Monday, October 24, 2005

Diotrophes, The Pastor and The Glorious End-Time Church.

The great preacher, C H Spurgeon once said;

“Here is a warning to the careless. Many are to the church what weeds are to a garden. They are not planted by God, they are not growing under His nurture, they are bringing forth no fruit to His glory. My dear friend I have tried often to get at you, to impress you but I cannot”[1].

Such a warning may find an ‘Amen’ in many the weary pastor’s heart. It is not the repentant sinner that you fear, but the haughty Pharisee. Not the clumsy messy child that irritates you, but the rebellious, angry teenager. Such a spirit is illustrated in the Bible by the character Diotrophes. (3 John 1:9-11). As ever with the mighty apostle Paul, we are told much in just a few words. So understand Diotrophes we may and indeed we must.

The great British military leader Montgomery showed that the best military strategy of all is to defeat an opponent by understanding him. He took great pains to read the great Field Marshall Rommel’s book during the war in North Africa and as the Germans were being routed from El Alamein (so the story goes) Montgomery shouted to Rommel; “Rommel, you devilish fiend! I have read your book!”. Hence, church pastors, we must sit with Diotrophes and learn of him – for he is in your church.

1. His Character: “Reach for the Skies”. – (v9)

We can be certain that the key under girding characteristic to absolutely everything that Diotrophes does and is, is pride. “I will be like God, I will raise myself …”. It is irrelevant as to whether Diotrophes was a fellow apostle with Paul, a pastor of a local church of Paul’s, or a layman who knew about Paul. The apostle did not see fit to inform us of those secondary details. What we are told was that he had a proud haughty arrogant spirit that frequently examined Paul and found him wanting. What is pride? C J Mahaney defines that dreadful sin as; “Pride is an attitude of self sufficiency in relation to God and self righteousness in relation to others”[2]. We will indeed find that, as we get to know Diotrophes, self-sufficiency marks everything he does.

2. His Commitment: “Disagree with Absolutely Everything”. – (v9)

Fuelled, driven and spurred by pride, Diotrophes will resent you. He will resent absolutely everything about you and, as it is a humbling thing to agree with your enemy, we cannot expect much in the way of agreement or affirmation from this man. What is key to understand this rigid commitment is a realisation of the fact that negotiation is not an option. Indeed – a God-driven campaign to win him over through love will be addressed later, but at this stage it is utterly pointless trying to attempt an armistice through compromise and agreement about the trivialities and concerns he will be “sharing”. The subject he is disagreeing with you on, is not important to Diotrophes. The principle is the key. He must disagree with you and do so vehemently.

3. His Modus Operandi: Five stage Melee Attack – (v10).

The text tells us that there are five strategies employed by the cunning Diotrophes. The rationale is that he won’t confess freely to having to resort to such ‘dirty tricks’. He knows that you are passionately orthodox being committed to the sufficiency of the Word of God. He is not – because the Word of God attacks the most precious thing that he holds dear – the status quo. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Unjust and Wicked Accusations.

This method is nigh perfect. It is so brilliant because it and he strikes a killing blow at the essence of what the church aims to be; “the pure and spotless Bride”. Therefore our esteemed Diotrophes, by smearing you will achieve virtually everything he wants to. Why is this so? Because just HOW do you counter a vicious character assasination coming from this respectable and gently smiling, suit-wearing Diotrophes who will offer his assasination “in love” and “out of concern”? If you stand upto him he will accuse you of bullying and being factious. If you don’t, he has won by default.

Never Give Up; “Not satisfied with this”.

Appeals to unity will not work with Diotrophes because his goal is not restoration to fellowship. Nothing could be further from his mind. Quite frankly he feels nauseous at the thought of becoming part of the “pastor’s crowd”, all-singing, all-dancing. His goal and his accurate guess is that you will eventually shut up, worn down by the wave of determined viciousness coming from him. Diotrophes is something like a Rockweiler and will not let go until you are dead.

Refuse to Receive the Brethren.


If you attempt to instigate various biblical steps like Titus 3 for example in a sincere effort to restore unity, it is most likely that he will find many various and cunning ways to refuse them, rebut them and avoid them. The deep and dark reason is that it stings him that you will not stop using the Word of God which is powerful, dividing bone and sinew. However even the devil can quote Scripture and he knows that Paul condemns factiousness so you will most likely be accused of this and he will maintain a dignified distance from you. The most popular form of correspondance and confrontation will be through letters.

Control the Weak.

You will notice that Diotrophes will have something of a following – yet the marker to this particular fan club is that they are all weak in character. They will be easily persuaded that it is far more profitable and indeed spiritual to “pray rather than read Scripture”. Why? Because the prayer meetings are classic times to “share … in love … through concern”. Or in other words – gossip and indulge in yet more character assination.

Don’t hesitate to exit.

If you eventually pull out the heavy guns and get firm, Diotrophes won’t think twice about leaving the church before you can throw him out. Remember – he is proud and extremely so and will not hesitate to allow any of your expressions of love to reach him, especially loving him enough to excommunicate him. Do not underestimate this final move – he would prefer to stay and continue the work he has begun, but if pushed a dignified exit may be calculated to cause you the most damage of all.

4. How to Defeat Diotrophes: Be a Spiritual Leader.

Through all of this, Diotrophes has a notable and definite Achilles heel. If you are a true spiritual leader, drenched in the Holy Spirit, he will lose the day and rapidly. Dr John Piper defined a true spiritual leader as:

“Knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initative to use God’s methods to get them there in reliance on God’s power”[3].

This excellent definition can be broken down into three parts.

Divine Vision.

It has been said that every true Christian spiritual leader must have their own power enounter with God where He will meet you and comission you. Note that it is famously promised in Joel 2:28 that “old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions”. Dr Piper said that; “leaders can see the power of God in the most overwhealming opposition”. If you have met God in your own personal Pentecost, you will have the clearest answer to those who ask; “Where are you going?”. During the Charismatic Renewal, many used the verse; “Come with us and we will do you good”. Well, if we must come with you – where are you going? Sadly many Christian leaders do not have their own vision and comission. Where are you going? Diotrophes is not going anywhere. Status quo is the name of his game. If you are a spiritual leader fired with a spirit-drenched vision, that is set on fire by the prophetic comissioning then rest assured, the winds of change will begin to blow. When that happens, Diotrophes will get fearful of his own accord.

Definite Strategies.

“Use God’s methods”, Dr Piper said. Do not get angry or bitter or resentful. Do not above all get disillusioned. There is indeed nothing new under the sun, and you – church pastor – are not unique in having the spirit of Diotrophes possessing one of your church members. God knew exactly what He was doing when He wrote and inspired His Holy Word and you can rest in the comfort and knowledge that there is absolutely everything there to help you defeat this particular man.

Desperate Reliance.

The crucial secret to your success is that you do not try and fight fire with fire. Do not tell yourself that you are just as capable and able as Diotrophes. You are not. He is demonically inspired and you are not. John Piper said; “All true spiritual leadership has its roots in desperation”[4]. Terry Virgo spent his two keynote sessions at the Brighton Leadership Conference 2005 showing that Gideon’s power came from his weakness. God had no use for a strong man! But a weak man he could use. You will not succeed if you try and fight this battle in your own strength, but you will be guaranteed victory if you rely totally and wholly on God. C H Spurgeon said:

“If Jesus be the Master and Lord in all things, it is not mine to keep the church in order. I am not responsible for the growth of every Christian, nor for every backsliders error. This burden must not lie on me. “Supposing him to be the gardener” then all must go well in the long run. He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep”[5].

You will find that if you can apply this principle, one by one the strategies of Diotrophes will begin to fail. If the Spirit of God truly floods you, then the character assasinations that are brought against you will indeed hurt and sting but you will triumph here by agreeing with any truth in them. This will disarm your flabbergasted attacker in the most mighty way. (Galatians 1:10) Set your heart totally and fully on serving the people of God for God Himself.

Above all equip yourself with a quiet triumphalism. Victory is assured. If you indeed have a divine vision given by a Pentecostal encounter with God, He will have told you where you are going and the future and plans He has for you are good and exciting. The stratgies for reaching that vision are laid down in His mighty Word. Finally rely on Him. He is the Good Shepherd and the paths He leads you in are beautiful. Your life is hid with Christ on high! Diotrophes is a beaten weed that will soon be pulled up and discarded.

[1] C H Spurgeon – “Supposing Him to Be the Gardener” – Sermon 1662 – Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit - 31st December 1887
[2] C J Mahaney; “Interview with Justin Taylor” - http://theologica.blogspot.com/2005/09/interview-with-c-j-mahaney_06.html. - downloaded 05:10, 25/10/05
[3] John Piper – “The Marks of a Spiritual Leader” – http://www.desiringgod.org/topics/leadership/marks_spiritual_leader.htm. Downloaded 25/10/05 0600
[4] John Piper – “The Marks of a Spiritual Leader” – http://www.desiringgod.org/topics/leadership/marks_spiritual_leader.htm. Downloaded 25/10/05 0600
[5] C H Spurgeon – “Supposing Him to Be the Gardener” – Sermon 1662 – Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit - 31st December 1887

3 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Is this some what autobiographical?

scotty said...

If he really had the Spirit of Diotrophes, would he really be stupid enough to write a public piece exposing what he was doing? Particularly when there are some church leaders out there who would love read it!?!? What a stupid question.