What is Christian Ghosting?
In secular terms it typically is used in dating relationships, Google dictionary defines it as:
“ghost·ing ● gōstiNG ● noun
the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.
Ugh, you can’t be serious. Cue some Taylor Swift song now, please.
Yep, unfortunately, that is a thing in the modern Christendom too. Let me break it down and define it for you and then I will explain why it is so very harmful.
One scenario is when there is conflict in a church leadership, maybe a difference of opinion, maybe a different leadership style, maybe a blatant sin was committed, and the differing leader is asked to not come back. Of course they comply since they don’t really have a choice and the congregation is left without answers. They are Banished. Vanished. Ghosted.
You have heard me say over and over and over again and I will say it again. Withdrawal without communication is one of the worst forms of abuse.
With that said, let’s walk through Christian Ghosting.
There is conflict (as with any relationship, differing opinion, differing views, misperceptions, different standards . . .yada yada yada) but sometimes there is a place where they are at an impasse with expectations and how events are being handled and for the record, THAT IS OK. This is called growth that comes from testing and trials. It is ok to have a difference of opinions or standards or heck, even, perceptions of an event (God forbid). It is how you handle it that is critical. CRITICAL.
The Leader in charge (we will call “A”) decides it would be best that the differing leader (we will call “B”) does not come back.
Maybe the Leader “B” was on staff for years, maybe not, but there was an EVENT when they came on board. Generally it typically is a public showing, an announcement, a blessing, and/or a presentation to the congregation that they have been welcomed and brought on to fulfill a role and put into a position of leadership.
Great right? until . . . you disagree.
It is quite common for leadership to keep disagreements quiet and underwraps. The mindset, especially in Church and/or ministry settings are, “We can’t let the congregation know leaders have problems too” or “it is just a private matter” which is wisdom. One is the Tree of Life and the other is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
But when there is differences or conflict, they want Leader “B” to quietly just disappear. This is the “ghosting” I am talking about. Generally, they fear conflict or they fear “poisoning” or fear of not controlling the narrative. However, in my two decades of ministry, what I typically see happen is that their greatest fear is what usually comes upon them.
Instead of showing the congregation a unified exit with a blessing or a wisely worded statement, they react and then they withhold their blessing. See, they withhold their blessing because they may have a differing opinion or leadership style.
They say, “We can’t bless you because there is conflict.”
Yet, the whole congregation has conflict in their lives, and yet the leader blesses them every Sunday. See the ridiculousness? Leaders should be setting the example on how to walk in unity with each other especially if there is a differing perspectives or understandings on a situation.
Now please understand, we are not talking about leaders who are caught in financial, sexual or unrepentant sin. No, we are specifically talking about an unwillingness to agree to disagree and move on in unity and blessing. It is egotistical to think everyone should observe what we observe, behave the way we think they should or accept everything we do.
Dangers of Christian Ghosting
But let me tell you the dangers of Christian Ghosting, so that you do not fall into this trap.
The fears: awkwardness, perceived offense, “poisoning” their congregation, afraid the people will find out what really happened.
This is controlled image management.
Unfortunately, the fear becomes a reality because they leave the people to subconsciously write their own script and most of the time, that script is terrible or worse than what really actually happened. We steal a moment away from the congregation to show them what conflict really looks like and how it is resolved as leaders or how to part ways as leaders.
As leaders we can’t take a hard right and keep the congregation in the dark with controlled management. You are trying to manage an image while God is trying to manage truth.
When leaders bless coming in, they need to bless going out. Of course, you can’t bless blatant sin. I am speaking about relational conflict. Actually, Matthew 18:15 protocol requires you to expose their sin to the church if they do not repent. But we are specifically speaking about relational conflict. If leaders make a unified entrance and exit it brings trust to the heart of the people. Because God forbid they have conflict, what if they fear the same treatment? That is a subconscious fear. It also shuts down the lies of the enemy.
Responding to Christian Ghosting
Don’t Take it Personally:
- The reality of this is that it has everything to do with them and really nothing to do with you. You have to take a step back from the situation and look at the 100 foot view rather than the 5 foot view. When I was just starting out in ministry this was sooooooo hard to me to do at first. Once I learned that the key to not taking anything personally is that you have to stay oily it began to be easier to walk through situations like these. I have to remind myself when situations like this happen to cut out the negativity and ask God to see it from his perspective and not my own, especially when it is so raw. When you are oily everything slides off of you. Nothing sticks. Staying in God’s presence, seeking his face, and acknowledging Him in every way is the foundation to staying oily.
Seek Wise Counsel:
- Stay accountable by sharing the situation with those in your inner circle that are not directly involved with the situation. They can be objective and perceive the situation without having any emotional skin in the game. They can be open and honest with you and tell you truthfully if you have handled situation correctly or not.
Leave with Honor:
- Even if you feel the people involved in perpetrating the ghosting have not honored you… stay humble, honor and bless them anyway. Take this opportunity to bless those who may be cursing you. Search your heart for any feelings outside of the fruits of the spirit and if there is anything then take this opportunity to repent and ask God to help you to walk forgiveness towards them. You have to choose to not walk in offense. And even if they choose to not send you with a blessing you can still leave with God’s blessing and be honorable before Him!