Evil-Speaking

Have you ever gotten frustrated with someone in your church? I think it’s a safe assumption that the answer would be ‘yes’ for almost anyone who has ever claimed a church as his or her own. Working alongside others toward a common goal can be invigorating. Sometimes, though, our ministry partners disappoint us. How we respond to this will often shape whether or not the team will be effective in the end.

Too often, church people fall into the trap of what John Wesley described as ‘evil-speaking.’ Today, we might refer to this as gossip or talking behind someone’s back. We have a concern about someone’s behavior, and we talk about it with everyone but the person. In his recent book Lead Like Wesley, Mark Gorveatte describes how such behavior can undermine a team by eroding trust—especially in a church. “Speaking negatively about people who are not present sows seeds of mistrust in an organization,” he writes. “When that behavior is tolerated, even the participants are left to wonder what is said about hem when they are not present” (70).

Addressing problem behavior, however, is important to the well-being of a church team. Avoiding evil-speaking does not mean ignoring problems or avoiding confrontation. The difference is in how it’s done. Jesus taught a better way of dealing with conflict (Matthew 18:15-17). First, speak to the person directly apart from others. This gives him or her the opportunity to hear and respond without fear or embarrassment. If that doesn’t work, bring in a couple other trusted people to demonstrate that your concern is valid. If he or she is still resistant, bring your concern before the entire team. When this process is done charitably, most people will respond positively. Those who don’t probably shouldn’t be part of the team.

By avoiding evil-speaking, we honor God and strengthen our teams, churches, and communities. It’s normal to experience frustration with those with whom we serve. How we deal with our frustrations will make or break the group. What a great opportunity to model what it means to live as a follower of Christ.

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