A few years back I received a copy of a small book written by Pastor Marc J. Grimaldi entitled Gossip: The Church Killer. It included a letter from Pastor Grimaldi which indicated he had sent out a copy of his book to pastors such as myself. He said in the letter:
For the ten years that I have served in the gospel ministry, I have found gossip to be one of the deadliest sins, which eats away at the life of Christ’s church. It is amazing to see how a single conversation even, can bring a wave of disruption, with many hearts being infected by the spread of gossip, leading to major problems in the local church. Sadly, gossip is so underrated and precautions must be taken to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, by inoculating our church members with a thorough understanding of the nature and danger of gossip….It is my hope that this short work will be a valuable tool for bringing the awareness of the danger of gossip to the local church, so that we might consciously seek to put this venomous asp to death, counteracting it with words that actually build up the body, rather than tear it down.
Now, I have no reason to believe that Pastor Grimaldi’s goal here is anything but what he has stated — to protect the church. However, most all of our readers will agree that abusers absolutely love to accuse their victims of gossip if the victims tell anyone about the evils being done to them. And pastors and church members often do the same when an abuse victim comes forward to expose the evil and ask for help. “You are gossiping. Go home and respect your spouse.”
So my radar goes up when this topic of gossip comes up. Listen now as Pastor Grimaldi writes on the subject –
Pastor Stewart arrived home and sat at the dining room table next to his wife. It was obvious to Mrs. Steward that something was wrong because the good reverend was clearly aloof and somewhat downcast. Earlier in the day, Mrs. Stewart knew that her husband was preparing to have a difficult meeting with a man who had never been overly supportive of his ministry. Well, apparently, something had happened at that meeting that had discouraged the pastor in some way. It was obvious that things did not go well, so Mrs. Stewart asked, ‘How’d it go?’ Then Pastor Stewart poured out his heart to his wife and explained all that had happened at the meeting. He had shared with her all of the horrible things that Mr. Evans (the man) had said to and about him at the meeting.
There are two very significant things related to this particular story. First, it closely resembles a very real life situation that has actually taken place. I know this because I am the pastor in this story….Second, I learned a very important lesson on that occasion: pastors have to be very careful when speaking to their wives about matters related to the church.
I wanted to begin this chapter addressing pastors first, so that all who read this book will clearly understand that gossip is a serious and dangerous matter against which all people must be on guard. This is not just for the layman. This is for all Christians….Well then, back to the story.
What is so bad about what this pastor has done in the above scenario? Doesn’t a pastor have the right to at least confide in his own wife with respect to the hardships he faces in the ministry? Furthermore, pastor or not, aren’t the two ‘one flesh’ if they are married, giving them the right to share these kinds of things with each other? Well, here’s the problem. By the grace of God, having watch over his own heart (which is hard enough), the pastor can wrestle through such pain and hurt on his own (or with the help of someone who does not know Mr. Evans) and come back to the place in Christ, where love and compassion can still be shown to Mr. Evans. The pastor has no choice but to work through this matter in love because he has been directly involved in the controversy. However, by speaking to his wife, he has now influenced another heart, a heart that would naturally (and especially) be sensitive to the pastor, who happens to be her husband.
What exactly has Pastor Stewart done by telling his wife all of the (true) details about what had happened during his meeting with Mr. Evans? He has created a battle within his own wife; a very selfish, careless, and inconsiderate thing to do (though perhaps unintentional). Even if Pastor Stewart works this all out and finds rest and grace in Christ, is it right to automatically assume that Mrs. Stewart will do the same? What will happen in the heart of Mrs. Stewart the next time she faces Mr. Evans at church and he swings by her with a smile and a ‘hello’? If Pastor Stewart had just worked this out on his own, he could have spared his wife such potential hardship, hurt, and possible bitterness. Also, what if Mrs. Stewart, out of her own hurt, opens up to someone else, perhaps a close friend or her parents? You see, the potential for a schism can be fostered by the lack of discretion used on the part of an ailing pastor.”
What we have set before us here in his book is a formula that most surely will enable and empower evil in its deception and secrecy and keep the victims of evil in bondage indefinitely.
- What message will certainly come across to any abuse victims in the pew when the pastor preaches these things from his pulpit? I can tell you. “If you are being abused at home by your husband, you need to rely on the grace of God and prayer to see you through it and you must not tell anyone about it. If you do, you are guilty of gossip.” Pastor Grimaldi may not intend that result, but I can tell you absolutely that is precisely what will be communicated to these victims.
- Though he probably doesn’t realize it, Pastor Grimaldi is on a personal self-guilting trip which he is calling upon all of us to join in on. He has been wrongly taught himself. As a result, he is in bondage to false guilt. He is not guilty of gossip. But he thinks he is. So he wants everyone else to get under that miserable burden too.
- Pastor Grimaldi fears “schism.” Church splits and divisions. His solution? Keep Mr. Evans’ evil (and that is most certainly what it is, evil) quiet. Zip your lip about what this wicked man has been doing for a long, long time. But schism needs to occur in such a church! Mr. Evans and his allies need to be expelled.
- Victims of evil will certainly be falsely guilted by this concept of gossip. What will be communicated to them is “you are the real problem, not your abuser. Your attitude is the issue here. You must patiently and silently endure.” And the wickedness will continue as the abuser is strongly enabled by all this.
- Pastor Grimaldi’s “no gossip” formula here is actually going to CAUSE schism. First of all, he is going to experience schism in his own marriage. “What’s wrong, dear? You seem so downcast?” “Nothing.” He becomes a husband keeping secrets from his wife, the very one who is given him by God to be his ezer – his warrior helper. And then the wrong kind of schism in the church will occur. The righteous will be eventually driven out.
- Mr. Evans is a classic factious and divisive man. Such a person is to be warned, then put out of the church and the church INFORMED about his wickedness in detail with the scriptural instruction that we are not to have anything to do with such a man. See 1 Cor 5, plus these two overlooked verses in Titus:
- As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)
- This kind of teaching is going to cause pastors (and Christians victimized by evil) to be suckered in by a classic tactic of the enemy’s agents. Isolation and secrecy. Notice that Mr. Evans wanted to meet with the pastor privately. The pastor foolishly agreed (as I have foolishly done so myself before), knowing that this man habitually worked to discourage him. The pastor allowed him to do it again and the pastor must tell no one? That is classic abuser enablement. It is not being wise as a serpent about evil.
There is a second thread of teaching in this book that is problematic as well. Not only will it enable abusers and cause further oppression of victims, but it really sets forth a false notion of just who a Christian is and what a real church is. Christians, says Pastor Grimaldi, must be admonished not to gossip. He says that if there is a church where gossip is rampant, then the church members need to be reminded that gossip is the product of a depraved mind. Yes, it is. But it is not the product of the Christian mind. The Christian is a new creation. The Christian’s mind is not depraved. If there is a “church” that claims to be the body of Christ and yet it is characterized by the sins of a depraved mind, then absolutely there is going to be gossip! But that gossip (reviling) is being done by the wicked who apparently either dominate that church or control it significantly. The solution? Certainly not to be silent about evil, but to announce it from the rooftops so that all will hear and all will know and the wicked will flee because the light of Christ’s truth is too much for them to bear.
Mr. Evans does not need silence. Mr. Evans needs to be called on the carpet before the entire church and short of genuine repentance, put out of the church so that there might be peace. Pastor Grimaldi, I know “Mr. Evans.” I have met people of his spirit many, many times. I have been duped by them and I have been sent into deep despair and discouragement by their evil workings. But I am free of them. I have grown wise about them. I hope the same for you, but I can assure you that the path you are recommending in this book is not the way of wisdom. It will only strengthen the Mr. Evans types in our churches and it will tell his victims that the Lord commands us to be silent about his evil.
Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)
Pastor Crippen, I cannot say, “AMEN!!!” loud enough. Silence and secrecy enable abusers and further hurt their victims. Thank you for the desperately needed truth in this post.
I wonder what Pastor Grimaldi teaches his congregants who are abuse victims, who come to him to tell him and be counseled by him about their abuse (he’d call them “gossips”) by a spouse, a parent, a fellow congregant, a professing “christian”, a staff member…while the abuser is busy doing what all abusers do regularly and especially when in fear of being exposed for what they really are?
The smear campaigns, the gaslighting, the crazymaking, the character assassination, the threats, the ramping up of the abuse ..? Does he consider that “gossip” and “schism” and then reprimand the ABUSER to repent?
Talk about causing a schism in the church! It’s the abuser who is doing that!! Freely, evidently.
If only all pastors would do as you do, Pastor Crippen, and base their reactions, behavior and responsibilities on what God’s Word says about what to do about evil in their churches.
Thank you Z. But don’t think toooo highly of me! I have made some real blunders over the years and it took me a long time to come out of the traditional company program that I was taught growing up in the church and in seminary. I often kick myself for not seeing it sooner. I can say though that I never originated from my heart the practice of telling a victim who came to me to shut up because they were gossiping. Usually in fact I was on the receiving end of this kind of accuser because I talked about wicked people and their deeds openly. Our most notorious and deceptive abuser (who we gave the boot to years ago) used to absolutely love to make this kind of accusation.
Pastor, I do know by your stories that you have learned what you now know through the “School of Hard Knocks” and didn’t always possess or act with the deep wisdom you now have and share with us. And that evil in churches at times duped even you, though not for long!
But I do admire that you CARED enough and took your position as a pastor so seriously that you searched out this issue through the Holy Spirit’s leading and your diligent research into what Scripture says about how to deal with evil in the church (and what many reliable experts say about evil abusers’ tactics). You rightly divided the Word and adjusted your responses and actions accordingly.
We are ALL now beneficiaries of your diligence, knowledge and wisdom. For that, I thank you.
I’m sitting in church listening to a sermon on gossip. Nothing is being said about revealing evil! Nothing is said about telling the truth and revealing the truth about evil wicked doers in the church.
This is the type of teaching I heard while enduring the abuse. All the scriptures about gossip, all the scriptures about a wise man concealing a matter. These pastors say nothing about abusers or the wicked. They say nothing about protecting the sheep it’s off balance. It’s ignoring the most important call of the church —which is feed my sheep.
I had to go back and read your post Pastor Crippen. I spoke out about my abuser and his allies. They are rotten thru and thru and are fakes. I just gave a check to this church. I’m regretting it now.
Yes. Gossip is often a subject wrongly taught and ends up covering evil
The whole ‘don’t gossip!’ admonishment usually comes with the ‘if you can’t say anything nice about a person, don’t say anything at all’ and the ‘when you point the finger at someone else, you have three pointing right back at you’ and all sorts of other evil-enabling admonishments. Same with the whole, ‘nicey nice’ admonishment girls and women get, along with the ‘look for the good’ and ‘be positive / think positive’ harpings, too.
I, too, think the author is also feeling false guilt, having been wrongly taught. I used to be like that.
But, time to throw that old nonsense out the door because there’s real evil to be addressed and we have limited time.
And indeed, there is this ‘radical’ notion that not every church is actually a church, same with the great majority of professing Christians are not actual Christians.
I’m tired of the country club like social niceties dominating the church scene.
Wise as serpents! It’s probably the most important failure of most all churches.
The false notions of what gossip is and how bad a sin it is, keeps a lot of victims quiet. Helps prevent calls to the police. Makes liars out of victims because they have to cover for the abusers (in which case, lying about the crimes is a survival function since the abuser doesn’t want to go to jail and there’s real fear, for one’s family, as far as retaliation and further harms) because they think it’s wrong of them to say anything, so they don’t make a peep for years upon years, despite it being nearly lethal and super extreme……..
So many bad teachings!
This is NOT a reply or comment, but a request for a blog post (or an idea, if nothing else).
You were a cop. A lot of really badly abused women don’t call the police for fear of the police. A lot of conservative Christian circles don’t have a lot about working with the police or anything like that….. and then there’s the whole bad cops aspect, where I’ve heard horror stories of battered women who called the police only to have wifebeater cops show up and give tips to the batterer as to how to better terrorize the victim and what can be done without being arrested, all the while deeming the victim to be crazy, making her feel worthless, etc.
So, maybe an idea, for you, since you are both pastor and former cop. Maybe a blog post about what to expect when calling the police, and what to do if a bad cop shows up….. it’s an area of ignorance for a lot of Christian women who live very conservative lives and all.
But otherwise, I love your blog and love that so many battered and abused women can hear it from a man, a pastor, and a former cop that they aren’t crazy, what was done to them was wrong, that the church’s teachings are usually wrong, that someone else sees how abusers work the church and make them into allies (unwitting or not, it still harms the victim) and all the wisdom, complete with teaching God’s Word. Yay, you! 🙂
What is even more disconcerting is when ‘one’ of your abusers is a cop and you are expected to remain quiet in order not to ruin their reputation. 🙁
Yes. Pretty common unfortunately
I was gossiped and smeared horribly by my fake Christian abusers and his allies. Because I was in the FOG of abuse, was confused and believed it was wrong to gossip I told no one about the evils and perversion I witnessed. This false teaching about gossip further isolated me to the delight of my abuser and his harem. His harem was his buddies, the Bible study teacher and her music minister boyfriend.
Mum of 9
I was just quietly pushed out of our Messianic Congregation for gossiping about my drug addict & verbally/mentally abusive husband.
All I wanted was for the “leaders” to confront my husband about the drug use and abuse and hold my husband accountable.
Instead of doing that they sided with him and put him on the worship team.
They called the police and had me escorted off of the property. They told all the people who tried to defend me that I was the one “projecting” (something that addicts do). They said that I had been kicked out of every church I have attended for the last 20 years and that my husband had to use drugs because I was so awful.
My children and I are now without our church family. I can’t sleep through the night. When I do I wake up crying. I am an emotional wreck.
Are there no scriptures to defend my going to people for help for his drug use and abuse? Did I deserve this treatment according to God’s Word?
Mum- what happened to you is sadly typical of how victims of domestic abuse are treated in churches. What you experienced is the same thing that happened to the blind man Jesus healed in John 9. But Jesus is not in such a place just as He was not in the Jerusalem temple. The man healed found Jesus, the true Temple, outside that building made with hands. You had every right and duty to expose your husband’s evil. Scriptures like 1 Cor 5 make that plain to all who have ears to hear God’s Word.
Mum of 9
Thank-you Pastor Crippen. Your lessons have helped me so much. Please, keep up the good work. Women like me need your teachings. God’s speed!!
This happened in my church. When people started speaking up there WAS a split and then the pastor completely left to go to a different denomination altogether. He founded that church as nondenominational. It was insane. The first split was called “the great exodus” among us. The second time my family left. I think the remaining group has recovered from the pastor’s toxicity and silencing. Many of us fell victim to abuse in multiple manners as a result of the gossip sermon which was preached every October for 14 years.