Is it biblical (or gossip) to correct unhealthy church practice or theology publicly?
American Missionary and Pastor of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk in Svitlovodsk, Ukraine
Well, it couldn’t be gossip if you’re doing it publicly (gossip is not generally defined as “public”), but it might be slander and divisive, depending on how you do it. A lot of it depends on how “wrong” you think it is. If you are in the church leadership, I think honesty would dictate being up front with other leaders about disagreements on policy or doctrine and explaining your position in a spirit of love. If there is a general readiness to allow variance among leaders on these positions, there is no slander or disrespect in simply telling people your position. If the leadership has made clear their position and discourages promoting any other position, then I see only a couple options. One is to patiently continue to pray and humbly discuss with those leaders your position until they come around to it. But that means in the meantime you aren’t out sowing seeds of dissension behind their backs. This is generally if the matter is not of first importance and you are willing to bend a bit. the other option is to clearly state your inability to support their position and, in love and humility, peacefully leave the church in good standing. this is if the matter is of greater importance but not something that affects salvation itself. third is if the church is promoting all out heresy and twisting the question of salvation itself. at this point the church is no longer a valid representative of God and you can not only voice your opinion contrary to the leaders, but leave and attempt to rescue as many as you can from heresy on your way out. this is really only in extreme cases where people have gotten so far off base that what they’re teaching will literally damn the souls of their hearers. so the pastor became a JW, raise hell and get out.
Student at Moody Bible College (and bear hunting guide in Kodiak, AK)
Titus 3:9-10 tells us how to respond to hurt feelings. This says to warn the divisive person which could be in public I guess. That’s not gossip. It’s stopping gossip. 2 Tim. 2:14-18, 22-26 gives more commentary on how to avoid conflict. This says to correct your opponents with gentleness. Matthew 18:15-22 gives a private, group, public approach to rebuking the one who has sinned against you. 2 Cor. 2:5-11 explains how to handle a believer who has caused you pain: forgive, comfort, love. Gal. 6:1-2 tells us how to help someone caught in sin. Luke 17:1-4 also explains how to respond to someone who has sinned against you: forgive. Now 1 Tim. 5:19-20 gives procedures for rebuking an elder who has sinned. This has to be public. So for church practice or theology, it definitely needs to be public, but it could be preceded by private biblical steps I’ve referenced.
Nathaneal P. Taylor
Graduate of Westminster Seminary and Ruling Elder at Christ Church Presbyterian in Irvinet, CA
Yes, it is biblical to do that, but only under certain circumstances. If they ask you publicly or if it is appropriate for one to speak on it publicly without interrupting a service in a rude fashion.
Graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and former pastor of Vintage Life Church in Fontana, CA
It is absolutely biblical to correct unhealthy church practice or theology publicly. Read virtually all of Paul’s letters and even John’s epistles to see their public correction of error and sin. Paul publicly pointed out Peter’s error in not eating with the gentiles when the Jews showed up. It was important for him to do that to show that even the Apostles are to be held publicly accountable for their unbiblical theology and actions.
Former Calvary Chapel Ontario Assistant Pastor and Current Executive Director of Tri-County Love INC, a compassion based ministry in Eastern Oregon
Good question. I think it is biblical to correct church practice and theology in public. The philosopher in me says that each side should bring it’s best arguments and there is a definitive winner and loser.
I think it’s always best to make sure to give a fair interpretation to someone. That is to assume the best position that they mean as opposed to the worst. Example, suppose I post on Facebook about having a drink at a party. The best interpretation would be to understand that I had a single drink at the party. The worst interpretation would be that I’m going to drinking parties and imply that the only reason I would do so is to get wasted. One is entirely sinful, the other only could be sinful.
Pastor of Calvary Chapel Central Maui
It’s biblical as long as you follow Matthew 18.
What if you are not at the church but you know a lot of people that go? You have talked to the elders and they continue in it?
I typically name out the practice, state how it’s wrong, challenge the people to fact check me
Long time friend and avid theology student
Yes, it is biblical correct false teaching and unhealthy church practice, but there is a fine line correction and gossip/prideful scorn. I know some that make their entire “ministry” about pointing out how everyone else has got it wrong. The spirit in which they carry it out sounds very similar to a clanging cymbal. I think that it’s important that we pick our battles wisely here. Some hills aren’t worth dying on or causing a ruckus over, yet all too often we see people taking it upon themselves to correct this pastor or that pastor publicly, over relatively minor issues.
Long time friend, evangelist and avid theology student
Spiritually unhealthy practices or theology should be publicly or openly shunned and exposed. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Romans 16:17) Elders who sin, should be rebuked by an elder before the church. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1 Timothy 5:19-21) Accusations against elders should only be received “before two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19) Gossip or slander is rooted in the act of “hiding hatred with lying lips.” “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.” (Proverbs 10:18) We slander others when affirm that they say things which they do not. “…we be slanderously reported….” (Romans 3:8).
Graduate of Master’s Seminary, Co-Founder and President of Chicago Reformed Seminary
I would say yes to all 4 questions.
Pastor of Cross Connection in Escondido, CA
Biblical….? Dunno. Healthy? Sure. But I would do so sparingly. All in all I tend to take the Philippians 1:15-18 approach. Unless it is a destructive teaching that is clearly hindering salvation or leading people astray. Issues of practice and cultural differences I tread lightly around. I tend to do the same on interpretative issues on non-essential teachings. So I’d say that probably limits (greatly) the amount of public discourse I would make.
Youth Pastor at New Song Christian Community Church in Wildomar, CA
Obviously Matthew 18 says to go to the people first (Leadership) like Aquila & Priscilla did. Be ready for a straight up rebuke from them. I don’t personally know the people, but 9 times out of 10, leadership doesn’t like to be challenged, period. It’s sad, but true. To give a good answer I kinda need to know more. Honestly sometimes churches do things that might seem odd to us, but we may not be seeing the whole picture.
Jim Teri Baugh
Former Pastor who now works in International Leadership Development at Global Training Network
It can be divisive and gossip to correct “unhealthy” church practice in public if you do not take the correct steps. Who is the authority to say what is unhealthy? Is it a method that’s being used, a debatable theological perspective, or is it a clear violation of Scripture. That’s the purpose of Mathew 18, 2 Corinthians 13, and 1 Timothy 5:19. In this passage (1 Timothy 5), it says to rebuke the elder in the presence of all. Does the context speak of rebuking in the presence of all the elders, or all the church?( I take it as a progressive step. You rebuke him in front of the elders, and if it continues, before the church. But all passages speak of progressive steps. First you go privately; then you take an impartial witness(es) on the second round of confrontation because the confronter may be the one who is in sin, not the one accused. In fact, Paul warns against the divisive person (Titus 3:9-11) who want to argue about issues that are at their core, divisive. At the heart, confrontation always involves a thorough heart examination of the one who is confronting. (Galatians 6:1, Mathew 7:3-4) . I serve pastors from a broad theological perspective. However, I view agreement on the essentials of the faith foundational to work with them. (Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia,Sola Christus, Sola Deo Gloria.) I always ask the question in debatable points, is this issue the hill I want to die on?
Pastor of The Shelter Church in San Diego
This is a hard question. If it is pertaining to scandelous behavior of the leadership. I say, do your homework, pray about it and take a stand with witnesses and a respectful attitude.
Things are easily taken out of context. We must use scripture, 2 Ti 3:16 says all scripture is profitable for rebuke and correction etc. This should be done with 2 or 3 witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19) and by done by people who have the position to be heard. If there are none of those people around, then expect to be treated like the reformers in bringing reform. Count the cost and pray if that is your role. Read some Bonhoffer.
Pastor of Downtown Cornerstone Church in Seattle, WA
If you follow Mt 18, and there’s no response, Jesus does include a public element. But my encouragement, from experience, is to be more patient, more gracious and allow for more time than you think necessary. You don’t want the tables turned on you and you want to be able to look back with a clean conscience. There’s a lot at stake, no matter how you dice it.
Pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in St Cloud, MN
I think PUBLIC correction (especially names) should mainly be reserved for heresy…false doctrine… The challenge of discerning clearly what is improper or wrong APPLICATION of doctrine is a different matter than identifying the teaching of false doctrine.
Former elder, long time friend, evangelist and avid theology student
Scripture clearly says to rebuke an elder if he is in sin, (but with two or 3 witnesses) very wise indeed. Unfortunately, a church practically (by a work of the Spirit), must be changed from the inside out. And sometimes that change could take years.. perhaps even decades. (It is one thing if a church was started one way, and then slipped away from it’s purpose and mission, it is quite another if it is being consistant with it’s founding doctrines). Truth can only be communicated by the Holy Spirit, and scripture tells us that we must patiently teach those that oppose the message. (Praying that God would grant them repentance. (In a real sense, error and heresy are a judgement from God. (Unfortunately many good brothers have their own ideas of what they think is orthodox), so in light of that correct the things which are essential. (Not end times views, modes of baptism, polity, and the such, even know they are important, the main question is the gospel). Is the gospel being preached? There was a time when I viewed Arminiasim as anti gospel, and i think that is a wrong and unhealthy view. (even the Westminster calls them our brothers)
Pastor of Smyrna Presbyterian in Smyrna, Georgia
I need for context. I would not try to correct an individual’s theology publicly but would go to him privately. I would speak to elders concerning their theology and would not correct them publicly without having spoken with them first privately. I would teach and preach the correct (Biblical) theology without naming names of those who hold an unbiblical view unless they are public figures (like Osteen).
Pastor of Calvary Chapel Woodland, in Woodland, CA
I believe it is very biblical to correct unhealthy church practice and theology publicly. Jesus, John the Baptist and Paul did it often (not to mention all of the prophets).
Matt 16:6 Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
Matt. 3:7-10 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Gal 2:11-14 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews
2 TIM 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
We of course should follow what Jesus said in Matt. 18:15-17 and seek to confront/correct privately first- then publicly if necessary.
MTW Missionary and Regional Director in Odessa, Ukraine
I’m not sure what you mean by “correcting unhealthy church practice publicly.” Does that mean from the pulpit, or just talking with people? The first two things that pop to mind are that first, you should always address people privately, one on one, to share your concerns before going public (if possible.) Obviously, if you have a problem with Joel Osteen (who doesn’t? ) you can’t address him personally, so it’s fine to go public. He’s a public persona. Second, you have to go in love, and with humility, stating that this is what your convictions are, not what is “true.” I’m not being post-modern here, but there are a lot of brothers and sisters out there who have studied scripture and come to a different conclusion of what that scripture means. Listen to what they have to say, share what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you, and let the H.S. do the rest in their life.
Long time friend and insightful theology student
Biblical, but I think the issue should first be taken to the one in error so they can have a chance to repent and share the correction with those they have led into error.
Friend and serious student of theology
No. It should be addressed to the elders first then,what we talked about a couple months ago with Mcdonald and I was wrong they have a right kick an elder out , leave and find another fellowship. But if there is no change then we should warn the flock but in love not in a gossiping way.
Friend and serious student of theology
I think that it’s a bit different if it’s a church you do not attend or part of. That I think is a question that should be addressed to someone who is in leadership, like a Pastor. I’ve personally never had to deal with anything like that. I’ve spoken with other people who went to churches that didn’t preach the Gospel, and I told them that their church doesn’t preach the Gospel, but I’ve never spoken with the leadership there.