Diotrephes is Back: Part One


Robert G. Lee was a shepherd whose ministry was marked by a love for his people and a determined defense for the word of God. It had been a simple but profound approach to his service in the church, and the result was a lifetime of usefulness and blessing. But how did such effectiveness come from such simplicity? The real secret lies in the lens through which Lee viewed his calling. Notice that his perspective was focused around two biblical commands which every church is called to obey. When a shepherd sees his labor as the highest act of submission to Christ he is most “useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). Unfortunately, such tireless dedication is becoming the exception rather than the rule as today’s generation of shepherds are easily seduced by the lure of public recognition, wealth, power, sensuality, and personal significance. The evangelical landscape has become a wasteland of shattered trust and scattered sheep, largely due to a crop of leaders who have traded their pastoral call for personal gain. The Apostle Peter exhorted the elders of the church to “…shepherd the flock of God…exercising oversight…according to the will of God” (1 Peter 5:2). Peter reminds us of the profound mandate given to every overseer, a task that demands sacrifice and careful stewardship. The sheep are not the possession of their leaders but rather their immense privilege. The call to pastoral faithfulness is grounded in the purposes of God for His people, requiring a full-range care that befits His design. The trustworthy pastor, then, will serve God best by feeding the sheep with His food, reproving them with His word, tending them with His heart, and disciplining them with His grace. There is no place in the ministry for personal gain or selfish ambition. Nor should the work of the church be used to nurture one’s own desire for significance. The Holy Spirit calls and gifts a man beyond his human abilities, confirming that in the end all ministry effectiveness points to God’s significance. A.W. Tozer has pointedly remarked that

“A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation. Such were Moses and David and the Old Testament prophets. I think there was hardly a great leader from Paul to the present day but was drafted by the Holy Spirit for the task, and commissioned by the Lord of the Church to fill a position he had little heart for. I believe it might be accepted as a fairly reliable rule of thumb that the man who is ambitious to lead is disqualified as a leader. The true leader will have no desire to lord it over God’s heritage, but will be humble, gentle, self-sacrificing and altogether as ready to follow as to lead, when the Spirit makes it clear that a wiser and more gifted man than himself has appeared.”

While many leadership pitfalls line the road to a blessed ministry, there are two particularly dangerous weaknesses that can quickly ruin a leader and bring lasting heartache to any church. Sadly, both weaknesses are graphically portrayed in a man called Diotrephes, mentioned in Third John 9 and10. His ministry is the classic account of a leader for whom God’s people became a personal trophy. He had allowed his heart to drift into the treacherous waters of pride and conceit, seduced by the influence of personal power and human praise.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks, Jerry. Some excellent and convicting thoughts.

  2. Jerry,

    I loved your post. I think Pink’s thoughts could be taken too far if one’s not careful. “If any man desires the office of elder it’s a good thing.” I understand that is a desire from the Lord not some fleshly craving for power and influence. I think a man like John MacArthur would be a leader in whatever profession he chose. He has natural giftedness (which of course is still totally from the Lord) and spiritual giftedness as well. Moses obv. was given Aaron to help lead. He had no desire to lead the Israelites. But I think Saul was a leader before God called him to be an Apostle (Saul was just a “leader” working against the will of God).

    With that said, your points are very well taken. I look forward to the rest of this series.

    Caleb (one of your many Timothys)

  3. Jerry, in my How To Study the Bible class that I require of our teachers at Murrieta Valley Church I use 3John as our book to exegete. This is a forgotten book in many churches, but it is filled with great wisdom and rich teaching. I am looking forward to your post on Diotrephes!

    P.S. It was great to see you and to get a chance to chat at Shepherds. God has been good to us!–>

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