By Dennis C. Abernathy
It is sad that local churches have problems, but the fact of the matter is that they do from time to time. Local churches in the New Testament had internal problems and churches today will have them. At times problems are stirred by certain individuals and the flame of turmoil is fanned until it reaches an inferno. More often than not these flame-fanners (trouble-makers) hide behind the cloak of anonymity. In situations where strife is thick, try asking a few pertinent questions.
Who are the “they” in “They say the preacher isn’t doing his job”? Who is the “we” in “We think the elders ought to step down”? Who is “someone” in “Someone told me that no one is friendly to the new members”? Who are the “many” or “A lot of people” who complain about this or that anonymously? Well, usually “many” means “one or two,” “someone” means “me,” “we” means “me, myself and I,” and “they” usually can’t be found anywhere!
The critic may say, “A large number of the brethren feel this way.” When asked to name a few of the brethren, he responds: “I don’t want to name names.” How can problems be solved or disgruntled members of the church be corrected if names are not mentioned, especially if “a large number of people really do feel this way”? In most cases one must have specific information to solve problems. The reason so many churches have internal problems and also problems with neighboring congregations is the failure in getting specific information. Some brethren (preachers included) believe any and everything without bothering to check out the information. May I suggest something for your consideration? Anonymous critics who relay gossip and slander and who create imaginary supporters have no desire to resolve anything! They just want to cause trouble and that they surely will do if we listen to them!
The simple solution for not getting caught in the middle of a situation where we are asked “not to tell who said it” or where someone is heaping their disgruntlement of the brethren on you, is to point the anonymous critic to Matthew 18:15-17. Let us all read that passage over and over, and when properly applied, it will stop a lot of the critics who bask in anonymity!
Brethren, as hard as it may be, let us all resolve not to listen to someone gossiping about a problem they have with a brother or sister and treat anonymous complaints like we treat anonymous letters to the editor . . . just don’t publish them! The Bible warns against slander and malicious gossip. David said to the Israelites: “Whoso privily slandered his neighbor, him will I cut off” (Psa. 101:5). If someone won’t sign his name to a complaint or qualifies his remark with “don’t use my name,” one of two things is usually true: either he has no good reason to complain or he is just lying!
Brethren it is possible for us to allow ourselves to be a pawn in some brother or sister’s effort to hurt someone through malicious gossip or slander. Don’t do it!
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 13, p. 399
July 7, 1988