(February 17, 2017) Stuart Reynolds brings a timely warning and challenge to newly appointed shepherds of the flock …
The 2017 version of Disney’s popular romantic fantasy Beauty and the Beast is released next month. But – hey churches, and newly appointed pastors, are you aware of a beauty and beast in your church, maybe even more than one? They’re real, not a fantasy or so romantic, in many a church!
We train pastors to look after the people in the church – absolutely right! – but when are churches ever trained in how to look after their pastors, to help guard them, especially from dangers within their very own congregation?
The apostle John expressed a concern in his third letter about something that still occurs in some churches today, one that newly appointed pastors must be aware of!
‘Diotrephes, who loves being in charge, denigrates my counsel. If I come to you, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account for spreading vicious rumours about us. As if that weren’t bad enough, he not only refuses hospitality to travelling Christians but tries to stop others from welcoming them. Worse yet, instead of inviting them in he throws them out’ (3 John 1: 9-10 Message).
Diotrephes types today
Churches, and especially newly appointed pastors, need to be aware that there are Diotrephes types – well-intentioned dragons in their midst!
Such may be just one person or represented in the dynasty of a formidable church family who have been there ‘forever’ and through whom, it seems, all things happen and without whom nothing happens. He (or she, or they), might even be, horror of horrors, a former pastor – a tragedy, if not also a travesty, all on its own.
A new pastor will not have to wait long before meeting some ‘Diotrephes type’ – such will, in their own way, make themselves known. These dragons would rather have a pastor who can be controlled than have to fight, and so the pastor will usually be given time to settle in, discover their ‘place’ and subsequently come to know his! There may even be a few initial skirmishes over little items, small points, where a couple of warning ‘shots’ are volleyed across the bows of the pastor, just to remind him of what is what and who it actually is he is dealing with.
Ultimately, a place will be reached, a situation will arise over which the pastor will, subtly but clearly, be given an invitation/ultimatum – depending on the perspective – to either kiss this ‘dragon’s ring’ as it were in submission or incur the wrath of excommunication from within the very church he is pastoring!
From that moment on, everything the pastor says and does is analysed, he is ostracised and his pastorate sabotaged in a guerrilla campaign of discontentment and disruption. It is here that most pastors break because of how and where and from whom the ‘attacks’ come.
It’s not that the new pastor is failing in his charge, it’s because a Diotrephes type – who loves to be first (verse 9) – does not get his own way and is not given his place.
When ‘Beauties’ become ‘Beasts’!
What is terribly sad about the Diotrephes that John was concerned about and was determined to deal with, is that to have the place of influence and trust he occupies in the local church, he must have initially done something right and good and praiseworthy. Diotrephes, and others like him, are well-intentioned people who over many years such have given faithfully and sacrificially to the life of the local church.
Many pastors have found to their dismay that the very ones who started out as their closest advisers, most trusted confidants, greatest supporters and firm family friends, turn against them and can’t get them out quickly enough!
The Diotrephes type can’t do enough for the new pastor when he first comes – helping with transport, giving love gifts to the pastoral family and more. Over long years he has given faithfully and sacrificially to the life of the local church and when it comes to excellent churchmanship, ‘Diotrephes’ is in a league of his own, and he is lauded and applauded as such…
But then something happens.
A new pastor comes along who does not ‘know’ and thus ‘bow’ like the others do, and the wrong sense of ‘ownership’ that Diotrephes has come to have (often allowed him by other well-intentioned but weak-willed church folk) is revealed. If you like, a ’beauty’ has become a ‘beast!’
How many such ‘beauties’ have become ‘beasts’ in this way in our churches?
The Diotrephes type, beauty turned beast are like the dragons highlighted by Marshall Shelley in his book, Well-Intentioned Dragons.
He writes: ‘Every church has them – sincere, well-meaning Christians who leave ulcers, strained relationships, and hard feelings in their wake. They don’t intend to be difficult; they don’t consciously plot destruction or breed discontent among the members. But they often do undermine the ministry of the church and make pastors question their calling.’
In other words, good people, but ‘dragons’ just the same!
Breaking the cycle and slaying the dragon!
Often the ordeal that the present – the ‘new’ – pastor is undergoing has been the lot of the pastor(s) before him! The dragon was ultimately pacified through getting his own way – ousting the previous pastor– with the same potential just waiting to happen again.
Pastor, this is one battle you will have to face and fight to the end! The cycle needs to be broken, the dragon needs to be slain – not just silenced until the next time, awaiting the next pastoral-victim.
Understand that this slaying is not only one of the best things you can do for the ministry God has given you in the church you now serve, but it’s also the best thing that can happen for the dragon – that the ‘beauty’ in them will be restored to rise again. If not tackled, how grieved these well-intentioned dragons will be when they face Jesus, because of what we allowed them to continue doing, thus affirming their actions.
We are our brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9) and we need to be committed to slaying the beast that the ‘beauty’ might be saved!
Even the apostle John had his day, his time, his issue – ‘…if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us… (3 John 9, NIV).
We may have expected such tough-talk from the more abrasive Paul, or even impulsive Peter, but John – the apostle of love? It’s evident that John had put up with enough and it was now time to square up to Diotrephes and take on the dragon, the beast he, once the beauty, had become. As the Message puts it, ‘I’ll hold him to account!’
There comes a day, a time, an issue for churches to wise up to such dangers within and deal with them! Especially for those of us who are pastors where we must not flinch or abdicate, but stand our ground, square up and turn up for the fight, breaking the cycle, slaying the dragon and proclaiming – ‘No more! No further! Enough!’
Confronting the beast
Firstly, we pastors must know our authority in Christ to confront adversaries in our very own church! Jesus himself taught in Matthew 18: 15-18 not to avoid confronting and challenging with the hope of changing. Therefore we should…
- Pray about the confrontation and challenge.
- Have prayer partners we know we can trust stand with us as back-ups, praying for us.
- Relate to experienced pastors who have ‘been there, done that.’
- Learn from how they handled Diotrephes they encountered. (Feel free to email me).
- Remember you’ve been appointed by the real head of the church – never give in or up.
- Rely on the mighty Holy Spirit!
- Boldly confront every well-intentioned Diotrephes.
- Challenge such to return to being worthy ‘beauties’ blessing the church and its leaders.
- Break a perpetual syndrome!
- Always act in love (See concluding scripture below).
Thus, as we believe in yourselves and our calling in God, we will wisely lead our flock and, hopefully, save some poor Diotrephes from embarrassment on Judgment Day.
Remember Matthew 18:17 (Mge) – ‘If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love. Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this.’
Sadly the potential ‘beast’ in all of us!
Sadly these Diotrephes types – these dragons, beasts – are not only men but, sadly women too!
And, for all the brokenness there is among pastors, there is, nevertheless, a strong ‘personality-cult’ in the ministry itself today!
We not only need to recognise this but also that pastors too – indeed any Christian, however small or limited our sphere of Christian ministry/ serving our church, can fall victim to it. God deliver us from becoming ‘Beasts’… beginning with me!
Stuart Reynolds, Ears 2 Hear Ministries, is UK based and now ministers as an itinerant preacher, teacher in evangelism and revivalism under in the UK and USA. Links: firstname.lastname@example.org / mobile/cell, +44 (0) 7816 853 551 / http://sdhareynolds.wixsite.com/earstohearministries. Stuart shares from his heart and own pastoral experiences. His book below mentions the above article and other relevant ministry themes and will benefit both churches and pastors…
This is the voice of a pastor speaking candidly to the ear of the church regarding the reality that many pastors are hurting, even on the edge of quitting due to feeling like a failure having had the last embers of self-worth kicked and stamped out of them. Stuart Reynolds writes from the heart and pastoral experience encouraging broken pastors that they are not useless, that they can move on and still benefit the kingdom despite the reality of foolish congregational censure and non-appreciative boards that don’t understand the challenges that pastors face. A timely read for the whole church.