Please realize this. Even if you don't respond to the trash talk and you are just "giving a listening ear", you are not being trusted with the information because you are respected, or revered. The truth is, the person gossiping about your pastor admires you as much as they do a trash can.
Sometimes people in the church will come to the pastor and say, "You know Pastor, Sally said some things to me the other day that were on her heart about you and about the church, and she trusted me with her feelings on all of this. She feels comfortable in sharing with me out of concern and asked me to pray about it, because I've been here at the church for a while, and well, she trusts me. I just feel that it would be a good idea for me to tell you all of her complaints and see if you can change things so she'll be happy."
The truth is, Sally doesn't look to you as a trusted leader -- she looks to you as a trash receptacle. If I go to Busch Gardens and eat cotton candy and drink a soda and then take my trash to a stranger in the park and say, "excuse me, can I ask you to hold this for me?" does that mean I trust or respect them? No, it takes absolutely no trust in someone to hand them your rubbish. You don't even have to really know them. All you need to have is a person willing to stand there and take it. It takes no brains or wisdom to be a trash can. All you have to do is stand there.
Please, please, please realize that by listening to all of these complaints you are NOT bringing yourself to any level of greater esteem in the congregation, you are just showing your pastor your true colors. When you dump a bunch of this on your pastor, they aren't appreciative of it -- they have huge red flags about you. But most likely they aren't going to look at you and say, "Jenny, I've got your number..." (Hey, that could be a song...) But let me tell you, they DO have your number. When you keep regurgitating other people's junk back to your pastor they start to be extremely careful around you. Most of them wish they could tell you, they really do. But most likely they are not up for another power struggle, and they are way too exhausted. So let me let you in on this secret.
When anyone comes to me all the time with negative information that people in the church are saying, it doesn't signal to me that they are smart or respected or "in the know"...it signals to me that they have a problem. It signals to me that if they are not in leadership I should probably never put them there barring a complete transformation of the Holy Ghost. When someone constantly spits out bad things that others are saying about me or my husband, I realize they must be giving off vibes or even outright statements to others in the church that they can come to them and talk about us. What about them makes others so comfortable to pour out their trash to them? A trash can usually has a sign on it that signals to passersby that it is indeed a waste can. Many times it will just say, "WASTE" or TRASH". Are you wearing such a sign spiritually? Does everyone in your church know that they can come to you anytime and throw in their verbal trash?
Your pastor is not just anyone -- they are God's gift to the church! Before you think I'm just puffed up in the head or making up stuff please go read your Bibles. Turn to Ephesians 4:11. It says right there plain as day that the pastor is a gift to God's church. Some of you have treated your pastor as anything but a gift and in fact others of you have returned the gift back to where it came from. Some of you reading this have been part of a forced resignation at some point, I guarantee it. For shame. Please do not think you are trusted, special or esteemed in any way among men because you have chosen to listen to rubbish about the gift of God. Some of you don't verbally say it but you read emails or facebook comments that people write about your leaders. You may not post about it and chime in, but neither do you correct it. Edmund Burke once said, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." What do you do when people trash talk your pastor in person, on the phone, or on facebook? I'll tell you what you should do -- boldly confront the person and demand that they stop. Tell them that you will not just sit there and let them continue this evil unchallenged. I talked to a pastor and his precious wife the other day that deleted their facebooks because some former members were trashing them. I am telling you as sure as I'm standing here that if you are doing this and keep up the behavior you will split hell wide open some day.
I generally know who my closest supporters and loyal friends are in the church. They are those who tell me that no one ever dares tell them anything negative about me or my family. They would be too scared of the reaction from those who love me dearly, as well they should be. I'm telling you, when it comes to my dearest friends, no one in the world can tell me a bad thing about them. Not a thing. My hand would be up in two seconds flat silencing them and saying, "Whoa, whoa, whoa...hold on there...you're talking about one of my dearest friends and I simply can't stand here and listen to you say these things..." The last thing I would do is listen for even a minute to anyone run down a friend of mine. I refuse to be anyone's waste basket. I'm not a trash can, I'm a daughter of God. As a daughter of God, I'm not a trash receptacle for junk -- on the contrary, I'm a pure vessel set apart for Him. I don't want any junk going in, or coming out.
Again some of you reading this probably wonder what my church people think who are reading this. The answer to that is, they've heard it all before straight from the pulpit, and this is pretty mild in comparison to many things I've said to our church along these lines. Many pastors will not be bold enough to tell you that if you listen to this stuff you are not special and in fact you are greatly deceived and in fact headed for destruction if you don't stop. But I have the nerve. So if you are trash talking your pastor or their spouse or kids, consider yourself informed and accountable for what you've just heard.
* I'll pick up this blog series this coming Monday-Thursday, and will be posting some other things Saturday and Sunday.