Here are four categories of speech 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 various reasons – for example, it might embarrass someone. Since gossip might not involve actual falsehood, gossips often don’t realize how harmful they are.
. . . gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 1 Timothy 5:13
Deliberate falsehood, meant 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 Christ and one another and start growing.