The BCC Author Interview Q & A with Matt Mitchell
As part of our BCC vision, we want to help you to get to know gifted Christian authors and their books. This week we’re highlighting Matt Mitchell as he talks about his new book, Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue. You can also read a BCC review of Resisting Gossip written by Todd Hardin here.
BCC: “Matt, thank you for interviewing with us about your new book, Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue. What is your hope for this book?”
MM: “Thanks for the opportunity to talk about it! I hope that after reading Resisting Gossip, Christians will be able to recognize sinful gossip when they hear it, to resist the temptation to receive gossip or pass it along, and to biblically respond to gossip-attacks in everyday life. All of this is truly possible through the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m hoping this book helps in this way because there are very few resources for Christians on this issue. And many of the books that are out there aren’t very clear, biblically informed and nuanced, or gospel-centered. The church needs better teaching on this subject.”
BCC: “Who did you have in mind when you were writing this book?”
MM: “I’m hoping that ordinary Christians who don’t want to fall into this sin will read Resisting Gossip. I don’t spend a lot of time in the book trying to convince folks that gossip is bad—most of us would already agree with that. Instead, I try to help followers of Christ who desire to live a God-pleasing life but feel stuck and stymied by both the attractiveness of gossip and the confusion that surrounds the problem. I want to (1) clarify what is and what isn’t gossip and (2) give confidence to ordinary Christians that they do have the resources in Christ to withstand this temptation.
Interestingly, I had originally conceived of a book to aid church leaders in cultivating gossip-resistant fellowships. Those concepts are found in the bonus chapter at the end of the book. But this isn’t a book just for leaders—it’s for all Christians who feel the problem and want solutions.
I also had small study groups in mind. Each chapter ends with interactive questions for classes and group discussion. Small group leaders are telling me that they are having some great conversations around the issues raised.”
BCC: “How did you get the idea to write a book about gossip?”
MM: “My journey to writing Resisting Gossip began with the question: ‘When does small talk become sinful gossip?’ Doctoral students in biblical counseling at Westminster Theological Seminary are asked to pick a problem that Christians encounter and then create a ‘ministry model’ that addresses that problem in a way that no other resource does.
During a CCEF-led counseling class, I was flipping through my Bible looking for a good idea for my advanced research project, and I hit upon Proverbs 26:22, ‘The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts.’ It struck me then that I wasn’t sure exactly what gossip was, and that I didn’t know where to go to find out. That led me to the question, ‘If I don’t know what gossip truly is, then how can I keep from doing it?’ I was off and running.
Over a two-year period, I did an intense study of the subject of gossip which included (1) in-depth biblical/theological research (2) an extensive review of the literature on gossip from both secular and Christian sources, and (3) qualitative research through interviews and questionnaires. My findings were collected in a 300-page paper. Strangely enough, I had become an ‘expert’ on gossip!
But thankfully, Resisting Gossip is not dry, dusty academic dissertation. As I said before, it’s written with ordinary Christians in mind. It’s full of stories of real people in real life dealing with real gossip situations.”
BCC: “So, what is your definition of gossip?”
MM: “That’s a good question and an important one! If you go wrong there, you’ll end up off-course. In the book, I offer a one-sentence definition that comes from synthesizing all of the biblical data that I could gather: Sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart. There is a whole chapter to unpack that definition, but you can see that it comes in three main parts:
Bearing bad news: Gossip is almost always a ‘bad story’ being told. That news could be bad information (false), bad about someone (shameful), or bad for someone (projected upon them).
Behind someone’s back: Gossip is always clandestine. It happens when the subject is not present.
Out of a Bad Heart: Gossip comes from false worship and bad motivations in the heart of the speaker or listener.
That last phrase is a really key concept from our Lord Jesus’ teaching that ‘out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Matthew 12:34). A lot of the book centers on surfacing, categorizing, and countering those twisted heart motivations with the promises of the gospel.
It’s so important for Christians to remind ourselves that the Lord’s ‘divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires’ (2 Peter 1:3-4). And that includes gossip!”
BCC: “Where can people learn more about Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue?”
MM: “At my website, readers can find out more about the book, see the video trailer, preview the foreword by Ed Welch, the introduction, and first chapter, and get ordering information from booksellers like WTSBooks.com, Amazon, CBD, CLC Bookcenter, and Next Step Resources. Thanks!”
BCC: “Thank you, Matt, for writing this hope-giving book that helps believers hold out against unholy whispering by focusing on the promises of the gospel.”