Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

DEALING WITH DIOTREPHES (Part Two)

In my previous blog I focused on a first century churchman by the name of Diotrephes. The Apostle John labeled Diotrephes as a notorious bad guy in verses 9-13 of his brief third letter. In what way was Diotrephes a bad guy? In several ways. He was divisive. Dictatorial. Iron fisted. Non-accepting of some brethren. Unwilling to receive certain church leaders, John himself being one of them.

Diotrephes was an evident problem for the health and well being of the first century church. But get this:  Diotrephes has not disappeared. Vanished. Left the building. Ceased his existence. He’s produced a few sons and daughters. Others after his kind. Diotrephes is still hanging around. Maybe he’s even in your congregation today.

Do you ignore him? Act like he isn’t there? Tolerate him? Give him space to operate? Cater to a vast assortment of his evil ways and demands?

John had already determined his own course of action with Diotrephes. “If I come, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account …” (The Message – 3 John 10). Thus, he wasn’t going to ignore him. Put up with him. Give him space. Tolerate his evil practices.

Amazingly though, I do not generally find this course of pro-action taken here by John occuring in 21st century congregations. There is rather a spirit of passivity. Hoping he will go away. That he will find another church. Get out of our hair. Finally cease his evil ways.

But it won’t happen. Believe me!! Diotrephes is the Jack Russell Terrier kind of church leader. He enjoys a good fight. In fact, the more he fights, the more determined he becomes to win his battles. How do I know? I’ve experienced his kind. Others in church leadership have also shared their stories with me about Diotrephes.

What are some ways to deal with the Diotrephes types in your congregation? That’s the important question. Answering this question will help deal more effectively with a Diotrephes type. Here are my suggestions.

  • Teach regularly in the church about the significant and subtle difference between power and authority. Why? Because  authority is something that’s delegated, power isn’t. Diotrephes types assume power and then exercise it with vigor. But be careful even to those whom you delegate the role of authority in your church. For authority can be delegated to the wrong persons. Always remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”
  • Be sure that you do not allow a Diotrephes to turn you into one of his own kind. For he is generally a master at plying his trade. He can make you think that following him is the right path. The correct path. Even as you openly confront and address him you can easily develop into a Diotrephes type yourself. I’ve seen this happen over and over. Be cautious here!!
  • Develop kingdom thinking in your church as opposed to mere institutional thinking. When church leaders become overly concerned with the church institution, running the church that is, they veer off in the wrong direction. This is because the church is not about politically advancing the religious positions of humans; it is rather about the kingdom thinking of our Lord and what matters to Him. Is your church directed by persons with the kingdom eyes of Jesus, or, the institutional eyes of misled church leaders like Diotrephes??
  • Prayer is the most significant Divine resource for dealing with any problem. It is especially important in dealing with a Diotrephes. Pray for those who are Diotrephes types. Pray that you and others do not become a member of the Diotrephes family.

My thoughts offered here are only suggestive and not exhaustive. If it moves your thinking in the direction of responsibly dealing with a Diotrephes, then my purpose will have been achieved. For I am committed to having a healthy church in these unhealthy times in which we find ourselves.

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November 23, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Relationships, Scripture, Service, Spirituality, The Devil | Leave a comment

DEALING WITH DIOTREPHES

Are you aware of the four books in the New Testament that have only one chapter? If so, have you read them? Considered them closely? Pondered their message?

In past days I have not given much time or attention to these documents. In fact, I have largely ignored them. Brushed them aside. Why? Because I thought their size must indicate the unimportance of their content. It appeared the writers of the New Testament were including them to simply add further bulk to the existing New Testament material.

That was wrong on my part. Terribly wrong. A response I should not have taken. Because they have much vital  information for believers and the church. It is sad we have often missed the foregoing fact.

An example of their significance was brought home to me in III John 9-13. These verses of John the Apostle focus the reader’s attention on a church leader by the name of Diotrephes. He is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament but here alone in these verses. He isn’t a good guy either. Rather, he is a notoriously bad guy.

Diotrephes is creating much division in the church. He is heavy-handed and iron-fisted. A dictator and controller of the first order. He has set himself on top in the church. Become the preeminent one. The one in charge. The CEO. It was either his way or the highway. A willingness to be under his thumb or be black-balled from the fellowship.

He obviously was rejecting the leadership function of John and any other appointed leaders in the church. No one had delegated him to this upper role. Named him as being the chief. Put him out front. He rather elevated himself. Diotrephes was rejecting and removing not only accepted and recognized church leaders in his first century setting, but anyone else who stood in the way of his dictatorial path.

I asked myself the question: Why was this information about Diotrephes included by John in his Letter? One general response is because it was an inspired writing that emanated from God Himself. But I think it is an intentional eye-opener for congregations in the first century and in the 21st century as well. Specifically, these individuals, like Diotrephes, will become a formidable problem with whom the local church will need to be aware of. A failure to recognize their presence will be a dam or roadblock to achieving the mission of the church.

In every congregation I have served there has been at least one, if not more, Diotrephes types. They can become a nightmare for pastoral leaders. More importantly, they can become the devil in disguise within the church. You can tolerate them, or confront them. Face them or let them go free. But their presence makes a smooth path in congregational life impossible.

John revealed in the tenth verse that he was not going to tolerate Diostrephes in his time, nor was he going to remain silent about the evil practices he was exercising in congregational life. If congregational leaders and the church as a whole is going to be a healthy fellowship in the 21st century, we cannot set idly by either. Always we need to be aware of a Diotrephes!!

In a forthcoming blog I will suggest some important ways to address and deal with Diotrephes types in your congregation. Always remember that followers of Christ must speak the truth in the spirit of Christian love, regardless of the problems that are present.

November 21, 2012 Posted by | Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Outreach, Prayer, Preaching, Relationships, Scripture, Spirituality, The Devil, The Tongue | 1 Comment

OVERCOMING A GLARING IMBALANCE

Today’s blog may come across initially as being critical and negative. I do not mean to leave this impression. For I want my thoughts to be viewed as helping us see things more clearly, and motivate us to respond to those new insights that will help us advance and grow.

Here is my focused concern: I’m afraid that we live in a day when subjective worship experiences have become resting points on the Christian journey, when in fact, we should be moving onward to grasp the objective truths that give a strong foundation to our faith, as well as a strong foundation to our worship expressions.

Why would this be my concern? Require extended consideration in this blog? It’s because public worship expressions today have often replaced the sensed need to understand and articulate clearly what we believe. Persons will attend public worship gatherings, for example, but avoid Sunday School or educational opportunities to expand their growth in the Christian walk.

What I write next may come as an item of complete surprise to believers in our modern day. There was a time when the public worship experience was less important than participating in Sunday School. How do I know this? It’s because a couple of congregations with whom I’ve served have revealed this to me. As I looked back on their attendance participation, Sunday School was always, without exception, ahead of all worship time attedances.

It became obvious to me that congregations in earlier days were searching for a stable foundation on which to build their Christian lives. Worship may make you feel good. Enable you to leave a service lilted. Even inspired. But does worship alone enable a person to build a strong and ongoing relationship with the Lord?

Some may have a rebuttal at this point. Simply stated, was Sunday School the fad at the time? The practice that most believers were into? Following? In other words, were more going to Sunday School because that’s what everyone was doing at that time.

I am convinced the foregoing concluson is incorrect. It really is. For as I viewed past Sunday School experiences, there were many more opportunities for doctrinal and theological instruction that took place. Believers had a heart for wanting to know what they believed. Not only did they want to be able to understand their beliefs, they also wanted to be able to articulate their beliefs and live them out in their time as well. Today a class on marriage, parenting, or finances has greater interest and involvement than understanding and growing in our faith.

This reversal in our time has had critical results. Critical overtones. Because we have created a consumer oriented church. “Give me what I want,” in other words, “and I will attend and participate in your church. Insist that I must learn and grow and seek to understand my faith, will turn me off. Repel me. Make me dislike any church that wants to live in a world that I do not live in.”

I’m not advocating that we suddenly change and revert simply to being a learning church. I am advocating, however, that we strike an important balance between the subjective expression and experience of worship with the objective need to better understand and practice our faith.

This balanced step, I believe, will enable a currently imbalanced church to regain a healthy life inside and outside the body of Christ. What do you think?

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Celebration, Christ, Christian Life, Church, Church and Family, Church and Ministry, Church Growth, Church Health, Church Leadership, Church Unity, Coaching, Discipleship, God, Marriage, Relationships, Service, Spirituality, Sunday School | Leave a comment