Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Review -- "Gossip and the Gospel" by Timothy Williams

Timothy Williams believes that “any church worth its salt in Jesus will have far more enemies than members.”[1] In fact, a believer can track the gossip and slander to locate a healthy church. “In short, follow the gossip if you want to find a godly church. Any true church of Jesus will be slandered.”[2]

Williams, a former pastor turned self-publishing executive,[3] has obviously experienced the pain of being slandered as a church leader. In Gossip and the Gospel, he tells several stories of accusatory lies being spread about him and the churches that he has led. Williams takes those painful experiences as a mark of being a genuine Christian. “To discover the joy of the narrow road, any seeker of God will have to move way past this huge crowd of gossipers in order to find the true gospel.”[4]

Gossip and the Gospel was written to warn believers of the wickedness and dangers of gossip and slander. “The church has forgotten that gossip is a vile sin before God.”[5] Williams not only speaks from experience but is passionate about scripture and teaches from a broad range of biblical texts. I was greatly aided in my study by looking up, in their contexts, each text that he had quoted throughout the book. Williams offers several helpful insights about gossip, especially what it feels like to be gossiped about,[6] how gossip is often an attack upon authority figures,[7] how we need to trust God when slandered and not always defend ourselves,[8] and how gossip cannot be simply refrained from but must also be replaced with edifying speech.[9]

Williams is very creative. Perhaps the best thing in Gossip and the Gospel is his “recipe” for “Sinfully Rich Choice Morsels.”
1 cup of pride – Proverbs 21:24, 3/4 cup hearsay - Ephesians 4:29, ½ cup evil suspicions – 1 Timothy 6:3-4 . . . 1. Mix together all ingredients in a bowl of betrayal. – Proverbs 16:28, Matthew 26:23, 2. Pour into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil; constantly stirring. – Proverbs 6:14 . . . 5. Sprinkle with the truth (optional). – Romans 1:25 6. Serve hot to itching ears, warm to those not minding their own business, and cold to those fearful. – Acts 14:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:3 . . . Makes Unlimited Servings.[10]
There is much to learn from here. And yet, Gossip and the Gospel is not a book that I can heartily recommend. It seems excessively alarmist, unbalanced, unclear, unhelpful, and possibly dangerous.

In my view, Williams goes “over the top” in his zeal to warn against the sinful dangers of gossip. For example, the cover of the book features a photograph of a woman with a forked snake’s tongue slithering out of her mouth towards a man’s ear. Then a presentation page declares, “Presented Out of Love . . . This book is given to [blank] in hopes they will repent of the sin of gossip, slur, slander, or bitter roots.”[11] I cannot imagine a situation where this approach would actually be helpful.

Throughout the book, Williams employs unclear language, using what seems like “insider terminology” that I often could not decipher. At times, he also offers questionable advice. For example, he asks, “Have you ever . . . Felt irritated with someone and not confessed your irritation to them? . . . Had a bad attitude about someone and didn’t confess it to them?”[12] I think that inner, attitudinal sins should only be confessed if they have spawned sinful behavior.[13] Confessing each moment of irritation with another could have even more disastrous effects. He also gives these points of questionable counsel: “Do not hold onto any thought that you are right on some point. . . . You must never, ever speak to the person who started the bitter root until they fully repent. . . . Repay the truth four times the amount you lied. Never tire of telling others how wrong you were and the real truth.”[14]

Williams’ unclear language applies, not just to counsel, but to doctrine. He emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit but seems to have a very mystical, subjective relationship with the Spirit and is very confident in his own ability to know when the Spirit wants something in particular. “Now, I know when, in the Holy Spirit, to keep a secret, but harboring unrepentant sinners does not please a Holy God.”[15] Even worse, Williams appears to believe that a Christian can lose their salvation by falling into gossip. “Gossip is not a minor sin, and it can cost a person their name in the Book of Life.”[16]

Most unfortunately, and despite its title, the gospel is not clear in Gossip and the Gospel. While Williams repeatedly mentions the cross, there is no exposition of the atonement, no explanation of justification, no numbering of the blessings that come from the gospel. By and large, the cross seems to only be something that a follower of Christ picks up and carries or something that crucifies the flesh, not God’s gracious provision of propitiation, forgiveness, and eternal life. Williams may be (and very likely is) orthodox in his understanding of the gospel, but this never comes through in the book.

Aside from the power of the Holy Spirit, there is not much hope offered in Gossip and the Gospel. Perhaps this is flavored by Williams’ own church experiences as they seem, unfortunately, to have all been bad.[17] It is true that followers of Christ can and should expect to be slandered, but there can also be times when the church enjoys the favor of the people around it (Acts 2:47).

[1]Timothy Williams, Gossip and the Gospel (Enumclaw: WinePress Publishing, 2004), 16.
[2]Ibid., 18.
[3]Gossip and the Gospel, like Overcoming Gossips and A Bible Handbook on Gossip and Slander, is self-published. The author, however, is now also the executive publisher of WinePress Publishing.
[4]Timothy Williams, Gossip and the Gospel (Enumclaw: WinePress Publishing, 2004), 17.
[5]Ibid., 15.
[6]Ibid., 104.
[7]Ibid., 91-102.
[8]Ibid., 131-138.
[9]Ibid., 123-129.
[10]Timothy Williams, Gossip and the Gospel (Enumclaw: WinePress Publishing, 2004), 106. This recipe has been adopted as the “No Gossip Policy” at WinePress Publishing. (accessed July 19, 2011).
[11]Ibid., 5.
[12]Ibid., 115.
[13]See Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 127.
[14]Timothy Williams, Gossip and the Gospel (Enumclaw: WinePress Publishing, 2004), 117-118. Any of these points of advice might be good when balanced with other scriptural principles, but there are no balance points offered.
[15]Ibid., 27.
[16]Ibid., 56.
[17]And similarly to Robert Morey’s A Bible Handbook of Gossip and Slander, Williams’ book never calls for humble self-examination of any of the accusations to see what could be learned from them.


Update: Since I originally wrote these words, Gossip and the Gospel has been re-released with a new, more friendly cover. It also now available as a free download. I don't know if any of the content has been revised.


Note: We are rounding up a long blog series working through my doctoral research into the problem of gossip.

My contribution to the literature, Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue will soon be available:


CLC Book Center

Next Step Resources


Matt, I completely agree with your review of this book. One thing I do share with Timothy WIlliams is the experience of being a pastor/leader and experiencing gossip, slander, and false witness behavior. I was actually relieved to hear that someone else had experienced what I had, however; I did not find healing in this book. Perhaps I missed it. The most disturbing part of this book, for me, was his view of gossip (one of many sins humans can commit) and an apparent conditional salvation. Why this particular sin of gossip can strip one of his/her salvation and not adultery, murder, or lust; I don't know. I felt as though I were reading an emotionallly-driven book; almost a personal vandeta. I could be off-base by a long shot though. Again, I learned much about gossip and its components, and effects. I was able to keep what I liked and discard the things I did not.

Thanks for your review! Very thorough and fair.

Jamie Worley
Senior Pastor


Thanks for your comment and encouragement!