I have been trying to learn (since it was pointed out to me in painful circumstances) that saying things about members of the congregation in a negative way as a form of ‘in joke’ is wrong.
That lesson has been hard to apply because of the familiarity we have with each other as a church, and because that’s the way I allowed myself to express myself for too long. (Just ask my kids.)
Apart from the wrongness and lack of wisdom it operates on a divided view of the congregation that fails to realise that newcomers can’t be expected to parse the intent behind such comments, they can only be expected to take what they hear at face value.
A couple of ministers that I know carry on a running interaction on Facebook where they express their friendship in verbal abuse toward one another. I had to explain to someone that they were the greatest of dear friends, because they couldn’t understand how two pastors would talk that way about anyone in a public forum.
I hope I’m no where near as bad as I used to be.
This paragraph from an article by Nick Batzig prompted the musing.
He makes a few more points about the same subject in other contexts.
In the second place, a minister should never speak negatively about members of the congregation in front of the congregation. This seems self-evident. However, I have known of cases in which this has occurred. It is pastoral abuse of the highest order, for a minister to speak demeaningly (even if in a joking manner) about a members of the flock to the congregation. When I was a new Christian, I had a friend who attended a church in which the minister would call out particular members of the congregation in a joking manner. My friend left that church promptly, fearing that this man would soon call him out in front of the congregation. It is unfathomable that we would even have to note the impropriety of speaking ill of congregants in front of congregants. To be sure, the Apostle Paul called Euodia and Syntyche by name (Phil. 4:1). However, there was a well-known riff between these women that was destroying the peace of the congregation on the whole. Paul felt the need to personally addressed them, while speaking of the issue in the most discrete manner possible.