Nov 14, 2005

The Church Of Diotrephes

Many moons ago I had the misfortune to meet with a church sporting a dyed-in-the-wool Diotrephes preacher. There was about 300 members at the time, yet in his eyes no one was qualified to be an elder, so he assumed the role of Super Solo Preacher/Elder. Occasionally talk was heard of selecting elders and deacons, but not for long, these novel ideas were quickly squelched and a few heads rolled.
"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."
3 John 9, 10 (ESV)
Over time a clique developed and only those core members supporting his inerrant opinions were considered truly Christian. Many members left disenchanted, others were withdrawn from, and sent scurrying down the road. After about ten years only 50-60 hard core members that are completely in subjection to his leadership remain at this location.

This church will not work with--and in many cases not recognize--other Churches of Christ in the area, because in his eyes all other COC groups have gone astray, and are no longer a part of the Lord's church. This preacher (?) goes beyond the precept that only COC groups are members of Christ's body; only his church, and those believing exactly like him are acceptable to the Lord.

Men who demand total control of a church, and refuse to work in tandem with other members will destroy that church. They will not tolerate any opinions other than their own perfect understanding of God's Word, and will fight to the bitter end to uphold their self-appointed position against all comers.

16 comments:

JD said...

One thing I heard a long time ago that has helped me is, "The church has a savior, and it's not me." I think some think they are saving the church, when really they are changing it into something that is not the church at all.

Thank you for your encouragements and gifts ... you have blessed my family more than you can know.

LEM'S Politics said...

You are well rid of that congregation, and everyone who finally saw the light and disassociated their self with such people are well off, I do believe in the sight of God. we as members should approach such people at the first hint of Diotrephes type actions, if we sit back and let it fester it is harder to lance such a boil on the congregation, If things do not change at least you can.We have all encountered such know-it alls not only in the Church but the work place as well, life is too short to tolerate those people.

Hoots Musings said...

Life is way too short to endure or suffer under any type of control such as you described.

If you have ever been under someones spell of control and mind games, it is hard to break free. Possibly resembles a cult to some degree.

Pray for the people who remain. There is some type of psychological strong hold. I love what JD said about the church having a savior and it is not me. I am going to remember that!

jettybetty said...

I am not sure, but I am thinking Jesus led from his knees--would that be a good leadership model?

I don't mean to sound mean--but does anyone have such perfect understanding?

Larry said...

JD...
You are correct; there is only one bona fide savior who deserves my full attention.

Laymond...
While I met with the "Diotrephes church" I was just about as legalistic as the self-appointed dictator. While I didn't like his heavy-handed method of getting the members attention, I often shared his beliefs (I'm sad to say.)

Hoot...
Often I'm sure I rail against the legalistic tribe of the COC a little too much, but having once been a part of this group, I know how harmful some of their teachings can be.

I don't know if they have psychological needs a Diotrephes type feeds them, or their just completely brainwashed. In my case I was simply brainwashed by reading too many of the legalistic COC books, and believing most of the garbage I read. How could all these great Christian writers be wrong, they were famous in my eyes and ....well, I was just stupid to be truthful!

JB...
Leading by kneeling in prayer is certainly a great way to get your point across.

LEM'S Politics said...

Brother Larry, in response to my comment you wrote that at the time you attended this "Church of Diotrephes" you to were inclined to believe their teachings. as you know brother Al has been asking for a list from those who run such a church for many years and connot get one. I thought since you were a believing member of this line of thought for some time, maybe you could supply us non-believers with this information.I do believe you have repented from such, and have come to know the love and grace of our GOD. Just a thought on a future article you might write. may God bless you eternally.
Brother Laymond Ps I changed the name of my blog to better fot the content.

Larry said...

Laymond...
I'm not sure why Al would want such a list. Several of these Diotrephes types posted frequently on his Berean Forum, and he certainly knows who they are.

The main concern in my orignial post was for Christians to realize there are churches like this in existence and to beware of them. Putting a name to this particular "Diotrephes" would do little to change the mind-set of this church.

One elder who takes control of a churches eldership and rules with an iron fist can cause the same problems as a Diotrephes in a church with no elders.

LEM'S Politics said...

Brother I am sorry I should have been more clear, sometimes I think clearer than I write, I was refering to the list of rules these people say we must follow to achieve our goals of going to heaven, and in what order, most of these people insist they have this list down perfectly but they won't tell the rest of how to attain that perfection.no I don't believe either Al or I am interested in a list of names of these people we know to many already, God Bless you Brother

Larry said...

Laymond...
Now I understand! :) You will never see that list because there is no person
(unless their missing a few screws) crazy enough to toss out a detailed list of this sort.

It would be like going to the gallows and offering to tie your own knot for the hangman. Just not going to happen!

Gftd2srv said...

I have questions...What is COG?
Does the church doctrine allow behavior like this? Is there a General Counsel to remove this Super Pastor?

Larry said...

Gftd2srv...
"COC" is just an abbreviation for The Church Of Christ.

Since Churches of Christ are independent churches with no central governing body they basically do as they please. Thank goodness this particular church is not the norm, but does show what can happen when one man deems himself a perfect interpreter of scripture and attempts to rule with an iron thumb.

Unfortunately there are still Diotrephes types in the church today.

Anne said...

I'm just visiting for the first time, so I realize this is an older post... but the whole thing could pretty much describe the cult, er... excuse me church, that was a huge part of my life from the ages of 11 to 18. Different cast of characters, same story- fascinating.

Larry said...

Anne...
Thanks for the comments.

There are a few people around that don't believe what I wrote about "The Church Of Diotrephes;" good to hear from someone who went through the same experience and also has the courage to move on.

I was raised in a mainline highly legalistic COC and didn't have enough sense to see their error for 50-years. :( There is truly great freedom in Christ when we trust Him completely, and don't have to worry constantly about walking an impossible tightrope of perfection.

The fact that God could remove the scales from my eyes is absolute proof of miracles. :)

God bless you.

Anne said...

Well, I didn't leave because I saw through it. It's funny, I actually left because I was boy-crazy and this church was really small. I wanted to go to the big mega-church and meet some Christian boys in the college group. It was after I left that the ugliness got spread in the direction of my mother and step-father. I was "in rebellion," and my mother was deemed to be a bad parent.

Anyway, it's taken me 12 years to really start to come to terms with it and understand what happened. I just think it's cool how God used, of all things, my boy-craziness to get me and my family out of that church! :)

It would be interesting to know what openend your eyes after so long in your COC church.

Larry said...

Anne...
My reason for staying in the legalistic tribe for so long was pure ignorance!

I actually believed all the stuff they promoted, and made sure I only read books written by members of my tribe (didn't want to mess my mind up with an alternative viewpoint,) and honestly thought it you didn't see things like my little group you were bound for the hot place.

After giving up completely and leaving the church (my wild days) I discovered the Internet, and started hanging around a few COC forums (still believing my tribe was the only Christians,) soon an elder from Alabama started an uproar on one of the forums by stating that our little group was not the only Christians in the world....big shock!

After a month or so of trying to convince him of his error on the forum I came to the conclusion something was wrong with MY religious viewpoints.

Now I'm confused. Enter Al Maxey, on his forum called Berean Spirit. Now here was a change-agent that I would show was wrong, and I would use the scriptures to slay the dragon on his own forum. :)

To shorten this post, he literally cut me to pieces in a loving Christian way. Everything I had cherished religiously was destroyed in about two months. I honestly believe without the help of Al Maxey I would still be entangled in a legalistic mess.

I have now been labeled a change-agent by many who I once worshipped with, but they are still stuck in a legal system and are blind to the freedom that is in Christ.

Trying to find a "church" to meet with is tough. I now meet with a small (65 members) COC that is not legalistic.

Rather than bore you further, I think you get a glimpse of how my eyes were opened. If you have never read Al Maxeys' "Reflections" there is a link on my page; check him out.

Anne said...

Thanks for sharing. I'll be sure to check out that site when I have a chance. Honestly, I'm a little afraid of my views changing anymore than they have! I'm slowly becoming (in some areas and ways) the kind of "liberal Christian" that the preacher at my former church spoke out against. I think the first step was when we decided to throw away the "biblical parenting book" our church was teaching out of and stop spanking our daughter! Anyway, thanks for sharing.