Have you been around people who constantly want to gossip and make private accusations against your pastor?  You may not think it’s that big of a deal or you may just pass them off as having a rude personality, but have you paused to consider the fact that such rude and slanderous behavior is sinful?

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:19 – “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” The office of an elder (pastor) is one that must be respected. God has called that person to that office and anyone who has an accusation against that man must be extremely careful in how that accusation is carried out. Satan often uses false accusations to harm pastors and their ministries, therefore, when a pastor is confronted with a sin it must be handled very carefully.

BEWARE: Accusations Must Follow the Biblical Model

Paul said that accusations are to be made against a pastor only on the basis of two or three witnesses. This is to be done in order to provide accountability and protection for the pastor in such accusations. This allows for the accusation to be heard, investigated, and substantiated before it goes before the entire church.  John Calvin once said, “It is a sign of a perverse and treacherous disposition to wound the good name of another, when he has no opportunity of defending himself.”

This statement by Paul completely outlaws accusations that are made privately in the form of gossip, text messages, e-mails, anonymous blogs, or over the phone behind the pastor’s back. Those types of accusations are nothing more than slanderous attacks against the office of elder (pastor) and God takes that type of thing very seriously. That is why Paul speaks of this in 1 Timothy 5:19.

John MacArthur writes:

There are always people eager to falsely accuse a man of God. They may do so because they resent his calling, reject his teaching, resist biblical authority, resent virtue, or are jealous of the Lord’s blessing on his life. Ultimately, however, they demonstrate by making such accusations that they have become messengers of Satan. Such false accusations are one of his most dangerous weapons. Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, and our Lord Jesus Christ all suffered from false accusations. [1]

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” It is an unprofitable thing to reject and undermine the leadership of your pastor according to the writer to the Hebrews. Anyone who seeks to gossip against or attack their pastor behind his back should be viewed as one who is in clear violation of God’s Word and a tool of Satan.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 says, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, [13] and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” Again, we see that the pastor should be esteemed (respected) highly in love because of the work he is called to do. What work? The work of laboring in Word and doctrine and shepherding the flock of God.

BEWARE: Receiving Unbiblical Accusations is Sinful

According to 1 Timothy 5:19 – the elder (pastor) is to be accused before two or three witnesses – not in a private conversation behind his back.  Essentially, what Paul is saying is that before accusing your pastor of sin, the same process followed for other sinful believers (found in Matthew 18:15-20) in the life of the church must be followed for your pastor.  Therefore, any member of the church or leader in the church who accepts an accusation against their pastor in a private setting without hearing it before the pastor himself is guilty of sin. Why did God put these things in Paul’s heart as he wrote 1 Timothy? As Paul was writing to a young pastor named Timothy – he desired to provide specific guidelines as to how pastors are to be accused of wrongdoing. Paul understood that the wolves would come out in opposition and attack the pastor who truly labors in the Word. So, he placed some guidelines for how a pastor is to be accused in order to prevent false gossip, the rumor mill, and wolves who have a thirst for blood from bringing an attack against their pastor that could destroy his ministry.

Therefore, it goes without saying, if a pastor has sinned or done wrong, he should be confronted. This confrontation should be done in the proper manner. If the pastor does not repent, the accusation should be presented before the church in order to further admonish him and call for him to repent. If at that point, the pastor still does not repent, the church should move through their proper steps of removing him from serving since he has a rebellious heart and is unwilling to repent of sin.

To confront your pastor of sin is a very serious charge and should be taken extremely seriously. John Piper once provided the following counsel to his pastoral staff about unity:

The New Testament warns against gossiping. The Greek word translated “gossip” means whisper or whisperer. In other words, the focus is not on the falsehood of the word but on the fact that it needs to be surreptitious. It is not open and candid and forthright. It has darkness about it. It does not operate in the light of love. It is not aiming at healing. It strokes the ego’s desire to be seen as right without playing by the rules of love. [2]

No person should be on a campaign to constantly confront their pastor of wrongdoing unless he is clearly living in sin. That’s why Paul makes it clear – only receive an accusation against an elder on the basis of two or three witnesses.  Those people in the church who are constantly on a slander attacks against their pastor should likewise be held to the standards of discipline found in Matthew 18. A perpetual gossiping tongue in the fellowship of a church creates an atmosphere of confusion and that individual proves to be a messenger of Satan. Church discipline should be done with the utmost care and respect, and in all cases, it should be done with a goal of restoration.

Therefore, true believers should work together, worship together, pray for one another, help one another and have the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace that comes through Jesus Christ. The church should always watch and beware of attacks against their pastor and against one another because the wicked one is always looking to stir up confusion and harm the ministry of Christ in the community.  It is the role of the church to stir up love and good works – not confusion, slander, gossip, and other sins that hinder the work of Christ.

1.  The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Timothy, 221.

2.  “What I Said to the Pastoral Staff About Unity Amid Differences

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