Saturday, October 07, 2006

Closing Session

Doug Phillips remarks that the weekend has included twenty three different sessions. This will be a panel discussion with most of the presenters at this weekend's event: Alexander Strauch, Kevin Swanson, Don Hart, William Einwechter, Geoff Botkin, and Scott Brown (Dr. Baucham has already headed back to Houston). The following are as exact as I can transcribe them, but caveat reader.

Phillips: Can we have a simple biblical definition for gossip?

Strauch: Everyone has a burr under their saddle about something. Mine is people passing information around without the facts. Mr. D. E. Host who took over the China Inland Mission after Hudson Taylor said, "The greatest problem we have in this mission is talebearing ..." I can't tell you how many times in our local assembly I have heard [stories without basis] ... No judgment without the facts. Remember what the Scripture says about an elder; you're not even to entertain a report without witnesses.

Einwechter: In the church, gossip is sharing a prayer request about someone you're concerned about. An excuse is the skin of a truth, stuffed with a lie; that's what gossip is.

Botkin: What we use with our children ...: If a person would think less of a person after hearing it, that's gossip. A five year old child can understand that ... Private communication that does not belong or need to take place. There are places and times, jurisdictions and people, that need to deal with these things, and reports that need to be made, to the right people at the right time. But private whispering is not the right time or place to communicate these things.

Brown: There are normal sanctification problems, quirks, poor judgment; then there are egregious sins. When there are egregious sins, then there is a process to be used (Matt 18). But the principle of love covering a multitude of sins comes into play ...

Swanson: Perhaps a broader definition is unedifying conversation. My encouragement to my flock is to be a "building-up" kind of flock. How is this building up my brother? Me? The one we are talking about? ... [But often] they don't want to build up ... to love. ...

Phillips: How long should a gossip matter last after it's been taken to the leadership, and if it continues over many months, what should the individual or congregation do?

Brown: Titus 3:10 says to reject a factious man after a first and second warning, then this category of relationship called, "rejection".

Phillips: What if it simply is not addressed? I confess a challenge we have every single month there is some mild to very serious issue that needs to be addressed. There may be a half-dozen building up at any given time. ... You can't imagine the responsibility on leadership to work through problems and not to rush through it. ... Problem 1, leadership needs to act, but Problem 2, if you are not happy with their action, [how do you respond then?]. But what do you do if your grievance simply isn't being dealt with by the leadership?

Strauch: If you are in a position of leadership, you have to handle these things. If you don't, you lose credibility and authority with the congregation. I think the congregation learns to have confidence in their elders, and it lets the flock rest. If they don't have confidence, you hurt the whole flock and the leadership. I think the important thing is a lot of good communication. [Often] the elders are not communicating well. [Scandals have to be communicated to the congregation but questions directed to the elders] Deal with them right away; the faster you put the fire out the better.

Phillips: If you are grieved because you think a particular shepherd is not acting properly, you need to give your leader the benefit of the doubt, and if they don't deserve that, is that the right place for you to be? And so, you should walk up to the leader and ask, respectfully, [what progress is being made]. I think wise elders should also be willing to say if you have a fundamental grievance but are willing to work things out, we can bring in other men of the congregation ... it may be possible for leadership to become myopic -- though I wouldn't go there quickly. I think most loving leadership will be willing to work with you.

Strauch: We are told to esteem leaders very highly in love, triple intensive -- there is always conflict between leaders and followers. ... I find in the local church, if you will be a good listener and try gently to explain yourself, the thing will generally go away. People just want to be heard. But the gentle approach does work; most things subside after that [when people realize you will be reasonable with them].

Botkin: A kind of grievance that does not build confidence is grumbling. It can develop to the point confidence in the leadership is destroyed for no reason. Elders need to be careful to keep a lid on this. The grumblers [against Moses] were not grumbling against him but against God. Elders need to discern between that and a legitimate grievance.

Hart: It builds confidence when the flock knows that leadership takes gossip seriously, won't tolerate it, and will deal with it. Left unchecked and unaddressed, it will eat a church alive.

Phillips: When the gossips have left, it's like being born again as a body. When they left, it was like everything changed. That's why the Bible is clear, to get them out [if you can't help them]. At Vision Forum we have a maxim that there is only one unpardonable sin at Vision Forum; you are allowed to punch your brother in the face but not to talk about him behind his back. ... That's why we take fencing lessons. Men are able to knock each other over, get up and shake hands, but let that wormtongue out, this will destroy your life.

Body life is so fragile, one gossip can wreck your life and your family.

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