A Control Freak in the Church?
3 John 9 & 10, I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So, when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. NIV
Here in the content of the very personal letter of 3 John there is a warning about a man in the early church named Diotrephes. He is described as someone who “loves to be first.” He is described as someone who is standoffish and critical. John says he “will have nothing to do with us” and that he is “gossiping maliciously about us.” In fact, John said, “Diotrephes ‘refuses to welcome any of the believers’ and he stops those who want to be welcoming and puts them out of the church!”
Wow, this guy, Diotrephes, has some major spiritual blind spots! He is self-serving and self-projecting. He loves to be pre-eminent, the center of attention, occupying a place of power. He is what we might call a “control freak.” He wants to call the shots. He expects people to defer to him. He is aloof. He is an armchair general. He uses his verbal skills to manipulate and intimidate others. He does not want the church to grow. He is not a welcoming presence to say the least. He even actively opposes those in the church who want to be welcoming of others. He excommunicates people who are hospitable! He is the furthest thing from a Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus and he is wreaking havoc in the life of the infant church.
Thankfully church people with attitudes like Diotrephes are few and far between. They are the exception, and certainly not the rule.
However, when they do surface, they need to be firmly, but lovingly, confronted. As the apostle John promised, “If I come, I will call attention to what he is doing.” (This is a former son of thunder, so I’m pretty sure he can handle it.) Without an apostolic presence in the contemporary church, this task of loving, but firm confrontation falls on the elders/pastors. It must be entered with a spirit of humility, but it must be done.
Pray with me. Father in heaven, we know that people seeing Christ in us and hearing about Christ from us is the hope of the world. May we never have a down day or a moment of weakness that would cause us to identify with the alien spirit of Diotrephes. As Jesus was, may we be full of grace and truth. In His Name, amen.