A common theme in modern churches today is what is called the “grapevine”. An informal communication channel wherein information is distributed, nothing is written down, everything is hearsay and no one is accountable for what is said. We can begin to see the problem with the grapevine, but where it really gets really radical is when the information gathered is acted upon. Quite often elders and all manner of church leadership use grapevine information to preach at the pulpit in the most distasteful manner abusing a member or members of the congregation, additionally not providing an opportunity for persons to defend themselves. A very cowardly act indeed anchored in self-esteem issues and the inability to hear God’s response in the matter and furthermore was received in a manner that is essentially gossip without all the jeering.
How does Scripture address this issue? let us look to the book of Joshua for answers. In Joshua 22 the tribes of the Israelites have been given their allotment of land according to Joshua’s directions however the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh already had their allotment by Moses. Joshua blessed the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and sends them back home on the other side of Jordan. Soon after an altar was erected by the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh. According to the scripture, it was an imposing alter, meaning it was clearly visible and probably massive in structure. When word got out that an altar was erected the whole assembly gathered at Shiloh to go to war, ironically because Shiloh means “rest”. They however sent Phinehas, son of a priest along with the head of families from each of the 10 tribes of Israel to access the matter. On arriving the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh disclosed that the alter was not erected as a rebellion to God but out of fear that future Israelites would dispossess them from their inheritance. Their argument was that the altar was erected as a witness to the distribution of land. This answer satisfied the convoy that went to investigate the matter. Looking at this scripture we see how an unnecessary war was averted because the Israelites could access the situation by deploying resources to investigate the matter.
This now brings us to the problem in today’s churches, resources are not being deployed to investigate and keep persons accountable for what they say. You can walk up to many pastors and elders and discredit anyone without fear of being called upon to give testimony in the midst of the accused. Absolute immunity is given to the accuser especially if the information is related directly to the leader or their ego. It is impossible to have a congregation in peace with each other when no one is accountable.
So how can leaders be more accountable? let us look at 5 easy steps.
- Record everything – either on paper or on some form of device and let people identify themselves in the recordings. Accusers should not have the luxury of being hidden. This is how witches run havoc in churches for years without ever being called to give an account.
- Investigate the matter – deploy resources such as a meeting place and credible persons to bring the accused and the accuser together, then come to some consensus.
- Don’t be bias – everyone must undergo the same stipulations when providing information regardless of their influence.
- Stop being easily offended – it is one of the most grievous injustices to see leaders in churches acting on grapevine information, taking to the pulpit that belongs to God to verbally assault the accused because their feeling was hurt and then never say sorry when they are found to be incorrect in their assessment.
- Say you are sorry – it is common to make mistakes, but only arrogant leaders don’t apologize.
Who is perfect, no one except God(Mark 10:18), but at the very least we can deploy strategies to hold ourselves and the congregation accountable for the things we accused each other of, therefore allowing peace to reign over our gathering like at Shiloh.