Summary: Sons of Diotrephes will arise among the churches. The people of God are responsible to recognise their presence and to expose their evil work.
“I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.” ,
One of the most insidious snares to threaten a pastor is the church member who believes himself (or herself) to be superior to the pastor. This individual is assured that he (or she) is responsible to direct the work of the pastor; this person often believes the pastor is incapable of performing the duties which God assigned, or perhaps he believes that the pastor is callused and uncaring about “his” congregation. Often, this individual will go so far as to assert his (or her) right to dictate what is preached and even how the message is to be delivered. It is significant that the individual is almost always male, though he is frequently urged on in his quest to dominate the pulpit by a wife or woman who considers herself to possess superior intellect and spiritual insight to all others who may be in the church.
The goal of the effort is to make the preacher’s message palatable for any outsiders who attend. Perhaps this condition is the result of importing the concept of democracy into the life of the church, or perhaps it is laziness on the part of the professed people of God, or perhaps it results from a lack of sound instruction provided by those who are appointed as elders.
One thing is abundantly evident—contemporary churches are often seen by church members as an organisation, much like any civic organisation or fraternal order, subject to the same rules specified by governmental bureaucracies that dictate conduct in all registered clubs and organisations. Thus, elections and a superficial democracy become extremely important in the conduct of modern church life. However, this was not always the case. The earliest churches were certainly not organised in this manner—they were theocracies, directed by those whom God appointed to exercise oversight. Whenever one assumes the position of God-appointed oversight, that individual asserts that they are conscious of the divine operation in their lives.
One detrimental aspect of contemporary church life seems to be the presence of a powerful individual or clique, often working behind the scenes to control the church. This condition is an entrenched feature of most contemporary churches. For well over forty years I’ve searched in vain for the verse that directs a group to “control” the church. The famous verse that designates one individual to control the church has yet to be found. The elders are to be overseers. Those appointed by God as elders are designated as overseers with authority conferred by God Himself to protect the flock, to correct the unruly, to rebuke the froward and to instruct all in righteousness.