’s obvious that there is an issue that needs to be handled.  And instead of telling the members to grow up and act godly, it’s easier to just fire the preacher.  After all, there’s always another one.



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