Here are four categories of speech that church leaders should keep in mind at all times:
Saying only Christ-honoring, life-giving things. Always asking oneself, “Do the words I feel like saying rise to the level of wisdom? If not, they have no place in my mouth. Good intentions are not enough; leaders must show good judgment. I will hold myself to a strict standard, because Christ’s honor and people’s safety are at stake.”
All the words of my mouth are righteous. Proverbs 8:8
Well-intentioned, good-hearted, “loving” but unguarded words. A sincere desire to be helpful and consoling, but violating a personal boundary of information ownership. Indiscretion erodes people’s willingness to “walk in the light” with honesty about their problems (1 John 1:7). As a result, indiscretion is a spiritually dampening power.
When words are many, transgression is not lacking; but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. Proverbs 10:19
This might include factually true information. But still, it should not be shared, for legitimate reasons—for example, it might embarrass someone. Since gossip might not involve actual falsehood, gossips often don’t realize how harmful they really are.
. . . gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 1 Timothy 5:13
Deliberate falsehood, intended to harm and undermine and diminish someone’s reputation, bearing false witness, cutting someone down to size, abusive transference.
Whoever utters slander is a fool. Proverbs 10:18
If a church’s leaders will hold themselves to the high standard of #1, their influence will be conducive to a gospel culture. Not that we leaders will always live up to this standard. But defining it clearly and winsomely will help make a church into a safety zone where sinners can get real with Jesus and one another and start growing.