Gossiping the Gospel

I have long been an unabashed and unstinting admirer of biblical scholar and author extraordinaire D. A. Carson, and I have spent the past few days reviewing several of his works in my bookshelves, most of which were regrettably unavailable to me for many years on account of their being placed in storage while I lived in Puerto Rico. In his Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), I came across the following bit which I now share with you. Discussing the remarkable growth of the Charismatic wing of Evangelicalism not only in North America but especially abroad, Carson writes:

“[It will not] do to question how many of the converts are Christians at all, for that is a factor that has to be faced by all movements where rapid growth takes place. My own experiences of ministering in charismatic circles do not encourage me to think that there is a higher proportion of spurious conversions in charismatic groups than in other groups in the same society. But the reasons for their more rapid growth are complex. The growth is not because they have been endued with the Spirit and very few others have been, as charismatics seem to think. I suspect it is more connected with the fact that charismatics are, in general, quicker to talk about their experiences with God, their faith, the way God has worked in their lives. Effective evangelism depends on many people gossiping the Gospel.” (page 182, emphasis mine)

This last line, which is vintage Carson, led me to ponder the content of my gossip and small talk, which subject has occupied my thoughts on more than one occasion. I am simply amazed at the logorrheic shallowness of much of my (and, if my experience is any indicator, perhaps also others’) speech, and especially at how much of my time and energy such vapid discourse claims. With that in mind, consider these words of Our Lord:

“I tell you this: every thoughtless word you speak you will have to account for on the day of judgement. For out of your own mouth you will be acquitted; out of your own mouth you will be condemned.” (St Matthew 12:36-37, REB).

The broader context of these logia is Jesus’ indictment of the Pharisees, who have thoughtlessly blasphemed the Holy Spirit by ascribing his exorcism and healing of a blind and mute man to Beelzebul (cf. 12:22ff.). The point that Jesus drives home here is that one’s words spoken thoughtlessly betray one’s true character. The Pharisees, of course, were quite aware of the propositional content of their deliberate accusation (one, I venture, perhaps not untinged by gleeful sarcasm), but carelessly failed to take into account the ultimate implications of their words. In this they revealed their true character, which Our Lord compares, among other things, to a bad tree only capable of bad fruit (cf. verses 33-35). In a similar way, we all too often give very little thought to the gossip and idle talk (reeking, as is nearly always the case, with mordant sarcasm and cheap humor) to which we commit enormous amounts of time and energy, and much less ponder the ultimate (eternal!) implications of these seemingly trivial activities. In this we too betray our true character, and thereby sign our sentence of condemnation. For this we will be held accountable.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we left all such nonsense behind, and committed all of that time and energy to gossiping the Gospel, instead?

5 responses to “Gossiping the Gospel

  1. Wow! You really ARE getting more profound on here now, aren’t you? Now I feel like my OWN posts are too trivial!

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  2. Your “logorrheic shallowness,” as you confess it, may be less Pharisaical and more like our Master, who is himself no stranger to sarcasm and humor (although there’s great depth, and life, and richness in his). In other words, the lowly gossiper, ever humble in confession, is somehow perhaps ironically moved closer to the One now on High. (Oh, and in this same context of Matthew, the blind man is the one who sees — or is that just gossip?) Thanks for saying logorrheic in public!

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  3. Of course, the danger is that such testimonies become a sanctified form of bragging. Which is perhaps why the persistent advice of the Fathers is simply to shut up and study silence until the Spirit really flows out of us with something worth hearing.

    Now, as St. Paul says, we can still rejoice that the gospel is preached, even if it’s for the wrong motives. But that doesn’t in itself mean that the preacher’s soul isn’t in danger of hell. So if that preacher is I, it’s still safer to be silent.

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  4. Aaron> I am told that the probes used to sound my depth can get all the way to the bottom, about one inch below the surface!

    Kurk> Indeed–the depth and love and richness of the love of God, no less. (And yes, it is gossip. May it spread unfettered!)

    And you're quite welcome, of course. Who knows, perhaps I shall soon use "speakeristic" again.

    Peter> I can only hope that "gossiping the Gospel" should have nothing to do with "witnessing," "testimonies," one-on-one evangelism, or any other such vapid, self-involved nonsense.

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  5. I’ve always hated small talk. In addition to my somewhat anti-social nature, your post caused me to think that maybe it’s the content of the small talk that bothers me more than anything else.

    In certain Christian groups I’m disappointed in the fact that many can’t relate on a personal, spiritual level and resort to weather, sports etc. Not that we should never talk about sports. !

    What type of situations are you thinking of and do you or other commenters have any suggestions of how to better engage in small talk?
    Jeff

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