Who’s Carrying Wood to the Fire?

There are things I suspect about a church in conflict. They have a problem with gossip. They’re ignoring Jesus’ instructions on dealing with conflict: Matthew 5:23-26, Matthew 18:15-17.

Solomon wrote:

Where there is no wood, the fire goes out;
And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases (Proverbs 26:20, NKJV).

In a seriously conflicted church, many people know who’s carrying wood to the fire and have known it for a long time, yet do nothing to stop it.

When I work with a church in conflict, I talk with individual families. I have a list of questions. I record the answers, anonymously, and share the information with the elders.

The first four questions:

  1. Tell me the problem and what was the flashpoint?
  2. What are underlying long-term problems/attitudes that caused the flashpoint?
  3. What has been your involvement in the problem?
  4. What first-hand knowledge do you have about the person(s) driving the problem? Who is carrying wood to the fire? (Proverbs 26:20)

Notice # 4: What first-hand knowledge do you have about the person(s) driving the problem? Who is carrying wood to the fire? (Proverbs 26:20) The people know who they are and give me the names. After the first half dozen interviews, the main gossipers have been identified. I use an app called TextExpander. I type three or four letters, and the name is pasted into my document. I do very little name typing after the first few interviews. The same names occur over, and over, and over again. (For information about the helpful app: TextExpander).

If people know who’s stirring the pot, igniting the conflict, what should they do? Solomon instructs:

Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave;
Yes, strife and reproach will cease (Proverbs 22:10).

For the principle in the New Testament:

Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned (Titus 3:10, 11).

But they rarely do. Often people like it the way it is more than what it would take to change it. Peter Steinke in his book, How Your Church Family Works, quotes Edwin Friedman:

Listening to gossip

Actually religious institutions are the worst offenders at encouraging immaturity and irresponsibility. In church after church, some member is passively-aggressively holding the whole system hostage, and no one wants to fire him or force her to leave because it wouldn’t be “the Christian thing to do.” It has nothing to do with Christianity. Synagogues also tolerate abusers because it wouldn’t be the Christian thing to do (page 59).

It’s not only true that without wood the fire goes out. It’s also true that without oxygen, a fire will go out.

The oxygen of the raging fire of gossip is people listening to gossip. If there were no listeners to gossipers, there would be no gossip. Or, if there were, it would do little harm.

The reason a situation gets and stays chronic is that everybody likes it the way it is better than what it would take to change it.

But it doesn’t have to stay explosive. I’ve seen Jesus change people and churches. A few can change the rules in a church. The few who will reject gossip in themselves and others and commit to blessing with encouragement and grace can and will make a difference (Ephesians 4:29).

Let’s put out the fire that’s destroying many churches!

What gossip fire-fighting principles have you learned?


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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

7 Responses to “Who’s Carrying Wood to the Fire?

  • Wade Bryan
    6 years ago

    Good article.

  • wtomhall
    6 years ago

    How true if people would not listen to gossip it would die!

  • Steve Watts
    6 years ago

    Is there a typo in the tweet box? Should it not say, “If instead of it?”

    • Steve,

      Thank you. That’s why I love criticism. When someone points out a mistake and I correct it, it makes me look more intelligent.

      I appreciate you reading, noticing, and caring enough to let me know.

  • My wife will try to say something positive about the person who is being gossiped about; this usually shuts down the negative backbiting.