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.
It is appropriate to call these Sons of Diotrephes, “Preacher Eaters”; they chew up preachers and spit them out. From the days of the Apostles until this present hour, the Preacher Eater has destroyed many of God’s choice servants, desecrated churches and decimated congregations. In every era, in every imaginable culture and within every conceivable communion, the Preacher Eater has worked to destroy the work of the Lord. Almost every servant of God can speak of a church in which he spent twenty miserable years during one three year stint. Almost inevitably the misery resulted because one individual usurped authority over the heritage of the Lord. Whenever an individual or a clique usurps responsibility to direct the pastoral ministry to their satisfaction, they act contrary to the Word of God; such people must assume responsibility before God for what they do. Because God does not immediately rebuke them is no reason to assume that He approves of their destructive work.
THE SPIRITUAL ANATOMY OF A “PREACHER EATER” — “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.”
I suspect I’ve witnessed more than my share of such challenges as the ministry God has given me has compelled me frequently to confront such situations. During my days serving in Canada, I have either started or restarted nine churches. Of the seven churches that were restarted, all were in a state of dreadful disrepair when I arrived. I wish I could say that I won every battle I was compelled to wage; however, I’ve learned that in this life sometimes the dragon wins. I have a few successes; and in several instances I pronounced the eulogy for the congregation, warning the people of the consequences of their choices to disregard the Word.